Pride Alliance vice president Richard Gadsden ’13 highlighted that a number of events held during Pride Week reflected the group’s effort to include both straight students and sexual and gender minorities in the week’s activities. For example, Thursday was Ally Day, which celebrated and acknowledged non-LGBT students who support LGBT student rights and the LGBT movement in general. The Pride Alliance distributed rainbow ‘Ally’ pins in the residential college dining halls.
On Tuesday, the Alliance held a film screening and discussion with renowned asexual activist David Jay. The week also included a Cuddle Party at Terrace Club, which was based on the idea that people have a need for emotional closeness and non-sexual physical closeness. The event, moderated by a Pride Alliance officer, allowed students to experience non-sexual touch and also involved various activities to help students feel more comfortable with one another.
“Pride Alliance can really be whatever it needs to be,” Gadsden said. “It’s changed over the years and continues to change, and we think that right now something that Pride Alliance needs to be is a bridge between sexual and gender minorities and also a place for some of those sexual and gender minorities that haven’t really had a voice to be able to have a place and a voice.”
Events and activities like Pride Week have helped the University achieve high rankings in surveys of LGBT-friendly campuses nationwide. Campus Pride, a national non-profit organization that works to promote safety and inclusiveness for LGBT students and allies on college campuses, gave the University a five-star rating in its annual LGBT-friendly Campus Climate Index, released in August 2011.
The University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth were the only other Ivy League institutions to earn a five-star rating, the highest ranking given by the organization. Each of the 300 colleges and universities that participated in the rankings is rated from one to five stars based on campus policies and programs in eight different areas, including campus safety and student life.
The Campus Climate Index uses a questionnaire filled out by campus officials at different colleges in the United States to determine whether schools have LGBT-friendly programs and policies that create a safer campus.
LGBT Center Director Debra Bazarsky said in an email that publications and organizations began rigorous measurements of LGBT services and resources in higher education around 2005. Bazarsky added that she finds the Campus Climate Index reliable.
Princeton lacks only two criteria rated on the report card: an LGBT studies academic program and LGBT housing options or themes. Yale and Harvard each earned a rating of 4.5 stars. According to the Campus Pride website, Yale, which has an LGBT studies program, did poorly in campus safety since there is currently no program to train campus police on sexual orientation or gender identity issues.
Harvard, which also has an LGBT studies program, lacks a paid staff responsible for LGBT and ally support services and a standing advisory committee that deals with LGBT issues. Princeton’s campus safety officers are trained in LGBT issues, and the LGBT office fits the criteria for paid support staff.
Out of the almost 300 colleges ranked by Campus Pride, 33 colleges were awarded five stars for the 2011-12 school year. This is a jump from the 19 colleges that received a five-star rating for the 2010-11 school year. Princeton also received a perfect five-star rating in 2010.
Gadsden said he was not surprised that Princeton was ranked so highly and felt that the LGBT Center and the University place an importance on making the campus safe for LGBT students.
“The center does a lot of things, academic talks and speakers, but we also have a strong community among the students,” Gadsden said, noting that the University has a high number of LGBT student organizations.
Although the University earned a perfect five-star rating in 2010 and 2011, it is still making progress in making the campus more inclusive for LGBT members of the community and providing better support for transgender students in particular, Bazarsky said. She noted that an LGBT Task Force is currently working to improve resources for and address the classroom issues of LGBT students, staff and faculty.
Gadsden said there are still ways for the University to improve and become an even friendlier and safer campus for LGBT students, explaining that students at large should become more well-versed about LGBT issues.
“One aspect that Princeton can improve in is just having people be a little more knowledgeable about LGBT terms and LGBT topics,” Gadsden said. “[Having] allies become a little more involved in actively supporting the LGBT community, I think, would benefit the LGBT community, the LGBT allies.”
Gadsden pointed to the mandatory discussion on LGBT issues during Freshman Orientation as a good event to give students a basic knowledge of LGBT terms and issues.
“The fact that every freshman at Princeton needs to go through that … definitely makes us a better campus than some other campuses,” Gadsden added.
Pride Alliance hopes to continue hosting more events this year and plans to host an ice cream social during the Thursdays of Princeton Preview. The new board of the group would also like to see greater involvement of allies and straight students in LGBT activism, Gadsden said.
“Allies are totally welcome to the general meetings,” Gadsden said. “They often feel that they are not welcome at our general meetings, and I would definitely like to debunk that. Anyone can get involved.”
Original URL: http://www.dailyprincetonian.com/2012/04/10/30556/