Wednesday, February 16, 2011

IPN Releases College Climate Survey

First Study of Iowa College and University Campuses Show
Gaps in Support and Areas of Opportunity

Des Moines, IA – February 16 – Iowa Pride Network announced findings from its first ever Iowa College Climate Survey (ICCS) today at Drake University. The survey is the organization’s first to examine life on college and university campuses for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and straight allied (LGBTA) identified students.

“The ICCS reveals that harassment remains commonplace on college campuses across the state,” said Iowa Pride Network Co-Founder and Executive Director, Ryan Roemerman; “But it also makes clear that faculty, staff and administration can make a difference.”

Some of the key findings from the ICCS reveal:

·         Verbal harassment and lack of intervention is common:
82% to 95% of students have heard racist, sexist, homophobic comments or negative comments about gender expression from students on campus. When these comments are made, respondents say very few professors or students intervene.

·         Unsafe campus climates affect both LGBT and straight students:
LGBT students face more physical harassment, because of sexual orientation or gender expression, more cyber-harassment and are 25% more likely to consider suicide than their straight peers. Straight students experience more harassment because of their gender than LGBT students, while 44% of all respondents reported experiencing sexual harassment within the past year.

·         Anti-harassment  and anti-discrimination policies matter:
Students who attend a college or university feel safer if they know that their institution has an anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy; and even more safe if they know how to report harassment and discrimination. Additionally, policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity also make LGBT students feel safer. 

·         Supportive staff and resources create safer institutions
Colleges and universities that had staff that are viewed to be “supportive” or “very supportive” of LGBT students had fewer students reporting verbal harassment, physical harassment, assault, or cyber-harassment.

College and university students were on hand at the press conference and detailed their experiences as an LGBT or straight allied individual in an Iowa college. Stephen Wayne Boatwright, a freshman at Des Moines Area Community College, spoke of his transition to college. “I realized that my safety now lied in the hands of whatever university I chose and it made me research that university’s policies, which ultimately helped me make my decision.” 

(The door in this photo was vandalized at a central Iowa college. The door led to a female athlete's dorm room.)

Thao Pham, a sophomore at Iowa State University, explained a time when she personally encountered discrimination towards her sexual orientation while living in the dorms, “Regardless of the great policies that my school has on discrimination and harassment, there’s still a huge bureaucracy when it comes to reporting.”

“In a large school with a population of least 20,000 students, anonymity can be an issue and the discrimination and harassment that occurs may be overlooked. Training for RA’s and professors and educating college students early in their enrollment about how to name and stop hate and bias is important.” 

At the press conference, Iowa Pride Network called upon colleges to:
·         Meaningfully implement and enforce inclusive anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies that have clear instructions for reporting;
·         Engage faculty, staff, students and community members to appropriately intervene when bias and hate occur, wherever they occur, every time; and finally,
·         Colleges and Universities must exhibit on-going institutional support for LGBT students through student engagement, data, resources and support.

“My hope is that with the Iowa College Climate Survey, we are more aware of the kinds of issues LGBT students face in Iowa colleges,” Pham said, “And can initiate a dialogue about how to improve the climate on campus.”   


The Iowa College Climate Survey included responses from 276 LGBT, allied and non-allied high school students from 31 public, private and community colleges across the state. This biennial statewide survey is the only survey that measures the levels of racism, homophobia and sexism in Iowa colleges and universities. Key findings, the complete survey and additional information about methodology and demographics may be obtained by calling the Iowa Pride Network at 515-471-8062 or by visiting the Iowa Pride Network website.

About Iowa Pride Network
Iowa Pride Network works directly with LGBTA youth to cultivate advocates and leaders who fight homophobia and transphobia and strive for social justice.

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