Surprise: All 180 of them have a religious affiliation.
Although higher education has always been steeped in patriarchy and heteronormativity, there are some administrations that don’t seem to be fighting against that homophobia at all. This week, Campus Pride, an LGBTQ nonprofit and overall reputable source in this subject, released its “Worst List,” which includes the colleges they believe to be the most homophobic and transphobic, per NBC. This year’s roundup included 180 colleges — the highest amount since the organization began keeping track in 2015. Let this be a reminder that just because you include “one of each” on your college pamphlet doesn’t mean you’re actually welcoming marginalized people.
How did the folx at Campus Pride arrive at their lengthy list of offenders? They reportedly focused on two criteria: One is based on a “demonstrated past history and track record of anti-LGBTQ actions, programs and practices” and the other looked at whether a university had received or applied for a Title IX exemption.
For those who don’t know, Title IX has a long and complicated history that just keeps getting messier. It was first passed under the Education Amendments of 1972 and specifically prohibited discrimination in educational institutions “on the basis of sex.” Eventually, the Obama administration interpreted the part about “sex” to include not only gender assigned at birth, but also sexual orientation and gender identity.
In 2017, the Trump administration automatically exempt religious institutions from Title IX. Fast forward to today, and conservatives are fighting tooth and nail to use Title IX to exclude trans athletes from participating in college sports.
Ironically, an amendment that was supposed to promote equality has become a weapon for anti-LGBTQ politicians and religious groups who hope to legally exclude queer students. It should come as no surprise, then, that every single school on Campus Pride’s “Worst” list has some religious affiliation.
To Campus Pride’s merit, this list does all the homework for us. They outline every known violation that LGBTQ students endured in each of the universities, from outright bans on visibly queer couples to vandalism of queer symbols on campus. Reading through their website, I learned that Brigham Young University’s (BYU) former president, for example, publicly denounced LGBTQ+ students earlier this year and that the administration also covered up instances of same-sex sexual assault. You can also find descriptions of anti-LGBTQ violations from places I would have thought were more progressive, including Baylor University and Seattle Pacific University.
The ‘Worst List’ serves as a disturbing yet important reminder of how much progress higher education still has to make. Every queer student applying to colleges right now should read it because it could save them from a lot of undue harm.