New Rutgers CMSI and Human Rights Campaign Report Highlights Ground-Breaking LGBTQ+ Inclusion Efforts at HBCUs

by Alberto Morales

The Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) in collaboration with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation is proud to announce the release ‘Modeling Inclusion: HBCUs and LGBTQ+ Support,’ a research brief examining the ground-breaking steps that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are taking to establish LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices on their campuses. The research brief highlights several institutions including Bowie State University, North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Spelman College, and other HBCUs that are doing exemplary work in this regard and includes a list of recommendations on how to create LGBTQ+ inclusive campus environments. This report is a part of a partnership between HRC and CMSI seeking to encourage more HBCUs to invest in LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts.

It is inspiring to see so many HBCUs take historic steps to foster an environment of inclusion for LGBTQ+ students. This is exactly the sort of future we envisioned when we first started our inclusion work with HBCUs 15 years ago. But there is still much more to be done before all LGBTQ+ students at HBCUs can feel safe and welcome at the schools they call home. As we continue this work, it is our hope that the successful models highlighted in our report will encourage more schools to invest in LGBTQ+ inclusion efforts."

Alphonso David, Human Rights Campaign President

For 15 years, the HRC Foundation’s HBCU Program has mobilized and supported HBCUs in enhancing policies and services that promote excellence in LGBTQ inclusion, equity, and engagement.

Inclusive policies and practices yield positive outcomes across several metrics, including retention rates, academic success and student happiness. Further, by committing to provide a safe and supportive environment for LBGTQ+ students, HBCUs can start to map a future where they can attract the best and brightest no matter their sexuality or gender expression and positively impact the lives of their future alumni.”

Brandy Jones, Director for Programs and Communications at the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions and lead author of the research brief

The report explores four critical areas that foster an environment of equity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ students:

  • Institutional admissions
  • Health and wellness
  • Student life and student engagement
  • Housing

The report highlights a number of HBCUs that are leading exemplary inclusion efforts, schools like Spelman College where they have established a trans-inclusive admissions policy, Bowie State University, where they have established the first HBCU LGBTQ health center and North Carolina Central University who is now the second HBCU to open an LGBTA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Ally) center.

One of the report’s top recommendations for HBCUs seeking to create an LGBT+ inclusive campus is to establish an LGBTQ+ center. According to the research, these centers were critical in creating an environment where LGBTQ+ students feel safe and welcome. These centers serve as a hub where students can congregate to socialize, engage with educational programming, and serve as a meeting place for groups - some of which form in order to advocate for LGBTQ+ students.

According to the brief, many HBCUs are still grappling with enacting policies that provide holistic support to LGBTQ+ students. The report focuses on examining the ways HBCUs can better provide holistic support for this community so that they can contribute to a more inclusive environment. Some of those recommendations include:

  • Make it easier for students to change their gender identity in student records
  • Establish an office or space specifically designed for LGBTQ+ students
  • Offer mental health resources that address the distinct challenges facing LGBTQ+ students
  • Demonstrate high visibility of and support from campus leadership
  • Make LGBTQ+ inclusive curriculum

Similar to the experiences of other underrepresented students, LGBTQ+ individuals often face multiple stressors while living on college campuses. Thus, it is important that institutions are actively and intentionally promoting LGBTQ+ support services and safe spaces for this community. The report urges HBCU administrators and practitioners to consider expanding LGBTQ+ support services at their institutions and to advocate for increased commitment at HBCUs across the country.

Institutions need to make more of an effort to create accessible resources for LGBTQ+ students. Just because they are enrolled into the universities does not necessarily mean that they feel as if they belong or as though they can thrive.”

Sergio A. Gonzalez, One of the report authors on the report and Research Associate at the Rutgers Center for Minority Serving Institutions

The research brief can be found here.

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