A gay rights group says a survey of college and university students shows harassment of all types remains common across the state. The executive director of the Iowa Pride Network, Ryan Roemerman, says they conducted the survey to see how college life impacts lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, and found 82 to 95% of students have heard racist, sexist, homophobic or negative comments about gender expression on campus.
He says LGBT students face more physical harassment because of sexual orientation or gender expression, more cyber harassment and are 25% more likely to consider suicide than their straight peers. Straight students experienced more harassment because of their gender, while 44% of all students said they experienced sexual harassment in the last year.
Roemerman says his group is recommending that all schools adopt an anti-harassment and anti-descrimination policy that includes LGBT students. He says students who attend a college or university feel safer if they know the school has anti-harassment and non-descrimination policy, and more so if they know how to report the problem.
In addition, he says student polices that include sexual orientation and gender identity also make students feel safer. Roemerman says LGBT students felt safer at schools that had faculty that they felt were supportive of LGBT students.
The survey included volunteers from a group of 276 students at 31 public, private and community colleges. Roemerman says small colleges that are religious-based should particularly look at their policies.
“Student who go to what they perceived to be a conservative college are less likely to be out, they’re less likely to know of any out staff, and they’re less likely to feel that their administration supports their gay student alliance or gay student group,” Roemerman says, “What we’re asking colleges to do, especially if they are religiously affiliated, is to really look at their policies and be sure they are actually including Iowa civil rights law, which includes all public and private universities in the State of Iowa to include sexual orientation, gender identity.”
Roemerman says the survey found that a majority of the students are pleased with their schools. But he says at the same time the majority of students are hearing “blatant homphobic, sexist and racist comments, and negative comments about gender expression,” which he says shows many students see these remarks as part of the “common background noise” of college. He says they hope the College Climate Survey will make students and faculty members realize these comments shouldn’t be routine.
Roemerman says this is the first survey by the group of the college climate. You can see more about the survey at: iowa.pridenetwork.org.