Connecticut College earns top honors as an LGBTQ-friendly campus

The College’s LGBTQ Resource Center has been a welcoming place for students since it opened in 2007.
The College’s LGBTQ Resource Center has been a welcoming place for students since it opened in 2007.

For the second consecutive year, Campus Pride and the Huffington Post have named Connecticut College as one of the nation’s friendliest campuses for LGBTQ students.

The Campus Pride index is a detailed survey of colleges’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning policies, academics, services and training. Fifty schools are included on the 2014 “Best of the Best list,” which expanded from 25 colleges the previous year.

Connecticut College received a top rating of five stars from Campus Pride, highlighting efforts to provide a safe and supportive academic life for LGBTQ students. Colleges are ranked on a scale of one to five stars by LGBT experts in higher education. The College first appeared on the list in 2013.

"I am delighted that Connecticut College has once again earned national recognition for one of our most deeply held values: our commitment to an inclusive campus community,” said Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron. “Our learning environment is enhanced immeasurably through the diverse perspectives and experiences of each member of this campus."

Jen Manion, associate professor of history and director of the College’s LGBTQ Resource Center, said she was proud of the College’s inclusion and was pleased to see the list of schools expand from 25 to 50.

“It’s a remarkable sign of how far the LGBTQ movement has come in the last 30 years and how important young people are in doing the ground work,” Manion said. “At Connecticut College, we have a real commitment from everyone that we want LGBTQ students to feel as included and supported on this campus as everyone else.”

Manion said this year’s Campus Pride Index heavily considered transgender policy and climate. “Colleges and students are at the forefront of making sure that the rights of the transgender community are being taken seriously.”

Connecticut College has emerged as a top transgender-friendly institution, learning from the experience of one of its own students. Manion said that the College has worked closely with Jae Majors ’15, a double major in gender and women’s studies and American studies and a scholar in the Holleran Center’s Program in Community Action. Majors began transitioning from a woman to a man during his first year at Connecticut College.

“I grew up in the Bronx and I always knew there was something different about me,” Majors said. “I was always ‘one of the boys.’ I took some gender and women studies classes and began to learn more about gender and about myself.”

Majors became active in the LGBTQ Center in his first year on campus. He worked with fellow students, faculty and administrators to create a gender inclusive bathroom in the College’s Fanning Hall. Though the effort was successful, Majors knew there was more to be done and partnered with the Center and allies to influence transgender policies, resulting in one of the most supportive campuses in the country.

Policies have improved every year, along with the number of services offered to the transgender community. Now transgender students are offered housing consistent with the personal identities and gender-neutral restrooms in campus residences and academic buildings. Training on transgender issues is readily available to students, faculty and staff.

Manion said one of the best new policies applies to the student health plan, which now fully insures coverage for transitioning students to receive hormone replacement therapy and other treatments recommended by their doctors.

Majors now feels much more comfortable on campus and is proud that the College has placed highly on the Campus Pride Index.

“It’s taken me a long time to be in the good place I am today,” Majors said. “Being transgender in a lot of ways has made me strong. I realize that everyone is different and that difference is something that should be celebrated.”  

The Athletics Department is taking a more prominent role to build an inclusive community. Efforts like “You Can Play” – a video created by Camel athletes supporting LGBTQ teammates - demonstrate progress, Manion said, and she is working with Athletics Director Fran Shields to continue building a positive environment. Among other initiatives, Manion is participating in a captains’ retreat, where team leaders will be trained on supporting teammates in the gym, the pool, on the field, ice and in the locker room. 

August 15, 2014