For the fourth year in a row Southern Oregon University was named one of 2016’s most LGBTQ friendly colleges on Campus Pride’s top 30 schools nationwide. Not only did SOU make the list, they earned 5 out of 5 stars on Campus Pride’s grading system.
“When we think of four years now we’ve been on this campus pride list, it really shows the efforts of our greater campus community. It’s not just kind of because we have a queer resource center, but it’s because we are in partnership with many different areas,” said Thomas Arce, Queer Resource Center Coordinator.
Some of the different scoring areas included; Policy Inclusion, Support and Institutional Commitment, Academic Life, Student Life, Housing and Residence Life, Campus Safety, Counseling and Health and Recruitment and Retention Efforts. But what makes SOU unique is its community and many opportunities to make students under the queer umbrella comfortable.
“We have a pretty vibrant LGBTQ community. It’s the fact that we have a visible community in that way,” said Arce. “So it’s nice that we have a physical base here as the queer resource center and pretty robust space […] It’s an actual space for our students to come, socialize, to thrive.”
The Queer Resource Center puts on many social events, training sessions and classes. Students have many opportunities to feel comfortable with themselves and meet faculty, staff and other students who understand their gender identities and support them throughout the challenges they face.
“Coming out as openly bisexual coincided with my decision to go back to school. I’m non-traditional in both those aspects, coming out later than many people do, and entering back into higher education many years after high school,” said Jordan Land, Queer Resource Center student leader. “Once I became settled on campus, however, the Queer Resource Center’s presence was very noticeable.”
But earning the 5 star ranking doesn’t mean SOU won’t change what they are doing. This year the Queer Resource Center is shaking up the beginning of the year. Instead of having a regular open house, they have decided to hold a Lavender Social, an event to help welcome LGBTQ identified students and allies. The Lavender Social is on September 26 from 12:00pm to 3:00pm.
“It’s kind of like [LGBTQ students] are feeling a hug from SOU,” said Arce. “We’ll have folks from Student Health and Wellness, from university housing, [and] from the different academic programs there to interact with our students and let them know this is an inclusive campus. Here we know and understand you.”
SOU students under the Queer umbrella can also find support from the Student Health and Wellness Center. The mental health counselors and physical health professionals are up to date on queer and trans issues and are ready to help.
This year at ROAR, Raider Orientation and Registration, many students made a point to say they decided to come to SOU because the university is friendly towards LGBTQ students.
The admissions team and Arce recognize that prospective students and families use Campus Pride to help narrow down their college choices. In result, the admissions team makes their presence known at LGBTQ identified college fairs. SOU’s ranking on College Pride allows them to be present in two nationwide college fairs this fall, one in Vancouver, Washington and one in Los Angeles, California.
SOU has proven again and again that they are worthy of their ranking on Campus Pride’s top 30 most LGBTQ friendly colleges. If SOU keeps on the path they are on, they could potentially make the list once again in 2017.
“Our hearts are as open as our doors; all of my peers that I work with, and our coordinator, want nothing more than to create an atmosphere of inclusion and welcoming for our students. For me, everything else is second,” said Land.