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By Jade Mardirosian
Baylor is no longer ranked on the Princeton Review’s list of “LGBT-Unfriendly” colleges, after holding the No. 11 spot in both 2010 and 2009. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The list is published in the company’s annual “Best 376 Colleges” book. Baylor held the No.2 spot on this list in both 2007 and 2005.
Fort Collins, Colo., sophomore Adam Short believes that Baylor being left off the list of “LGBT-Unfriendly” schools is more representative of the university.
“I think it’s a really good sign. I haven’t had a single issue with anybody on campus ever and that was even after I was outed in the New York Times,” Short said. “I haven’t had a single person say anything derogatory toward me or a single issue with a professor.”
Short is the president and one of the founding members of the Sexual Identity Forum, an unofficial organization at Baylor whose purpose is to start dialogue concerning gender sexuality issues among all students, not just LGBT students, in the context of being at Baylor and in Texas and in the world. The organization was denied a charter to become an officially recognized student organization at Baylor, but Short said that the organization is reapplying for a charter this year. He said he believes that by clarifying that the organization is not an advocacy group, it will help the Sexual Identity Forum gain a charter.
Lori Fogleman, director of media communications and university spokesperson, provided Baylor’s official stance on the issue last semester.
“Having healthy and responsible dialogue is best established through established and professionally facilitated programs,” Fogleman told the Lariat. “It’s the university’s opinion that a chartered student organization is not the most viable medium through which to pursue such dialogue.”
When asked for a statement regarding Baylor being left off of this year’s “LGBT-Unfriendly” list, Fogleman wrote in an email to the Lariat, “Honestly, there are tons of lists out there that Baylor isn’t on. However, we would be more than happy to comment about lists that we are on.”
Rankings in the book are based on a survey completed by students about their colleges and campus experiences. Schools are ranked and move up or down on lists according to how students answer survey questions in relation to how students at other universities answered the same questions.
The Princeton Review ranks the top 20 colleges respectively on the “LGBT-Unfriendly” and “LGBT-Friendly” lists based on students’ responses to the following question: “Students treat all persons equally, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.” This question is answered on a five-point scale with students choosing to strongly disagree, disagree, somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree.
Fresno, Calif., freshman ChicAnya Njeh is the liberal outreach chair for the Sexual Identity Forum and describes Baylor being dismissed from 2011 rankings as a great victory.
“I was one of those people that thought because [Baylor] is a Baptist school in Texas there would be bunch of people who were hostile towards gays and lesbians, but I came here and that didn’t happen,” Njeh said. “When you are on a list like that it hinders some people who are afraid of being judged from coming [to this school]. So [not being ranked is] probably going to have a really positive effect for LGBT students coming in and it’s good for the school in general.”
David Soto, senior editor at the Princeton Review said that 122,000 students were surveyed for this year’s book and about 375 surveys are completed for each school included in the book. Soto said both students and college administrations use the book beneficially.
“Students can use these lists in conjunction to find the right school, with the right fit for them,” Soto said. “Administrations can also use these lists. Perhaps the school has an issue accepting LGBT students. In many cases this list has led to change in campus activities. Administrations have instituted many programs to change that negative sentiment on their campus.”
Soto said Baylor is a school that is typically ranked on the “LGBT-Unfriendly” list.
Short feels that Baylor no longer deserved to be ranked as a college that is unfriendly toward LGBT students.
“Baylor is full of some of the nicest people I have ever met,” Short said. “It’s a victory on the fact that people realize Baylor is a safe, comfortable place that accepts anyone regardless of their race, religion, orientation, and a big difference from the Baylor of last century that would have been viewed as very hostile toward those things.”
Baylor’s statement on Human Sexuality says all students are welcomed into a supportive environment in which to discuss human sexuality. It further explains a marriage between a man and a woman is the biblical norm. It also states that it “is thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.”
Baylor students interested in participating in the Princeton Review survey for the next edition of the book, which will be published in the summer of 2012, can do so at http://survey.review.com.