Campus Pride, a leading national nonprofit working to encourage safe campuses for LGBT students, has named Central Washington University one of the top 50 LGBT-friendly universities in the nation. CWU’s five-star rating signifies the highest percentages across eight LGBT-friendly benchmarks for policies, programs and practices.
President James L. Gaudino says CWU has made inclusiveness a high priority for people from all walks of life and this five-star rating is evidence the work is effective.
"We want all people to be free to be who they are and to express their opinions and their culture," says Gaudino. "It makes us a more welcoming campus, and it also makes us stronger and a more interesting place to live and learn."
Gaudino cited several innovative projects that have helped create a supportive community for LGBT people. CWU was the first in Washington State to institute transgender housing on campus. Safe Space posters mark places on campus where LGBT students can find helpful advocates. The university holds singular events, such as LGBT Commencement and a speaker program with guests such as Dan Savage, author of the nationally syndicated sex advice column, "Savage Love" and founder of the "It Gets Better Project."
CWU Assistant Dean for Student Living Richard DeShields says the Center for Diversity and Social Justice hosts workshops exploring LGBT issues that are the best-attended programs on campus even though they ask hard questions of everyone. He says the LGBT friendly designation isn't surprising.
“I’ve seen personal lives turn around because of what we do. LGBT students have places to go across campus where they feel a strong and quick response to the injustices they experience. And those who do the hurting—even unknowingly—have opportunities to become educated,” says DeShields.
DeShields also says discrimination against LGBT people will undoubtedly persist and the Campus Pride rating is a nice recognition, but the work must continue.
“My dream is that someday we have a campus where we can all celebrate our own identities without fear of being attacked or ostracized because we are different,” says DeShields, “and what we teach isn’t just what a portion of our population experiences. I’m an openly gay man and I know we need to talk more about the diversity of our families, because LGBT lives are woven into the daily fabric that is all of us.”
CWU ranked in the top 100 several years ago. “This Top 50 rating is a great leap,” says Katrina Whitney, diversity officer at CWU. "Students, staff and faculty worked very hard to get us here.”
Campus Pride’s 50 "Best of the Best" list highlights the most LGBT-friendly universities among institutions with student populations from 1,600 to more than 50,000—public and private schools alike.
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