The University of Utah was recently ranked as the top college in the state for LGBTQ students by BestColleges.com. The ranking took into consideration the steps universities in each state took toward making their campuses inclusive.
The list was primarily based on each university’s score in the Campus Pride Index, a national database of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. The selections were vetted by a panel of experts from an LGBTQ-advocacy nonprofit organization called Campus Pride, which runs the index.
The ranking cited several of the U’s policies and services for LGBTQ students and faculty, such as inclusive housing options, gender-neutral restrooms and trans-inclusive health insurance policies for university employees.
It also praised the work of the U’s LGBT Resource Center, specifically for its efforts to empower students while educating the campus community.
According to Gabriella Blanchard, who is the Coordinator of Education and Outreach for the resource center, the ranking represents an exciting piece of recognition for the progress the university has made over the last several years.
Some of the most significant victories, she said, includes allowing students to put their chosen name on their UCards, introducing a preferred-name field on the Campus Information System and creating gender-free housing options for students living on campus. Many transgender individuals choose to change their names, but the new names are not always recognized by higher education institutions.
The U’s LGBT Resource Center was founded in 2002 and is part of the Office for Student Equity and Diversity, as well as Student Affairs. The resource center is open Monday through Friday to all students both as an open resource and a crisis center. It also plans programs and events for the campus community throughout the year, including panels, workshops, celebrations and a student mentorship program.
Blanchard said that although the U’s ranking is good to see, she is also happy that other colleges around Utah are beginning to become more inclusive.
“I think in recent years we’ve also seen a shift in other campuses starting to create LGBT centers as well,” Blanchard said. “It’s an exciting time as things are starting to move forward everywhere, not just on our campus. It’s good to not have to be the only show in town.”
As for the future, Blanchard said that there’s always more work to be done.
“Wanting to work ourselves out of a job is the goal,” she said. “Getting to a place in the future where our services wouldn’t be required anymore would be great but I don’t know that it’s going to happen. The needs of LGBTQI students are always shifting, so there will always be something to do.”
One of the U’s next tasks is to de-gender more of the public spaces on campus and develop a more unified, concrete process to streamline those changes.
Blanchard said that continuing education and advocacy is essential as well.
“We want to make sure that every department, every dean, every chair, every staff member and every student understands the impact of their behaviors.”