The university recently improved its LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) rating from three stars to four on the Campus Climate Index. The best possible rating is five stars.
Campus LGBT leaders are reflecting on how far the campus has come with LGBT acceptance and how far it still has to go.
The Campus Climate Index is a national assessment tool that allows universities to compare their LGBT campus life to other campuses’ using eight criteria: counseling and health, policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, recruitment and retention efforts, housing and residence life, student life, and campus safety, according to its website.
“The Campus Climate Index is not a complete picture, but it is a useful tool,” said Glyn Hughes, the director of Common Ground. Common Ground is a campus office that serves as a liaison between all LGBT organizations and the university administration, runs the Safe Zone program and advocates for LGBT students, according to its website.
The university has received three stars in previous years, and Hughes is proud of the direction that the university is headed.
“Compared to how the campus climate was when I first came to campus, I think the school has made leaps and bounds,” said junior Kadeem Fyffe, co-president of the Black Alliance for Sexual-Minority Equality.
Fyffe said that he had been impressed by the initiative the university staff had taken to advertise the rating, showing that they realized how important the rating was to creating an inclusive campus community.
“I believe that the higher ranking is reflective of the commitment that the university is making,” Hughes said. “President Ayers’ Richmond Promise and other programs on this campus are moving the campus in the right direction.”
Hughes referenced the Richmond Promise goal to create a defining spirit of opportunity as one of the driving forces behind the university’s focus on diversity in the last few years.
One downfall of the index is that the rating is based entirely on campus policy and not on the actual experiences of the students, Hughes said. “Although the rating is based solely on policy, I think the four-star rating is definitely deserved,” Fyffe said. “I believe that most students would agree that the university has become a place where being a member of the LGBT community is becoming more socially accepted.”
Some of the requirements to receive a fifth star include providing scholarships to LGBT members and allies, having an LGBT studies program and offering transgender students the option of being housed in keeping with their gender identity, according to the Index’s website.
“It is very unlikely that a school the size of Richmond would be able to get a fifth star,” Fyffe said. “But we are very proud of the four stars, and I think that is where we will be for a while.”
Richmond is now listed as a “Premier Campus” on the Index website and is one of many schools that have been recognized for their improvements in their on-campus LGBT environment.
The university joins Virginia Tech, George Mason University, Washington and Lee University, and the University of Mary Washington as the only Virginia schools to receive a four-star rating or higher, according to the Index.
“The rating gave us some good public relations, but what it really did was show us how we can improve,” Hughes said.
Contact reporter James Riddick at firstname.lastname@example.org