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New recognitions highlight UW-Eau Claire support for LGBTQIA+ students

| Julie Poquette

The work of faculty, staff and students at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to enhance the college experience of LGBTQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual) students has earned two recent national recognitions: a top rating in the Campus Pride Index and inclusion by Affordable Colleges Online on its new list of top LGBTQ-friendly colleges.

“It is very exciting to see our institutional efforts nationally recognized,” says Dr. Tamara Johnson, UW-Eau Claire’s assistant chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion. “As we continue to work intentionally toward creating a more inclusive campus, our work with the LGBTQIA+ community is a great model of service excellence to underserved populations.”

Five stars from Campus Pride

Campus Pride has given UW-Eau Claire its highest rating, five stars, in its Campus Pride Index, a tool that helps colleges and universities improve campus life for LGBTQIA+ students. Campus Pride is the leading nonprofit organization in the U.S. working to create more LGBTQIA+-friendly learning environments at colleges and universities.

With the five-star rating, UW-Eau Claire becomes one of just 27 U.S. colleges and universities (and one of two in the UW System) to receive Campus Pride’s highest recognition.

According to the Campus Pride website, the index rankings are based on a school’s performance on to eight “inclusion factors” as they relate to LGBTQIA+ students: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention.

Christopher Jorgenson, Gender and Sexuality Resource Center director at UW-Eau Claire, says a few new initiatives helped change the university’s previous 4½-star Campus Pride ranking to five stars. Starting this fall, students will have the ability to put their preferred names on their student IDs while ensuring that their IDs remain valid as identification for voting. The university also has started an LGBTQIA+ alumni group, and Counseling Services now holds group sessions for LGBTQIA+ students.

Affordable Colleges Online top LGBTQ-friendly college

UW-Eau Claire also has been named one of Affordable Colleges Online’s Most LGBTQ-Friendly Colleges and Universities for 2018-19, ranking 10th out of 69 schools that made the list. UW-Eau Claire is one of just four UW System universities to be included.

Affordable Colleges Online examined data from all accredited postsecondary schools in the nation in determining its list of top LGBTQIA+-friendly institutions. Its goal was to find those colleges that “offered the most notable balances of academic rigor, LGBTQ student support and affordability,” according to the Affordable Colleges Online website. A school’s Campus Pride Index ranking is a component of its score in the Affordable Colleges Online ranking.

Continual progress is key

Jorgenson says UW-Eau Claire’s newest recognitions for support of LGBTQIA+ students “are a semicolon, not a period,” and should be considered indicators of progress. 

“As such, I am thrilled that we’ve been able to address policy, infrastructure and programming in ways that enhance the campus experience for LGBTQIA+ students,” Jorgenson says. “That said, we live in politically volatile times, and it is my goal as a gay community member in the Chippewa Valley and a professional at UW-Eau Claire to focus on intersectional advocacy. Silence is complicity. Until we address racism, classism, cisheterosexism, transphobia — we will never achieve the sort of community befitting the exciting changes currently underway in our city. I feel lucky to work at an institution that understands and embraces that.”

Additional recent recognitions

UW-Eau Claire’s most recent recognitions for support of LGBTQIA+ students follow its inclusion in other recent national rankings. The university was recognized as Wisconsin’s best college for LGBTQ students in the 2018 “Best Colleges for LGBTQ Students in Every State” list, and it received a No. 3 national ranking on College Choice’s 2017 “50 Best Colleges for LGBTQ Students” list.