(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has earned Campus Pride’s top ranking for the 11th consecutive year as one of the nation’s top 30, “Best of the Best” LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities. Campus Pride is a nonprofit that supports and improves campus life for LGBTQ+ people on campuses nationwide.
SOU is the only Oregon institution – and one of just three in the Western U.S. – to be included on this year’s Best of the Best list. San Diego State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder are the other Western schools on the list.
“At a time when many states are persecuting trans and nonbinary young people, it is critical for colleges – especially institutions in more supportive states – to be sanctuaries for LGBTQ+ students, and the Best of the Best colleges have worked to be places where trans and nonbinary students feel welcomed and included,” said Dr. Genny Beemyn, coordinator of the Campus Pride Trans Policy Clearinghouse.
SOU earned five out of five stars overall on the Campus Pride Index, which ranks universities in each of eight categories: policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, student life, housing and residence life, campus safety, counseling and health, and recruitment and retention efforts. SOU drew five-star rankings in six of the categories and four-and-a-half stars in the other two.
“People are willing to learn and understand my perspectives,” a 24-year-old SOU student who identifies as queer is quoted as saying on the Campus Pride Website.
“This is important to me because all stories matter and by sharing more of ourselves it helps others to be more empathetic,” the student said. “SOU, in focusing on inclusion efforts, has helped me to be more authentically me.”
The Campus Pride recognition is meaningful for current and prospective LGBTQ students, particularly during a period of political polarization.
This year’s Best of the Best list is made up of campuses that have done “exceptional work in LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, programs and practices,” the organization’s website said. The Campus Pride Index rates colleges and universities based on self-reporting of factors including non-discrimination statements inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, gender affirming health care, LGBTQ+ peer mentorship programs, campus safety trainings on sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBTQ-specific major and course offerings, and the presence of LGBTQ and ally student and faculty organizations.
Supportive SOU programs and policies range from academic courses to residential living opportunities to co-curricular activities and groups. For instance, University Housing offers a gender-inclusive living environment in which students may decide whether or not they want gender to be a determining factor in their campus living arrangements. Many SOU majors and minors – including the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies program – offer courses related to queer studies. The university also offers resources for queer and trans students through its Social Justice and Equity Center, promoting educational outreach, community engagement, and support and advocacy.