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College is supposed to be a time of learning, growing, and, not to mention, fun. Most people think of college as a time to get out and experience the world. They don't expect to find themselves confined to a cold and unfamiliar dorm room, afraid to leave. That's how I found myself midway through my second semester at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, which was ranked by The Princeton Review this year as the least gay-friendly college in the nation.
I'm gay, and that wasn't something I could change or was prepared to hide. I was out, and that was a problem for my fellow students at the all-male school. The harassment began as simple name-calling but quickly escalated. I was the subject of Web postings, newspaper articles, and other forms of humiliation.
My dorm room was graffitied, and when I moved into a fraternity house my furniture was covered with words like fag. I always knew I could leave and go to another school where I could lose myself in a crowd and be rid of the
intolerance. But that wasn't the right thing to do, so I'm still here.
I chose Hampden-Sydney as the school where I'd take my bachelor's degree because it reminded me of my high school. It has a relatively small student body and a low student-faculty ratio. I was used to being in a friendly atmosphere steeped in tradition. There's a custom the student body shares at Hampden-Sydney of saying hello or nodding to every passerby on the sidewalk. "The Hill," as campus is called, was inviting and had high standards.
Despite suffering harassment, I realized that my opinion of Hampden-Sydney at the end of my freshman year hadn't changed. What I was experiencing was the result of one group of intolerant students. Though at times I felt alone and unprotected, the college administration eventually expelled them.
Hampden-Sydney has proved to me that The Princeton Review's ranking doesn't necessarily mean a gay student can't thrive here. It just means that it requires a little more persistence and tolerance on the part of that gay student.