Entering a new school year is always a bit nerve-wracking, even more so when a student is just beginning their college career. For LGBTQ students, one national organization moves mountains to ensure that they pick the right school and stand up as leaders on campus for all marginalized communities.
“Campus Pride approaches everything we do in an intersectional manner to produce not just LGBTQ leaders but leaders when it comes to social justice,” Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer told qnotes. “How to be more knowledgeable and accepting of diversity within the LGBTQ community.”
The organization achieves this goal through countless programs focused on training and nurturing LGBTQ youth growing into adulthood. Young members of the LGBTQ community are often the most vulnerable, so the resources provided through Campus Pride’s programs and projects strive to chip away at this disadvantage.
These programs include online training to form safe spaces for LGBTQ students on campus. Campus Pride also offers an 18-20 hour in-person “Stop the Hate” training to support colleges and universities that strive for an inclusive, safe community. The organization’s website features a jobs board, LGBTQ scholarships database and access to research and other resources nationwide.
Windmeyer said that none of Campus Pride’s countless projects could be done without the national organization’s network of student leaders and volunteers. From managing communications and working events to planning workshops and research reports, Windmeyer said that “without all the administrative, resourceful hard work that volunteers do, this [mission] would not be possible.”
Windmeyer’s organization is best known for its annual Camp Pride, a six-day gathering of LGBTQ and ally student leaders from all over the country. The camp aims to build leadership skills through self-discovery, networking, shared resources and discussion of social justice issues.
One resource that Campus Pride has expanded continuously over its history is the Campus Pride Index, which rates colleges and universities on their LGBTQ policies and the inclusivity of the campus environment. Windmeyer said that the index serves both sides of the system: school and student.
“The Campus Pride index is an invaluable resource that LGBTQ high school students can easily access to find safe, inclusive colleges to attend,” he told qnotes. “Plus, the Index helps college campuses improve their safety and LGBTQ inclusive policies, programs and practices.”
Unfortunately, not all colleges and universities strive to implement policies and practices that are inclusive for LGBTQ students and staff. Some schools hold on to archaic policies, or even actively impair attempts to make their campuses more inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly.
“[Queer students] may face harassment, judgment and discrimination from professors and peers if they are out,” Windmeyer lamented. “An LGBTQ student leader on a conservative campus may be unable to get their LGBTQ organization recognized as legitimate by the university. Universities sometimes don’t list the organization online, making it difficult for queer students to find it. They may try to hold LGBTQ events and be blocked from doing so by the administration.”
Because schools like that do exist, Campus Pride implemented the opposite of the index — the Shame List. The list identifies colleges and universities with the least inclusive or most hostile campuses, so that LGBTQ young people can make informed decisions when enrolling.
As for students once they choose a school, Campus Pride’s site offers resources on dozens of potential campus issues: Greek life, religious and faith practices, transgender support, health and wellness and athletics. Most colleges and universities now have LGBTQ student organizations or resource centers.
Windmeyer also encourages off-campus outreach like local LGBTQ community centers, support groups, or queer-friendly counseling. Campus Pride works hard to remind LGBTQ and ally students and educators that there are resources out there; it all begins with a Google search.
“You can always call, email, text or message Campus Pride and we can help you too,” Windmeyer said as he smiled.