Pride of a Comet

While most campus-centric pieces in AMP cast the school in a critical light, it’s easy to overlook the good news that occasionally breaks. One recent bit of praise has to do with the campus’ ranking in the Campus Pride Index. The index measures different factors of inclusion for LGBTQ students, and the school received four and a half out of five stars, the highest total of any school in Texas.

Some of the highlights from the study included the new inclusive housing options and the extensive training for staff members in LGBTQ issues. While the numbers most certainly don’t lie, it’s worth a more personal look at the facets of campus life as an LGBTQ student.

I don’t speak for every student, but having lived on campus for two years, I’ve observed that so many of the programs started by administration to connect students with like-minded people have had the unintentional side effect of creating identity-based communities and friend groups. Finding a friend group that is majority-LGBTQ has been a huge support, and it has created such an expectation that when my partner expressed his fears about coming out at his school, it seemed like a mere afterthought to me.

Outside of specific groups, the campus’ culture overall skews toward one of acceptance and tolerance, to the point where I’ve observed (and become one of the) hand-holding same-sex couples at different points on campus.

That sense of tolerance has to be looked at in relation to the incredibly diverse nature of the school. In the most recent U.S News and World Report college ranking, UTD received a diversity score of 0.71, which placed it in the top 20 of schools nationwide. With such a wide makeup of students, it’s hard to imagine a campus unlike the current one; diversity is a cornerstone of the school’s identity and it makes sense that the acceptance that comes with it extends to LGBTQ students. In addition, the lack of traditionally discriminatory groups — like conservative fraternities and hyper-masculine sports teams — has an impact that keeps the school a place of acceptance. That’s not to say those groups are inherently bigoted (that’s far from true), but the lack of their presence on campus allows everyday students to make campus culture what it is today.

While the students definitely influence and shape campus culture, the administration has to be noted for their continued support of the LGBTQ population on campus. From the new options for gender-inclusive housing to the continued support of the Galerstein Gender Center, the “official” pro-LGBTQ voices can be heard loud and proud. Especially during pride week, the positivity and acceptance that can be felt throughout the campus is something reassuring for students who might not feel like the outside world is as safe as it once was.

All of this isn’t to say that the school is infallible. The Campus Pride Index cited the school’s lack of LGBTQ recruitment and admission inclusion as areas for improvement, which can be achieved through simple actions like including a section for students to self-identify by orientation and gender identity on admission forms. In light of all the shining praise the rest of the report had, the administration needs to work to fix the little issues and help the school to become the first five-star school in the state.

For many LGBTQ students, coming to terms with their identities can be a fundamental part of the college experience. Personally, it’s hard to imagine going through the stages of self-acceptance and coming out anywhere other than this campus. The safe and supportive friend groups I’ve made, diverse student body, and official support from the administration have made the process as easy as possible, and it’s something that UT Dallas can be proud of.

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