OU ranked one of top LGBTQ friendly Michigan campuses amid ‘unprecedented times’

The+GSC+has+welcomed+Blake+Bonkowski+as+their+new+coordinator.

Photo courtesy of Blake Bonkowski

The GSC has welcomed Blake Bonkowski as their new coordinator.

After being number three in the state earlier this year, Oakland University is now ranked one of the top two most LGBTQ+ friendly universities in Michigan according to Campus Pride Index (CPI).

With a five out of five star rating, OU is tied with the University of Michigan at the top despite having less resources and less staff. The CPI helps identify an institution’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusiveness with self-reporting from those who oversee LGBTQ+ services, in OU’s case that is Blake Bonkowski, coordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC).

Bonkowski assumed the role earlier this year in May, and given OU’s current ranking he is ready to approach what’s left on the list and address what is most important to add while also making improvements to current policies. 

“We are hoping to be working on improving the gender neutral housing process, implementing in a real way that pronouns policy that it actually shows up in the places that it needs to,” Bonkowski said.

“The big one, that we are not checking is our staff and faculty do not have access to trans inclusive health insurance policies, and that is a huge deal for us because we need our faculty and staff to have access to the medical care that they need but also their dependents deserve access to that care and that’s a huge group as well,” he added

GSC, alongside the LGBT+ employee resource group, is looking to get one of the most affordable options as well. From the perspective of student involvement, GSC has LGBTQ+ grad student orgs, greek life orgs and LGBTQ+ housing and living-learning communities on its mind.

If students are interested in any of these options or want to look at what else is not publicly available to see, they are encouraged to stop by the GSC office to see how they can help. 

“Most of the time when GSC has been able to do something, it has been because there has been a mass public student support,” Bonkowski said. “Student voices have really been essential the entire time that GSC has existed, including it being created in the first place.”

Bonkowski emphasized that GSC is committed to making LGBTQ+ students feel safe on campus, especially now. 

“The only time, I think the GSC has been as critical as it is now is when it first got started,” Bonkowski said. “We absolutely need a place where LGBTQ+ can organize and where they can commit to activism and action together, and we want allies to join us in that activism.”

To prevent LGBTQ+ misinformation and disinformation, the GSC has a lending library where students can rent books to read and learn.

Bonkowski also shared that he considers there to be a need for a OU Women’s Resource Center, amid the recent Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Our students are absolutely planning on activism as it relates to Roe [v. Wade] but we don’t have the capacity to do as much as we would have done 10 years ago,” he said. “This is unprecedented, the Supreme Court has never granted a right and then taken it away before.”

Activism is currently not part of the CPI, but Bonkowski considers it to be a crucial part of what the GSC and LGBTQ+ community are doing. 

“I would really encourage folks who care about us being able to exist in public space and be alive and have meaningful lives and the same rights as other people to connect with us; get on our newsletter list, follow us on social media,” Bonkowski said.

“So that when we do make a call for folks to rally together or to write letters or to sign a petition or whatever, that you see it when we’re ready,” he added.