Lehigh University has been ranked No. 7 on College Consensus’ top schools for LGBTQ+ students.
According to its website, College Consensus is an outlet that lists best school rankings, “designed to show prospective college students where their top choices rank across the board.”
“Lehigh’s campus strives to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and feels like they have the ability to thrive here,” said Donald Outing, the vice president for equity and community.
While Outing works with many groups, he said he has supported progress toward ensuring inclusivity for LGBTQ+ students. He said the work of Chelsea Gilbert, the director of the Pride Center, has been essential to advancing the work of diversity, inclusion and equity on campus.
The College Consensus report cited Lehigh’s Pride Center as a major reason for the university’s high ranking. The report also commended the school’s training efforts for students, faculty and staff.
Gilbert said the methods of ranking on these types of websites can be based on many different aspects.
“Something like (LGBTQ+) inclusion is a multi-faceted concept,” Gilbert said. “It has to do with student’s actual experiences on campus, as well as administrative support, funding, what groups exists, what policies exist, or are there people on campus who actually work with (LGBTQ+) students.”
Gilbert said rankings similar to the one College Consensus published are complicated because they may only focus on one or two of the aforementioned categories.
However, Gilbert said she believes that because the website considers multiple categories, their system may be more reliable than some other ranking websites.
Although Gilbert said it is an accomplishment to be ranked as a top school for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, some members within the Lehigh community believe there is room for growth.
She said that with an always-changing world, Lehigh must continue to work hard to change the campus culture on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Yes, we should celebrate that this took a lot of people’s work over many years, way before my time, to get us here and it does not mean we stop making progress,” Gilbert said. “Based on our data, there are probably about 1 in 5 students who are not out at all, who still do not feel comfortable being open about their LGBTQ+ identities, and that’s a culture problem.”
Sharon Getsis, ’21, said she believes society is torn when considering LGBTQ+ individuals.
“I feel like most people are not against it, but I do not think that there is necessarily an accepting culture,” Getsis said. “I am always aware of males and females giving me side-eye.”