On Friday, the more than two-year-long saga that followed in the tragic death of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi came to an end when a New Jersey jury found his former roommate, Dharun Ravi, guilty of several counts of invasion of privacy and guilty of several counts of bias intimidation toward Tyler Clementi, among other charges.
There are no words or sentiments – not even a guilty verdict – that can bring Tyler back to his family and friends, and this trial’s conclusion will not end the daily torment and harassment of LGBT students on college and university campuses across the nation. Campus Pride's national research study, "The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People," shows that one in four gay, lesbian and bisexual college students and nearly one in two transgender students face harassment on campus.
Too many colleges across the country have yet to learn the lessons Rutgers was faced with in the aftermath of Clementi’s death. Less than 7% of schools offer institutional support to LGBT students, such as an LGBT student center or programs director. Only 13% offer nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and just 6% protect students on the basis of gender identity. Only one school, Illinois’ Elmhurst University, asks students demographic questions about sexual orientation and gender identity on its admissions application.
Will it take another suicide death or antigay national headline for these administrators to take proactive steps to protect their LGBT students? Campus Pride is going to do our best to make sure that is not the case. And I will do everything in my power to see that other students don’t face the same torment Clementi did. That’s why our organization, Campus Pride, has called on all colleges and universities to take immediate steps today to create safer, more welcoming environments for LGBT students. Programs and policy implementation – such as antidiscrimination policies, safe and inclusive student conduct codes, gender-neutral housing, LGBT living-learning communities, hate-crime and bias-motivated incident response and LGBT-inclusive healthcare – are not optional.
–Shane L. Windmeyer, M.S., Ed.,is co-founder and executive director of Campus Pride, the leading national organization for student leaders and campus organizations working to create a safer college environment for LGBT students. Learn more at campuspride.org or at twitter.com/campuspride.