Students smile for a portrait while celebrating Pride-a-Palooza on the STEPS lawn on April 13, 2017. Campus Pride named Lehigh as one of the “Best of The Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ students” on Oct. 13. (Roshan Giyanani/B&W Staff)

Lehigh named among best universities for LGBTQ students by Campus Pride, but some students say there’s more work to do

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Lehigh University has been named one of the “Best of The Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ students” by Campus Pride

The list was announced on Oct. 13, and Lehigh was named among 40 colleges and universities across the nation. 

In a press release, Campus Pride said it rates schools based on their LGBTQ-inclusion policy, program and practice. 

Some LGBTQ students at Lehigh, however, don’t think Lehigh deserves to be on this list. In their experience, Lehigh’s community is not accepting of all LGBTQ students. 

Griffin Fox, ‘22, president of Spectrum, a club that provides support and community building for LGBTQ+ students and allies, believes Lehigh makes these lists solely for the efforts made by the Pride Center to promote inclusivity, not because the community is actually accepting toward LGBTQ students.

“There has been a lot of investment over the last decade into offices and institutional amenities for students to get resources, for students to have support, but that doesn’t exactly translate to the student body being an incredibly receptive or even having a positive outlook toward queer people, specifically trans people of color or just trans and nonbinary people on campus,” Fox said. “It’s a pretty bad environment among the student body, (and) the student body has a less than stellar record when it comes to queer acceptance.” 

He believes the Pride Center offers fantastic services for LGBTQ students, like STD and HIV testing, formal support groups for queer students who are trying to work through their identities and overall creating a safe space for LGBTQ students.

The Pride Center aims to reduce stigma around mental health and encourage students to love themselves. They also collaborate with the Center for Gender Equity on campus. (Adele Hancock/ B&W Staff)

However, Fox said the experiences he and his peers have endured on Lehigh’s campus are all but friendly. 

“A friend of mine, who’s currently a freshman right now, within the first week of being on campus was called ‘faggot’ multiple times by random people walking around campus,” Fox said. “I’ve been called ‘faggot’ and kicked out of numerous parties before.” 

Sharon Getsis, ‘21, a member of Greek life, said Lehigh’s lack of diversity on campus is what contributes to an unaccepting environment for LGTQ students. 

“I just feel like we have spaces for the queer community, but it feels more like a diversity tokenism than it does a genuine celebration,” Getsis said. “I’ve heard personal stories about Greek life situations or general social situations where it’s not blatant homophobia, but there are definitely microaggressions.” 

Fox said it’s even more frustrating because if you get upset with someone for using gay slurs or saying deragorty terms you are made out to be “oversensitive.”

“It becomes your persona in a way, where they just see you as someone who wants to complain, when they are the ones making this an active harmful environment for you or for your friend,” Fox said. 

Scott Burden, director of the Pride Center, was excited to see that Lehigh had been recognized on this list but also knows a lot of work still needs to be done to make Lehigh a more inclusive community for LGBTQ students. 

He thinks Lehigh deserves to be on this list but understands how students might feel differently. 

“I feel like our work is having an impact on the climate, but I agree with a grain of salt,” Burden said. “These lists are typically more checkbox oriented, so it’s like, ‘Do you have this policy, do you have this program or do you have this effort?’ We have things in place to make sure our climate is getting better, but we know that our students still experience bias on our campus.”

Burden is fully aware that this list doesn’t mean they have done everything they need to make Lehigh a LGBTQ friendly campus — in fact, he believes, if students still don’t feel fully comfortable, the school still has a lot of work to do.

He said Lehigh’s efforts need to center around the experiences of those who are most harmed on campus so the university can work to make sure these instances don’t happen in the future. 

In the future, Getsis said she wants to see more pride events not just coming from the Pride Center, but the school itself. She believes it would be beneficial if the school incorporated education on sexuality and gender in 5X10s during first-year orientation or organized a Lehigh pride parade. 

Fox said Lehigh’s biggest problem right now is its lack of diversity, so going forward, the school needs to work on its recruiting efforts if they truly want Lehigh to be a LGBTQ friendly campus. 

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