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Univ. of Rhode Island Administrators Acknowledge LGBT Discrimination on Campus, Pledge to Resolve

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After meeting with students in August, University of Rhode Island (URI) President David M. Dooley acknowledges that discrimination is all too frequently an issue for the school's LGBT community.  Since that meeting, steps have been taken to alleviate discrimination, but some students insist there's much more that needs to be done.

According to Brian Stack, president of the Gay Straight Alliance and a volunteer at the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Center at URI, the range of discrimination endured by students has been wide.

"We have had students throwing used condoms into students' rooms, drawing offensive images on people's doors and an epidemic of people yelling 'f*ggots' as they drive by the GLBT center," Stack told The Providence Journal.

In his blog on September 7, President Dooley acknowledged "that the response of the university to these incidents was, for whatever reason, all too frequently inadequate."

Since Dooley's August meeting with students, some steps have been taken with the intent of reducing the number of discriminatory incidents on campus.  Among them, the creation of a Bias Response Team that handles harassment reports, additional funding for diversity programs, and the GLBT Center being included in freshman orientation.

Donald DeHayes, provost and vice president for academic affairs, also noted that "A Hope in the Unseen," Ron Suskind's book about overcoming discrimination, was chosen as the required reading for every member of this year's freshman class.

Still, some students believe this is not enough.  In addition to the measures that have already been taken, students from the GLBT Center have asked that a handbook be created that lists policies for reporting bias and hate crimes.  The group has also asked for resident assistants to complete required sensitivity training and for regular meetings with Dooley.

Until these recommendations have been implemented, Stack and his GLBT Center peers will remain in the school's library.  As of Thursday at 12:01 a.m., the group has been in the library's 24-hour room, maintaining a "peaceful and nonviolent" protest they say they will continue until all of their requests have been addressed.

As we learned from The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People, released just this week by Campus Pride, the University of Rhode Island isn't the only institution of higher learning where discrimination is a problem for LGBT people.  With fewer than seven percent of accredited colleges/universities offering institutional support for LGBT issues and concerns, it should not be surprising that one-third of students, faculty, and staff seriously consider leaving institutions of higher learning.  The first national and most comprehensive report of its kind, The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People provides substantive research and the necessary recommendations for making college campuses safer and more accepting for all of its community members.  To download the Executive Summary or order a copy of the report in its entirety, please click here.

GLAAD urges the media to report on the discrimination of LGBT people in institutions of higher learning, raising the visibility of a serious problem that interferes with one's ability to successfully work, live, and learn on campus.