Ithaca College was recently awarded a GPA of 18. That number may seem a little odd, but the GPA in question is the College’s “gay point average.” On a scale of 20, an 18 GPA places Ithaca solidly among the nation’s 100 friendliest campuses in the first-ever Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students.
Emily Hobkirk ’09, co-president for leadership of Prism, one of the campus’s groups for sexual and gender minorities and their allies, is not surprised. “Here at Ithaca, we have so many resources. . . . Our resource center goes above and beyond others. I’ve never been anywhere that’s near comparable.”
Hobkirk is talking about Ithaca’s Center for LGBT Education, Outreach, and Services, run by Lisa Maurer, which has been significant in making LGBT students feel welcome on campus. This academic and social center, which has existed five years, has one staff member, two student workers, and a large number of student volunteers. Despite its limited resources, the center’s work garnered Ithaca a GPA above such affluent institutions as Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, New York, and Yale Universities. It provides services including presentations, workshops, guest speakers, consultations, and professional development opportunities. The center runs a schedule of events including a film series, a National Coming Out Day rally, Gaypril LGBT awareness month, and a rainbow graduation reception. And, not least, the center focuses on fostering friendships with like-minded people. “People need,” says Maurer, “to feel connected to each other.”
Campus PrideNet, the country’s leading organization for LGBT/ally student leaders, and the National Consortium of Directors of LGBT Resources in Higher Education compiled the comprehensive guide after extensively interviewing more than 5,500 current LGBT students, faculty, and staff from nearly 700 schools. The GPA is based on a list of 20 points including institutional policies, commitment, and support; academic life; housing; student life; counseling and health services; campus safety; and recruitment and retention efforts. The guide includes quotes and advice from LGBT students at IC, a list of “fun queer stuff” about Ithaca, and sketches of social and academic scenes on campus. Also highlighted are the number of LGBT and allied alumni who keep connected to the College and those who go on to work in LGBT-specific fields.
“I’m proud of our campus,” adds Maurer. “This is another prestigious accomplishment added to what Ithaca College already does well.”