Princeton Review's Approach Is Outdated

COMMENTARY: One of the nation's leading college ranking groups fails to keep actual LGBT students in mind when ranking the most gay-friendly campuses.

BY Shane L. Windmeyer

August 13 2009 12:00 AM ET

COMMENTARY: This month, the Princeton Review released the 2010 edition of its annual college guide, The Best 371 Colleges . The results are based on surveys from 122,000 students at the 371 top colleges and provides "Top 20" rankings of schools that are best for jocks, for serious students, and for those looking to party. According to the Princeton Review, the rankings aim to help students and parents answer that all-important question: "What is the best college for me?"

But for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students and their families, the Princeton Review fails as a credible resource for choosing the best college. The guide uses a simplistic and inappropriate methodology, coupled with offensive language, to determine the gay-friendliness of college campuses, making the guide an outdated effort regarding what matters most to LGBT students.

Listed in the guide are two categories for LGBT students: "Gay Community Accepted" and "Alternative Lifestyle Not an Alternative." Both lists presumably report the best and worst campuses for LGBT students.

Remarkably, the listings are based on respondents' agreement or disagreement with a single statement: "Students, faculty, and administrators treat all persons equally regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression." Of course, the majority of students responding to such a question -- irrespective of response -- will be straight. Their perceptions of equality are likely quite different from those of LGBT students. The survey and rankings also fail to provide any measurement when it comes to LGBT-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. These are key indicators to an LGBT-friendly campus environment.

The ranking, then, is at best limited, and at worst potentially dangerous. False confidence in an accepting environment can lead LGBT students to make the wrong decisions at the wrong school. Lest we forget Matthew Shepard, and more recently Angie Zapata, Sean Kennedy, and Lawrence King. Hate does not discriminate.

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