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Title: Campus Climate Committee report 2 : gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender student population at the University of Florida, November 2003
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00087404/00001
 Material Information
Title: Campus Climate Committee report 2 : gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender student population at the University of Florida, November 2003
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: University of Florida. Campus Climate Committee.
Baker, Gail F.
Button, James
Malecki, Michael
Wald, Ken
Wolfe, Amanda
Affiliation: University of Florida
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2003
Subject: University of Florida.   ( lcsh )
gay students
lesbian students
bisexual students
transgendered students
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua -- Gainesville
North America -- United States of America -- Florida
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00087404
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida


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Full Text

Campus Climate Committee Report 2
Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual and Transgender Student
Population at the University of Florida

November 2003

Gail F. Baker
James Button
Michael Malecki
Jeanna Mastrodicasa
Ken Wald
Amanda Wolfe


This committee was formed in 2002 to examine, report and make recommendations to

the University of Florida administration regarding the status and treatment of Gay, Lesbian,

Bi-Sexual, and Transgender (GLBT) students on this campus. The committee began its work

with the assumption that there is a significant GLBT student population at the University of

Florida and there exist opportunities inside the classroom and in environments throughout

campus for these students to feel alienated and isolated.

The purpose of this report was not only to document the existence of discrimination

facing GLBT students at the University of Florida, but also to make recommendations to the

administration that would aggressively address these issues and in doing so, help to transform

the University of Florida into a model community.

The committee gathered data, opinions and information from multiple sources including

research conducted on campus; collated best practices from other colleges and universities; and

documented discussions with students. We collected and reviewed quantitative and qualitative

information and gathered information from professional meetings.

In the final analysis, we present a report based on these data, with specific

recommendations we believe will help move the institution forward in an area that deserves its

attention and resources to the benefit of all of its students.


The University of Florida has a significant Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, and Transgendered

(GLBT) undergraduate population with self-reported GLBT figures as 4.4 percent of

respondents to a survey regarding sexual orientation. If accurate, and the same ratio holds true

for graduate students as well, then more than 2000 UF students fall within the GLBT

category. Further, the researchers recognize that the social stigma attached to homosexuality

was likely to "discourage self-identification in the semi-public arena of a classroom...."

Therefore, the population of GLBT students may be somewhat larger than the estimate

provided, although the 4.4 percent figure seems to tally close to the national average. (For a

discussion on national averages, see

http://www.gaydemographics.org/USA/2000 Census Total.htm)

To place this 4.4 percent figure into perspective, it exceeds the percentage ofUF

students with substantial disabilities (1.6 percent) and approaches the percentage of UF

students who are African American (6.5 percent) and Asian and/or Asian American (6.3


However, sheer numbers of students in an identifiable grouping does not by itself

necessitate organizational awareness and sensitivity. The question, therefore, is whether

members of that group are apt to endure a campus environment hostile due to the immutable

factors that identify them as members of that group.


The Office of the Provost charged the Florida Survey Research Center to assess campus

climate for GLBT students. This organization conducted classroom, telephone and "snowball"

sampling as well as a literature review. In addition, our committee drew on research conducted

by the Provost's Committee on GLBTQ Affairs about the structures and best practices

regarding this issue at other institutions. Other universities explored included Penn State

University, the University of Michigan, Emory University, the University of Pennsylvania,

University of Maryland, and University of California at San Francisco.

The research commissioned by the Office of the Provost revealed data on the GLBT

student population, indicating that UF's environment can be negative, if not hostile, to GLBT

students. This information resulted in further action on the part of the Committee to meet its

original mandate for seeking best methods to reduce unique challenges and barriers facing

minority populations.

To assess fully the climate for GLBT students at the University of Florida, it is

necessary to determine how such students feel about their experience on campus and how non-

GLBT students perceive them.1 Both factors, self-image and the assessment of heterosexual

classmates, contribute to the description of the campus climate. Prior to the 2000-2001

academic year, the University had never assessed campus attitudes about sexual orientation.2

During that year, however, the Office of the Provost funded a campus climate survey that

included questions about the experiences and perceptions of students regarding sexual

orientation.3 Because it also included an item that allowed students to describe their sexual

orientation, data from the survey can tell us with some degree of precision how the perceptions

of UF students may be shaped by their self-selected sexual identity.

As revealed by the campus survey of undergraduates in the 2000-2001 academic year,

GLBT students face an environment that they often regard as unfriendly if not hostile and that,

according to students who are not gay, is in fact laced with homophobia. The data collected by

1 As is customary in such research, we refer interchangeably to "GLBT" and "gay" students and
also use "heterosexual" and "straight" synonymously. This linguistic convenience is not meant
to deny the complexity and diversity of sexual orientation. The survey did not inquire about
trans-gendered status or "Queer" identity.

2An informal survey of faculty and staffwas done some years earlier. The LGBT Concerns
Committee, created by the Provost, has monitored complaints informally over the years but
was never funded to undertake systematic research.

3The question was worded as follows: "Which category at the right best represents your sexual
orientation? Bisexual, Gay, Heterosexual, Lesbian" and students were asked to circle the label
that applied.

the Florida Survey Research Center in both classroom, telephone and snowball samples reveals

several powerful trends.

First, there is a substantial GLBT student population at UF. The classroom

survey yielded 4.4 percent of respondents who identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Based on prior research (Ronni Sanlo 2002, Murray 1996), this figure should be considered the

lower bound of an estimate because of the social stigma against homosexuality. Moreover, self-

identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual is often the final step in a process that begins with same-

sex physical attraction and/or intimate contact. Surveys that estimate sexual orientation by

asking about respondents' physical attraction to persons of the same sex or whether they

engage in sexual intimacy with same-sex partners have yielded substantially higher estimates

than studies that rely on self-identification with the GLBT label.

As testimony to the looseness of such identity, consider that 70 percent of the students

who indicated Hispanic/Latino ancestry upon enrollment at UF told interviewers in the

telephone component of the Campus Climate Survey that their racial or ethnic identity was best

described as "White/European." If self-identification questions so massively underestimated

something as relatively non-controversial as ethnicity, similar questions were likely to have the

same or greater effect on a socially devalued sexual identity.

Second, GLBT-identified students perceive UF as decidedly unfriendly to gays

and report experiences that reinforce the impression of a hostile environment.

A comparison between the responses of GLBT-identified students and heterosexuals on

a series of items about their perception of the general campus climate for gays found several

looming gaps between the average responses of gays and straights. Compared to their straight

classmates, gay students at UF were much more likely to believe in the prevalence of

harassment based on sexual orientation and appreciably less likely to conclude UF is generally

accepting of homosexuality and welcoming to same-sex couples. These conclusions appear to

rest on direct observation. GLBT-identified students, more frequently than their peers, have

heard anti-gay statements by fellow students, UF staff, and UF faculty. Having seen

discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation to a much greater degree than

heterosexual students, they were also much more likely to report having concealed their sexual


Third, GLBT students report that they feel uncomfortable in many campus

locations. According to the survey, GLBT students felt less comfortable at Homecoming and

in courses in their major departments. Viewing the UF experience as a whole, they reported

less satisfaction in general and gave lower marks to Tigert Hall than their fellow

undergraduates. Perhaps even more striking, GLBT students reported lower levels of comfort

and satisfaction with many campus locations and services than African-American students.

Although these differences are not always statistically significant, their consistency across so

many places and activities underscores the alienation of many GLBT students from the UF


Fourth, the testimony of heterosexual students largely validates the reports of

GLBT-identified students at UF. Even though gay students were much more prone to

report instances of harassment than their heterosexual peers, it is noteworthy that students

outside the GLBT community also reported a high degree of what can be construed as

homophobia on the UF campus. Among the students who identified as heterosexuals, an actual

majority believed that harassment based on sexual orientation occurs occasionally or

frequently. Roughly one third believed that UF does not extend a welcome to same-sex

couples. Over half the heterosexuals have heard another student make insensitive or

disparaging remarks (including comments, jokes, slurs, etc.) about GLBT students on five

occasions or more. In a striking example of candor, three-fifths of the heterosexual students

reported some degree of personal discomfort with public displays of affection by GLBT couples.

Fifth, heterosexual students believe that gays face a colder climate at UF than

other minority students. The heterosexual students reported their perception that

harassment based on sexual orientation is more common at UF than harassment based on race,

ethnicity, gender, or religion. They believed that UF does a better job accommodating racial

minorities, the physically disabled, non-native speakers of English, and members of diverse

religious backgrounds than it does gays. Heterosexual students heard insensitive or

disparaging remarks about gays more often than they reported having heard comparable slurs

against other minority groups. More than twice as many admitted some degree of personal

discomfort with public displays of affection by GLBT couples than reported similar unease

about similar displays by interracial couples.

By highlighting these results, we do not mean to assert that gays are more subject to

discrimination and harassment than students from other minority groups. The results of the

survey show that students from a variety of minority statuses-gays included-often feel like

outsiders on the UF campus. The student perceptions reported above may not be accurate and

may understate the problems that confront other minority students. To consider another

possibility, perhaps a concern for social desirability has prompted white heterosexuals to deny

the extent of racism and they feel freer to comment openly on the prevalence of antigay feelings

because there is less social pressure against homophobia (as well as fewer policies and laws that

provide the same degree of protection for gays as for members of racial and religious

minorities). Regardless, it is remarkable to obtain such candor from students about their own

behavior. When heterosexuals indicate that gays faces a hostile climate at UF, that finding

deserves to be taken as a call to action.

The research found that GLBT students surveyed felt a degree of general campus

hostility and experienced a degree of uncomfortable feelings that were, on average, statistically

greater than was the case with the student population as a whole. Abiding by the University of

Florida's stated goal of merging diverse cultures, peoples and perspectives into a livable

community, steps clearly should be taken to reduce the level of discomfort for the GLBT

student population. The Campus Climate Committee accepts the findings of this commissioned

research that GLBT students currently endure a campus climate that is counterproductive to

the enrichment process of an academic experience and recommends some organizational

enhancements to assist in eliminating GLBT alienation.

In summary, the research discovered that GLBT-identified students "perceive UF as

decidedly unfriendly to gays and report experiences that reinforce the impression of a hostile

environment." This apparently exists to the degree that there is a concern about revealing

their sexual orientation.

Current UF Structure

The University of Florida has a significant GLBT population, but a limited existing

structure to help monitor issues. While it has done yeoman's work on a broad range of issues

of concern to GLBTQ students and faculty, the GLBTQ Concerns Committee, created by the

Provost, was never empowered to conduct systematic research. University resources

dedicated to the concerns of GLBT students are scattered across campus. Many of these

services--the inclusion of training for Residence Hall assistants and leaders of the Greek

system--are the result of self-motivated activity by individuals and rise or fall depending on the

availability of willing volunteers. Currently, there exists no formal department/office to

specifically handle GLBT issues and such issues often fall between the cracks. Poor

infrastructure and lack of institutionalized services combine to reinforce the impression that

UF is hostile or indifferent to its sizable GLTB population.

Structures at Other Universities

Other universities have addressed the concerns of their GLBT population

administratively (Sanlo 2000). Almost all AAU universities have some formal structure and

staffing for GLBT programs and services. For example, 31 AAU universities provide at least

one full-time staff member (or two half-time) for services to GLBT communities, and 56

colleges and universities have a GLBT resource center with at least one full-time paid

professional reporting to a vice president (or equivalent). At UF, by contrast, there is no such

position. Liaison with GLBT students is one of a large number of group-related specific

mandates entrusted to a staff member in the Office of Student Affairs. This position has

frequently gone unfilled and GLBT concerns are afforded very limited systematic attention.

Additionally, nearly all AAU public universities (total of 47 Gainesville Sun, June 12)

offer "domestic partner benefits" while other practices at other universities include offering

GLBT alumni activities, targeting initiatives for foundation support, providing anonymous

opportunity to report hate incidents online, the creating and maintaining a central GLBT

Website for the GLBT community, and institutionalizing programs of periodic GLBT campus

climate assessments. These programs are conspicuous by their absence at UF.

Some specific organizational structures, programs and positions of other universities

include Penn State's Senior Diversity Planning Analyst/Coordinator of GLBT Equity whose

responsibilities include strategic planning, fund raising, printing of materials, the creation and

maintenance of on-line Website and newsletter, and the establishment of a program that

provides opportunities for GLBT faculty, staff and students to discuss their concerns. Due to

the complexity and wide ranging responsibilities of the job, Penn State's position requirements

include a "preferred Ph.D. with a masters degree requirement" and at least five years of

experience in an appropriate position and a demonstrated experience with proposal/grant


The University of Michigan's director position is similar, with the added responsibility

to help "coordinate university responses to concerns about sexual orientation issues."

At Emory University, the Director of the Office of Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender

Life is a position with a decidedly educational emphasis with the responsibility of facilitating

the development and implementation of anti-bias workshops and encouragement of relevant

scholarly dialogue in areas of lesbian/gay studies as well as establishing a network of referral

sources and the creation of a resource library.

At the University of Pennsylvania, the Director of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual

Transgender Center is charged to both enhance the quality of life of lesbian, gay, bisexual

students, staff and faculty, and to "increase the general Penn community's awareness,

understanding and acceptance of its sexual minority members." This director is expected to be

an expert and spokesperson on "matters pertaining to sexual orientation and the sexual

minority community" and must maintain accountability to the Vice-Provost for University Life

and to the Penn Lesbian Gay Bisexual Center Advisory Board. The Penn position requires an

advanced degree in a relevant field such as student affairs, social work, psychology or


At the University of Maryland, the Coordinator of Lesbian Gay Bisexual and

Transgender Equity has among his/her responsibilities the task to "cultivate the development

of new courses and the development of a certificate in LGBT studies" as well as "coordinate

with students to ensure continued interest in participation in (a) Speakers Bureau."

Best Practices by Other Universities for LGBT Community and UF Action/Inaction

The Committee also reviewed best practices by other universities in an effort to

determine what might be workable options at the University of Florida. The following list

references the activities we found, which institutions have adopted them and where the

University of Florida stands on each.

1) Inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity in nondiscrimination clause
Participants: all AAU public universities.

Note: UF's Board of Trustees voted to include sexual orientation in the non-
discrimination in June 2003, making UF the final AAU public university to have this
protection. Gender identity is still not included at UF.

2) Offering domestic partner benefits
Participants: nearly all AAU public universities rNot yet adopted at UF.1

3) Providing at least one full-time staff member (or two half-time) for service to
LGBT communities
Source: http://www.lgbtcampus.org/resources/staffing patterns-2001.htm

Participants: Public universities (AAU universities underlined): Ohio State, Missouri,
Rutgers, Minnesota, Penn State, Ohio State, Texas A&M, Michigan, UMass, Indiana,
UC-Irvine, Michigan State, UCLA Maryland, Wisconsin, UC-Berkeley, Oregon,
Illinois, Colorado, UC-Santa Barbara UC-San Diego, UC-Davis, Colorado State,
Vermont, Washington State, UC-San Francisco, UC-Riverside, UConn, University of
Private universities: Southern California, University of Pennsylvania, Emory Stanford,
Tufts, Williams, Duke, Cornell NYU, Dartmouth, Princeton, Tulane University of

[Not adopted at UF]

4) Developing an LGBT resource center reporting to a vice-president's level
Source: http://www.lgbtcampus.org/resources/development administration.htm
56 Colleges and universities have LGBT resource centers with at least one full-time paid

[Not adopted at UF]

5) Offering LGBT alumni activities and opportunities for foundation support
[The GLBTQ Concerns Committee in cooperation with a private organization, the
Rainbow Alliance, has raised funds in the hope of endowing scholarships for GLBT
leadership and scholarship. The UF Foundation has no formal outreach to the GLBT
alumni community.]

6) Providing anonymous opportunity to report hate incidents on-line
See http://www.lgbt.ucla.edu/findout reportit.html for example
[In progress for students. No equivalent opportunity exists for faculty.]

7) Create and update central website for LGBT community at www.lgbt.ufl.edu
See www.lgbt.ucla.edu for example
[In progress]

8) Assess LGBT campus climate on regular basis
{Not adopted at UF]


In light of the various research findings, the Campus Climate Committee makes the

following recommendations. These recommendations, combined with the university's recent

action on the Non-Discrimination Clause, would help to move the university toward greater

inclusiveness and would clearly demonstrate positive action on the institution's part.

1. Hire a full-time staff person to direct/coordinate GLBT efforts on UF's campus.

As it is typical for the chief/full-time staff member of GLBT programs and services on

other campuses to report to the vice president of student affairs or a vice president for

diversity the former seems appropriate here. Further, the individual selected should

have the experience and academic qualifications necessary to effectively coordinate a

complex array of responsibilities. This individual would be responsible for the


Creating, providing information on and leading a GLBT resource center
Maintaining a centralized Website for GLBT issues
Conducting outreach activities and programs for GLBT issues across campus

Creating and maintaining a Website for reporting hate incidents anonymously
Providing appropriate referrals to campus and community resource
Organizing and managing activities and development opportunities for GLBT
Assessing the campus climate regarding the GLBT population on a planned
regular basis

The creation of such a position is the single most important action to make the anti-

discrimination clause an effective force on campus.

2. Implement Domestic Partner Benefits at the University of Florida. As the research

on AAU universities indicates, peer institutions provide such benefits for students, staff

and faculty. The offering of benefits not only reinforces the spirit of a non-

discrimination clause but also makes clear that institutional support is clearly and

consistently provided to all individuals. Domestic partner benefits would;

Assure current and incoming students that the university has made every effort to
create a welcoming environment for GLBT students

Insure that UF remains competitive with peer institutions and is able to recruit the
best available faculty, thus insuring continued academic excellence

3. Publish and widely circulate the University of Florida statement on non-

Providing visibility for the university's position on non-discrimination brings
attention to the subject and reminds the community that certain behaviors are not
acceptable and will not be tolerated
Reiterating a non-discrimination statement also allows external audiences, e.g., web
visitors, potential students, other universities, to understand UF's policy

One way to accomplish this would be via the pay slips that are received by UF faculty and

staff as well as funded students. The message could include clear directions for reporting

violations of the UF anti-discrimination policy.

4. Clarify a process for reporting, collecting, and analyzing harassment claims
against GLBT students.

The university needs to develop clear guidelines on how such claims should be handled

Clearly, the most important outcome would be the first recommendation, which would

serve the entire GLBT community.

In conclusion, given the results of the research, there is compelling evidence that students

self-identified as GLBT feel alienated on the campus of the University of Florida. This is

unacceptable and the steps recommended above should continue the university's process of

building a campus climate that is both tolerant and inclusive of all who choose to work, study

and live here.

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