NIU’s Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity will host its “Creating Community” fall reception Tuesday, Oct. 31.
The dessert reception will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Gallery Lounge on the main floor of the Holmes Student Center.
A brief presentation will take place at 12:45 p.m. honoring NIU’s selection as one of the 100 best campuses for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender students, as featured in the Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students.
Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
October 26, 2006
DeKalb — NIU is among the nation’s best campuses for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, according to the recently published Advocate College Guide.
The Advocate, the leading magazine for the LGBT community, calls its book “a comprehensive guide to colleges and universities with the best programs, services and student organizations for LGBT students.”
“I’m very excited,” said Margie Cook, director of NIU’s LGBT Resource Center. “NIU has been on a trajectory since about 1991 of gradually improving its policies, programs and services to ensure that LGBT students, faculty and staff are welcome here, and that this is truly a university for everyone.”
NIU was nominated anonymously for the rankings, Cook said, and survived the first cut after she and some students completed online surveys.
After a second round of more extensive surveys, and a requirement to supply more student voices, NIU scored 16 of a possible 20 points on the book’s “Gay Point Average.”
Among the positives: Student and ally organizations. A resource center. An ally program, started in 1997. LGBT-inclusive health and counseling services. A nondiscrimination statement inclusive of sexual orientation. LGBT history and awareness months. Significant numbers of LGBT educational and social activities. A variety of LGBT courses. Benefits for domestic partners.
Two of the missed points – scholarships for LGBT students and an active alumni group – already are being remedied, Cook said: NIU will award its first LGBT scholarship, bequeathed by a former professor, next year. Alumni outreach is beginning.
And after years of “slow and difficult work,” she said, the Advocate’s nod provides welcome validation.
“We have finally arrived, and we have come so far,” she said. “This really puts us on the map as one of the top 100 campuses in the nation – it’s an elite group – and puts a positive message out for those there who are searching for an accepting campus.”
“NIU has plenty of people on campus who are aware of LGBT issues,” the book quotes a 20-year-old lesbian sophomore. “I felt very safe after finding all the resources available to me, and didn’t have any problem coming out.”
About 8 percent of NIU’s students identify as LGBT, according to a 1992 survey. The LGBT Resource Center has about three visitors a day, Cook said, and the Prism student organization has about 215 e-mail addresses in its database.
Cook herself began work at NIU in 1994 and started the development of LBGT services three years later. The center was created in March of 2003.
Both were later steps in a march toward an “accepting, progressive and inspiring campus” begun in 1970, with the creation of the Gay Liberation Front, and later in 1992, when former NIU President John La Tourette created the Task Force on Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation.
The task force’s 1993 report, “Building Community: The Inclusion of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals,” gave birth to the Presidential Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in 1994.
Cook said LGBT students still in high school will find the Advocate’s book invaluable.
“They have the same concerns as anybody: ‘Will I fit in? Will I make friends?’ But for an LGBT student, there’s an added layer. ‘Will I be accepted? Will I be able to find other students with whom I share this in common?’ And although there’s more visibility of LGBT identity, and more discussion in society, there’s still a stigma. There’s still discrimination,” she said.
“Many young people still feel a great sense of isolation when they go through the process of understanding their own LGBT identity,” she added. “College offers probably the first opportunity for many young people to find a connection and to find a place where they’ll be accepted as LGBT individuals.”
The book also is good resource for parents of LGBT teens and for prospective students who are straight but have LGBT relatives and friends, Cook said.
“As our society has opened up a little about LGBT identity, we know that more and more people are coming out in high school,” she said. “I interact with parents who know their students are LGBT and want to know that their children will be in a safe and supportive environment at college.”
For more information about NIU’s LGBT programs and services, visit www.niu.edu/lgbt.
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