In honor of Pride Month, the EdSights team is working extra hard to ensure that our campus partners have the resources and insights they need to successfully support members of their community who identify as LBGTQ+.
Why is supporting the LBGTQ+ Community Important?
Recent data show that nearly 20% of students (undergraduate and graduate) identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual, queer, trans, nonbinary or questioning. And while historically gay men are more likely to graduate than any other cohort, there is a major pay gap as compared to the earnings of heterosexual men. Additionally, other members of the LGBTQ+ community were, in fact, slightly less likely to earn a degree. In the case of women, the probability of LGBTQ women obtaining a degree was nearly 10 percentage points lower than heterosexual women.
In addition to attainment and earnings, safety and mental health are also critical concerns. LBGTQ+ students face sizeable mental health disparities. These challenges have only grown throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two in three LGBTQ college students reported having experienced sexual harassment at least once in a 2019 campus climate survey by the Association of American Universities (AAU) and twenty percent of LGBTQ college students feared for their physical safety due to their gender identity or their perceived sexual orientation according to the 2015 AAU climate survey.
What can campuses do to better support the LBGTQ+ community?
Like most issues we’ve recently discussed, there are broader systemic issues that individual campuses may not be able to solve individually. However, there are critical steps that leadership on college campuses can take to support, empower, and engage their LBGTQ+ students in impactful ways.
Make supporting mental health a priority
Any organized effort to support mental health across campus will have a net positive impact. However, methods of providing members of the LBGTQ+ community with direct access to resources and support will be paramount to success. During Mental Health Awareness Month we documented how University of West Georgia’s AI chatbot, Wolfie, supported student wellness by connecting them to resources on campus. These efforts resulted in a decline in students indicating struggling with mental health by 20%.
Many campuses host group therapy sessions in the form of workshops and fireside chats. With limited resources, this may enable a counselor to support and facilitate a discussion between 5-10 students at once. This may create a sense of community and combat the sense of islolation that students may feel.
Institute and promote dedicated safety resources
Campus Pride encourages the appointment of a LBGTQ liaison officer as well as actively recruiting LBGTQ officers. “However, all members of the security force should be able to interact comfortable with LGBTQ campus members, and feel comfortable in “gay” spaces.”
Create safe spaces for connection
During our recent webinar, Dr. Will Miller at Jacksonville University indicated that the institution’s AI chatbot, Nellie, gave students a “safe and judgment free space” in support of student’s mental health. Institutions should evaluate the ways they are connecting students to resources and people and determine if methods that allow students to feel more anonymous will also lead to them feeling more comfortable.
Support career services
Like supporting mental health across campus, efforts to support career readiness across all communities has a net positive impact on educational outcomes. Given the disparity of attainment rates and earnings outcomes between the LGBTQ+ community and the rest of the campus community, it is clear that more should be done to support during internship and job searches to put students in the best position possible to succeed.
A proactive approach to providing resources and advice may give students the confidence they need to complete their program and take advantage of resources (like career services) they may have otherwise not known about or were hesitant to leverage before.
Next week we will continue our support of Pride month by diving deeper into how institutions may build better systems for identifying and supporting at-risk students within the LGBTQ+ community. We’ll discuss best practices for data collection and analysis as well as provide ideas for improvement that we’ve identified and plan to implement in support of our college partners.