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NYC Colleges Fall Off Gay-Friendly List

by Jeff Coltin
A A
NYU Graduation

Jeffrey Barry, flickr

No New York City schools makes Campus Pride's top 50 LGBT-friendly colleges.

New York's a gay-friendly city, routinely topping the lists. It earned its reputation from the Stonewall Riots and keeps it alive today with thriving neighborhoods like Chelsea and a wild Pride Parade each summer. Things are from from perfect for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender New Yorkers, but the city's name still holds.

And yet when LGBT college students organization Campus Pride released its Best of the Best list Friday, not a single New York City school made the cut.

Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer said the list doesn't measure the gay-friendliness of a school's location.  It is more a measure of the institutional focus on LGBT students.

"I get this from campuses oftentimes, 'oh we have an active gay student group, we do a drag show every year.' Well that doesn't make you gay-friendly," Windmeyer said. "What makes you LGBT-friendly is if you have the policies, programs and practices that if tomorrow, all those LGBT students who were doing the work, who were there on your campus if they were to leave, there would still be an institutional commitment left behind."

New York schools have made the list in past years. Being left off this year may have to do more with positive efforts from other schools than anything lacking in NYC.

"There's definitely a lot of amazing efforts being made in New York," Windmeyer says, "[but] one of the great things about it is that they're also happening in other places like Indiana, and New Orleans, and Georgia... there's some good advocacy and some good progress that's happening in those areas."

So while no New York City Schools made the top 50, not all their scores were lacking. Columbia University got a ranking of 4.5 stars out of 5. NYU and Pace University also got 4.5, while Marymount Manhattan earned a 4.

But other schools in the city received poorer ranks on the Campus Pride Index.  Queens College got a 2.5, while St. John's received 1.5 stars.

Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ was the closest school to New York City to make Campus Pride's top 50. It's the second year in a row they made it, and acting director of the Center for Social Justice and LGBT Communities Zaneta Rago was thrilled.

"We've met incoming students this year who said they chose Rutgers because we made that list!" Rago beamed.  "students really utilize that Campus Pride Index."

Rago said she's been able to lobby the university for more resources because of that. Rutgers has one of the oldest LGBT student centers in the country, 12 student clubs for LGBT students and allies, and healthcare policies to support trans* students.

But Rutgers was also home to Tyler Clementi, an openly-gay freshman who committed suicide in 2010.

Rago said all schools feel a certain pressure now.

"I think Tyler Clementi actually has changed the narrative nationally around colleges and universities and LGBTQ resources," Rago said. 'I think while it happened at this institution, many institutions around the country have recognized or strengthened already existing programs and initiatives as a result of that tragedy."

Windmeyer thinks schools are finding a multitude of reasons to be labeled LGBT-friendly.

"The idea of being diverse today isn't just about having diverse students of color, or internatinoal students, or different faiths and religions. It's also about having a vibrant, out, gay lesibian, bisexual, transgender population."

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