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How to Find an LGBTQ+ Supportive College

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Jennifer Simons

Written by Jennifer Simonson May 26th, 2022

Jennifer Simons began her extensive recruitment and college counseling career as an admissions counselor at Barnard College, where she was responsible for students from the Midwest and served as Barnard’s liaison to The Jewish Theological Seminary, the Manhattan School of Music, and The Julliard School. She left Barnard to pursue her master’s in higher education administration from Harvard University, where she co-founded the Graduate School of Education’s first class gift campaign. After graduate school, Jennifer was hired as an associate director of admissions and director of transfer admissions at Connecticut College, and it was here that she recruited in Northern California and abroad in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Turkey. A family move brought her to New York City, where she served for two years as a college counselor at the Ramaz School and worked directly with students applying to college. An opportunity to be the director of international recruitment at Tufts University brought her back to New England for her job and back to Asia for recruitment. Jennifer was at Tufts for ten years, recruiting primarily in Europe and Asia, including China, India, and Korea, and leading the Tufts alumni admissions program. Her most recent admissions position was director of admissions recruitment at Northeastern University, where she managed a team of four senior associate directors and developed a comprehensive recruitment strategy for the office. Jen is a graduate of Wellesley College.

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While the search for a college that is LGBTQ+ friendly can essentially take the same path as most any college search, there are some nuances. When a prospective student visits a college campus, the first question to ask themselves is, “Can I envision myself being happy here?” However, for LGBTQ+ and any other students who would be part of a minority group on campus, they might consider adding the following inquiries: “Do I feel welcome here?” and “Can I be myself?” To that end, one of the first things I suggest is something that you might not have thought of: while it is important to see if the college has an LGBTQ+ support center, you should review the college’s non-discrimination statement on their website to see if it specifically mentions sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. By way of example, Florida State University’s non-discrimination statement provides: “FSU prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veterans' status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or any other legally protected group status.” I chose FSU given recently enacted laws addressing gender identity, and a check of all the public universities in the Sunshine State reveals that college students, faculty, and staff are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Do not assume that just because a state has conservative leadership that the universities therein will be conservative as well. In stark contrast to FSU, the non-discrimination statement of Palm Beach Atlantic University, a private Christian college in Florida, makes no mention of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Similarly, Liberty University in Virginia goes a step further in its non-discrimination statement, expressly stating that the university “maintains its Christian mission and reserves its right to discriminate based on religion, to the extent that applicable law respects its right to act in furtherance of its religious objectives.” While I suspect most LGBTQ+ students would not start their college search with Liberty University, it is interesting to see how the non-discrimination statements reflect its values. Critically, however, just as you should not assume that there are no LGBTQ+ friendly colleges in more conservative states, you should not assume that all religiously affiliated colleges are unwelcoming to LGBTQ+ students. Indiana’s University of Notre Dame connects its support of LGBTQ+ persons to its mission as a Christ-centered and, therefore, welcoming institution. If you want to get a little choked up (okay, maybe that was just me), read Notre Dame’s statement about the spirit of inclusion. Likewise, while Baylor, the largest Baptist university in the U.S., does not have a particular mention of sexual orientation or gender affiliation in its non-discrimination statement, their University Mission Statement indicates that the university ”supports the dignity and worth of every person and seeks to create a campus climate where each person is treated with love and respect within our caring community.” It seems to me that the values of those colleges which expressly support LGBTQ+ students would make a welcoming environment for all. To that end, I strongly encourage all prospective students to begin their search by reviewing the school’s non-discrimination or mission statement, in order to help inform at the outset whether they will be comfortable as part of that school’s community.
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