OU is named a top LGBTQIA+-friendly university

In their newest ranking release, Affordable Colleges Online has named Oakland University as a top LGBTQIA+-friendly university, placing it at No. 14 in a national ranking.

“They gave us a score based on our average net price, six year graduation rate and the percentage of beginning full-time undergraduate students receiving scholarships or grant aid from the school, and they also looked at our campus pride index rating,” said Grace Wojcik, coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center at Oakland.

The campus pride index rating includes offering LGBT+ scholarships, gender inclusive housing as an option for students and whether the university has LGBT student organizations and events that are available on campus.

“The other thing that they looked at was the professionally run LGBTQIA+ support center that is staffed by at least one paid professional or graduate assistant directing LGBTQIA+ resources,” Wojcik said.

The Gender and Sexuality Center at Oakland University began in the fall of 2005, growing out of advocacy by students, staff and faculty around campus for its creation.

“When we started, we were the LGBTQIA+ Center and a women’s center all in one,” Wojcik said. “A few years ago, we shifted to focusing solely on LGBTQIA+  issues, and we are here as a resource for faculty, staff and students. Our main goal is the retention of LGBTQIA+ students.”

This is achieved through programming such as the Peer Mentor Program, safe-on-campus training, the on-campus initiative and a variety of events throughout the year such as the LGBT+ welcome reception, Transgender Day of Remembrance and World AIDS Day.

The Center is open to answer students’ questions, has information about local events and provides resources that they may need to be in touch with. Wojcik also provides one-on-one meetings.

For students and potential students in the LGBT+ community, all of these elements create a safe and welcoming environment.

Tyler Schachinger is transgender, having dated his wife, Jordan, since high school when he still identified as a female. From being an openly gay female to transitioning to a male, Schachinger has known the discrimination that can be displayed to those in the LGBT+ community.

Schachinger recalls Jordan’s father telling his daughter to “leave enough rope to hang herself with” and feeling too afraid to hold hands in public after the Pulse shooting in 2016, and he now finds himself struggling with being misgendered, deadnaming and finding acceptance in his new self.

“You would think that for anyone who had a problem with our relationship for it being a gay one would be suddenly over it because now it’s straight, right? Not that easy,” said Schachinger. “We had a few people not show up to our wedding because they ‘didn’t support it’ and such, but we love each other so it didn’t really matter because we had so much fun that night.”

While choosing a college is a big decision, for LGBT+ individuals inclusion becomes a large factor in that decision as well.

“If I was looking at a school that also ranked high in LGBTQIA friendliness, I would be heavily influenced to go there,” Schachinger said. “Going to a school where you know that any discrimination or act of hate against you won’t be tolerated is a great feeling when so many people have to face it in the world today.”

The Gender and Sexuality Center will be moving back to the Oakland Center in the fall semester and hopes to expand their offerings and continue their work to raise awareness and provide support to students.