Move over, Rice. The University of Houston edged out one of the gayest campuses in the U.S. to be included on an elite list of the “bravest campuses” for LGBT students in the South.
Campus Pride compiled the list of 7 Brave Campuses for LGBT Students in the South, which was recently unveiled in the Advocate. The University of Houston earned a spot, along with College of Charleston in South Carolina, oh so gay Emory in Atlanta, North Carolina Central University, Tulane University in New Orleans, University of Richmond in Virginia and Western Kentucky University.
In August, UH joined Rice and the University of Texas in scoring a near-perfect 4.5 out of five stars from Campus Pride for its LGBT academic life, student life and housing.
James Lee, a senator in UH's Student Government Association, has been involved with student government during the last four years and helped advocate for a system-wide, LGBT inclusive non-discrimination policy and the Josephine Tittsworth Act, which aims to help improve classroom environments for transgender and queer students. Campus Pride cited that as one of its reasons for including the school on the list.
“I think the University of Houston is a prime example of what the South can be for LGBT folks,” Lee says. “When I grew up I was told gay people were treated differently, and I was expected to accept that. At the University of Houston I found a welcoming LGBT resource center and an environment that invested in LGBT students.”
The LGBT-inclusive work and recognition for the school sets an example for other colleges across the country, Lee says.
“Now not only has our campus received recognition for its leadership on LGBT issues, but we have changed the lives of students from all across the nation. I hope the rest of the country can learn from our example, and realize that if you just invest in our community, even with something simple like a safe space, we can make a difference and change the lives of others,” he says.
A UH contingent marched in the Houston Pride parade in June (photo).
The Advocate's full statement on why the University of Houston made the list:
A mark of a “brave space” is unyielding advocacy in the face of adversity. As a public research institution, the University of Houston is known for a history of grassroots LGBTQ student organizing and activism.
This past year the University of Houston student senate passed the Josephine Tittsworth Act. The student bill is an attempt to address the safety concerns of transgender people on campus. The bill allows transgender students to use their proper name, title, and gender when completing official university documents.
Today the university boasts a full-service LGBT Resource Center with a program director, student staff, a large selection of annual programming, and an LGBT studies program. As stated, the mission of the center is “to launch the next generation of healthy, proud, academically successful LGBTQ citizens, leaders and advocates.” Some of the center’s key programs include a Peer Mentoring Program to help assist newly LGBTQ-identifying students, a speakers bureau, and a brown bag social lunch to help foster relationships between students and faculty. Programs for faculty and staff include the Cougar Ally Training on LGBTQ issues as well as multiple Cougar Ally Lunch ‘N’ Learns, which provide discussions on select LGBTQ issues.
The University of Houston is one of the two highest-ranked Texas schools listed on the Campus Pride Index, ranked at 4.5 stars out of 5 stars. The campus also has made significant strides on transgender concerns, adding “gender identity/expression” to its nondiscrimination statement and having a gender-inclusive restroom policy that allows students and faculty to use the restroom of their choice. Beginning this fall, the campus has also added transgender-inclusive student health insurance for medical expenses related to hormones and surgery.