Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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The worst, most unsafe campuses for LGBTQ+ youth

For parents and guardians of queer youth, or for queer tertiary teachers a new report highlights almost 200 campuses where you and yours could be unsafe.

Three colleges have been added for a total of 196 campuses on this year’s Worst List, with the update documenting increased and blatant anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination on other campuses.

Campus Pride’s list of the worst colleges and universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States has grown to 196. This year, three new campuses were added and updates were made to nearly one-third of the campuses on the list, documenting new instances of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination.

“The Worst List provides prospective college students and their families with crucial information about the most blatantly unsafe campuses in the country for LGBTQ+ people,” said Campus Pride Founder, CEO and Executive Director Shane Mendez Windmeyer. “It is absolutely necessary to bring attention to campuses that have a documented history of anti-LGBTQ+ actions or that have chosen to openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people, often shamelessly using religion as a justification to discriminate.”

In order to be on the Worst List, a campus must have a documented history of anti-LGBTQ+ actions, programs and practices, or have applied for a Title IX religious exemption. Religious colleges often ask the federal government for Title IX exemptions so that they can discriminate against LGBTQ+ students, while still receiving federal taxpayer funding.

The new additions to the Worst List are:

  • Faulkner University (Montgomery, Alabama), which received a Title IX religious exemption to openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people in March 2023.
  • Oak Valley College (Rialto, CA), which received a Title IX religious exemption in March 2023 and mentions “homosexuality” as immoral sexual activity that goes against the personal conduct honor code, along with other statements in the Student Handbook that negatively target LGBTQ+ students.
  • Welch College (Gallatin, Tennessee), which has a recent history of anti-LGBTQ discrimination with an alleged Title IX violation.

Under Title IX statutes, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in any education program or activity operated by a recipient of Federal financial assistance, any educational institution “controlled by a religious organization” may apply for an exemption if adhering to the requirements of Title IX “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.” However, a Title IX exemption does not offer a carte blanche to discriminate in all areas. When a college applies to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for an exemption, they must request permission regarding a specific issue, policy or practice — essentially stating a specific intent to discriminate against LGBTQ+ students.

One highlight from this year’s updates to the Worst List is the egregious case of Baylor University in Waco, Texas. The campus was granted a Title IX religious exemption that not only covers housing, admissions, and the requirement to provide “comparable facilities,” but also includes sexual harassment. In the letter from the OCR approving Baylor’s exemption, a note states: “the University requests assurance ‘that the belief in or practice of its religious tenets by the University or its students’ would not constitute ‘unwelcome conduct’ under the Department’s definition of ‘sexual harassment’ under Title IX.” Baylor is the first known university to have requested and received a Title IX religious exemption that covers sexual harassment.

“The freedom of religion is important — but that freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to discriminate, harass and inflict lasting harm on students, and that’s what’s happening at every single college and university on the Worst List. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people has become more visible and blatant on many college campuses this year, even under the current Democratic administration,” said Shane Mendez Windmeyer. “The fact that, in 2023, our federal government is still granting campuses like Baylor an exemption from laws protecting LGBTQ+ students from sexual harassment is something that’s shocking and disturbing. It is cause for great alarm — and is sure to embolden other religiously-affiliated colleges and universities.”

Other Worst List colleges that raised special concern this year include:

View the complete “Worst List: The Absolute Worst, Most Unsafe Campuses for LGBTQ+ Youth” and profiles of individual colleges and universities on the list at CampusPride.org/WorstList.

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