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USC named one of nation’s most LGBT-inclusive campuses

The LGBT Resource Center has been instrumental in making USC a safer and more inclusive space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. (Photo/Joel Fink)

USC has ranked among the top 25 LGBT-friendly universities in the country, thanks to the five-star efforts and programs offered by the USC LGBT Resource Center.

Campus Pride, a nonprofit organization aimed at making colleges and universities safer and more inclusive spaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students, released its annual list of Top 25 LGBT Friendly Colleges and Universities on Aug. 20.

“Campus Pride commends University of Southern California for being selected for the Top 25 listing,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride. “The campus has been a LGBT leader nationally, and this Top 25 listing proves that USC is continually raising the bar for LGBT inclusion. More colleges need to take responsibility for LGBT student concerns and issues like USC by implementing policy, program and practice to protect the safety of all students.”

The Campus Pride rankings do have an impact, according to Kristopher Patrick, a senior majoring in policy, planning and development at the USC Price School of Public Policy, who applied to USC because it had been chosen among the top LGBT-friendly campuses.

“The LGBT Center has been instrumental in helping my family come to terms with my sexuality,” Patrick said. “By the time I had come to USC, I was already cool with myself, but it took my grandparents a little more time.”

The rankings are determined by the Campus Pride Index, a system that requires campuses to assess their campus climate through a set of more than 50 questions relating to LGBT-friendly factors. These include policy, support and institutional commitment; academic life; student life; housing; campus safety; counseling and health; and recruitment and retention efforts. The campuses are then assigned up to five stars for each factor, and each school on the Top 25 list has to achieve no fewer than 4.5 stars. USC received five stars in each category.

The LGBT Resource Center, founded in 2005 by the Division of Student Affairs, was first ranked in the Campus Pride Top 25 just one year after opening its doors.

“I’m always trying to be innovative and create new programs and think outside of the box,” said Vincent Vigil, director of the center. “Every year I do an assessment of our programs and services. I do student focus groups to find out what we can do better, what we can improve on. Then I take those recommendations and implement changes for the following year.”

This year, Vigil was able to make two important additions to the Campus Pride Index — a policy change regarding health care for transgender students and a support network for parents of LGBT students.

Vigil partnered with the USC Engemann Student Health Center to create more trans-inclusive coverage and, as of mid-August, transgender students can receive coverage for hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery. He also worked with the Office for Parent Programs to launch Pride Parent Circle.

“One of the things that we wanted to do at the LGBT Resource Center was to provide a support network for parents because a lot of times when our students come out, the parents are having the most difficulty with it, ” Vigil said. “We’re also getting more students who have same sex parents. So we wanted to have an outlet for those parents to feel included and to make sure they are valued as a part of the Trojan Family.”

Students such as Patrick — who has worked at the LGBT Center since his freshman year helping to plan events, collaborate with other centers throughout LA and welcome incoming students to the center — make all the difference.

“All this would not have been possible without the work of the students,” Vigil said.

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USC named one of nation’s most LGBT-inclusive campuses

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