Five Stars for LGBT
IC ranks among the best LGBT-friendly schools.
By Kerry Barger ‘11
In early 1999, a group of students and faculty members at Ithaca College became concerned that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students weren’t getting the support they needed.
“They investigated what could make LGBT students more successful,” says Lis Maurer, program director for the Center for LGBT Education, Outreach, and Services. “A proposal was written, and in 2001 the College decided to launch its first-ever LGBT center.
Though the center was not originally Maurer’s idea, she improved IC’s LGBT image, transforming a place where people could get support by adding programs and ser-vices that help students play an active role in the campus community. From an ongoing film series that explores sexuality to a resource room where students can seek advice and volunteer their time, the center has become a “go-to” place for LGBT students and allies alike.
“The main purpose of a center like this is to foster the academic success and personal growth for LGBT students and allies,” Maurer says. “It also provides opportunities campus-wide for people to learn more about LGBT issues and themes.”
The LGBT center has done a good share of work over the past nine years that hasn’t gone unnoticed. Campus Pride, a national nonprofit organization that creates safer environments for LGBT college students, has given Ithaca College a five-star rating, based on their Campus Pride climate index.
Two-hundred and thirty colleges participated in the survey, and Ithaca College was one of only 19 schools to receive a five-star rating.
“It’s very exciting to be honored in such a fantastic way,” Maurer says. “It’s about the work of my office but much more — it reflects that many people on this campus care about these issues and themes.”
The climate index takes an in-depth look at eight specific areas that study the quality of life for LGBT students. The areas include policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, student life, academic life, housing, campus safety, counseling, and recruitment and retention efforts. The College received five stars in five of these categories and four and a half stars in all the rest.
Though Ithaca College is noted for its diversity and toleration, Maurer still believes that there is always room for growth.
“We’ve really come such a long way since the LGBT center’s beginnings,” Maurer says. “Of course there’s always work to do, and we’re going to take this and improve from here.”
On August 23, 2010, the College approved its first-ever scholarship designated specifically for LGBT students.
“Many of our students have received scholarships from private or national organizations,” Maurer says. “But what makes this idea unique is that the College has never had an Ithaca College-specific scholarship for LGBT leadership.”
The Marc S. Wigler ’87 Annual Scholarship will be awarded in 2011–12 to a self-identified LGBT student with financial need who has displayed service, leadership, and achievement in the LGBT community.
The idea for the scholarship came after Wigler decided to make a gift in order to give back to the College. After much consideration, he chose to establish a scholarship specifically directed toward LGBT students.
Wigler says his time spent at Ithaca College and his love for education helped mold his decision.
“I have such a passion for learning — there is nothing more exciting to me than education,” Wigler says. “I’m very humbled by my four years at Ithaca College, and this is an opportunity to really make a statement to the LGBT community so that future generations come to feel more at ease with their sexuality."
Ithaca College was one of the first schools to respond to the recent tragedies involving LGBT students by producing an It Gets Better video. Watch it.