UA named best in state for LGBTQ students, but work remains to be done
The University of Arizona was recently recognized as the best in the state for LGBTQ students, but that doesn’t mean the fight for equality and inclusiveness on campus is over.
UA’s ranking in the Campus Pride Index, compiled by the higher-education tracking website bestcolleges.com, noted that the university “is known as one of the best colleges for LGBTQ students in the Southwest” and highlighted the Institute for LGBT studies on campus as an important organization “that promotes LGBTQ research, educational curricula and public programming.”
The UA earned a 4.5 ranking in the Pride Index out of a possible 5 stars, the same score as Northern Arizona University. However, NAU lacked resources in a few key categories, which led to the UA edging out its northern neighbor in the rankings.
Arizona State University was not included in the index.
Although the UA has earned a high ranking, officials, students and other employees should not get comfortable or think that everything is now equal or completely safe for LGBTQ individuals.
The index notes that UA does not currently “train campus police on gender identity/expression issues,” although the university does train police on sexual orientation issues.
The UA Police Department must now take the next step and begin educating officers on trans, gender fluid, asexual and other queer identity issues and ensure they’re equipped to help any students who need help.
The report also notes that the university does not include “gender-inclusive/single occupancy restroom or shower facilities in campus housing.” Again, the university must continue working to ensure spaces exist for individuals who require these facilities.
Furthermore, the UA does not provide “roommate matching for LGBTQ students to find LGBTQ-friendly roommate.” And it’s with this point that the focus must shift from the institution to the individual.
Every student should be free to express themselves on campus and in the classroom without fear of repercussion. The only views or actions that must not be tolerated are those of intolerance, violence and hatred themselves.
The UA shouldn’t need to provide resources to find “LGBTQ-friendly roommates” because, ideally, every single student at the university would recognize that people must be allowed to live freely, regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression.
It’s understandable that some students, especially those with little or no experience with LGBTQ individuals, may be initially uncomfortable living with a gay or trans roommate.
But we are all here in college to challenge the fears based out of prejudices or misconceptions, and grow as morally sound human beings. Every student here is working to attain a greater understanding of each other, even those who seem very different from ourselves.
Everyone reading this has the power within themselves to make life better or worse for those around them. This is a reminder that even though institutions, governments and organizations are all working to make things better for marginalized peoples, that work begins with us as individuals.
While the UA’s Campus Pride index still has room for improvement, including adding LGBTQ scholarships and other issues mentioned above, the report does not delve into the nature of the relationship between the LGBTQ students and employees and the straight, cis communities on campus.
This is where we come in. It’s up to every person on this campus, from the president and deans to admissions staff, faculty and students, to make sure all people feel welcome at the UA and have access to the resources they require to succeed here and beyond.
Anything less is a disservice to what higher education, and the attainment of greater knowledge and understanding, should represent.
Andrew Paxton is a senior majoring in Journalism who wonders why we can't all just get along. Follow him on Twitter.