WKU falls short on pride index

Spencer Harsh

WKU ranks poorly in a list of LGBTQ-friendly universities in Kentucky, according to Campus Pride, a non-profit organization that supports LGBTQ-friendly communities at universities and colleges.  

Campus Pride investigated Transylvania University, University of Kentucky, Northern Kentucky University, University of Louisville, Morehead State University, Spalding University and WKU, according to the index. The universities were scored on a five-star system.

WKU ranks second to last with two stars, just ahead of Morehead State with 1 ½ stars. UK and U of L are ranked the highest with nearly perfect scores, according to the index.

Pam Johnson, a professor in the school of journalism and broadcasting who teaches media diversity courses, said she is surprised WKU scored so low.

“Clearly I cannot condone a performance in which we are ranked six out of seven,” Johnson said.

She said she knows WKU has a LGBTQ club and that some of the requirements may have been overlooked.

“I know we have a safe space, and that faculty may take training,” Johnson said.

Johnson said in the 15 years she has worked at WKU, she has seen the university become more inclusive over time. She said according to the report, “we still have a long way to go.”

“I find that most people on the campus are in support of the LGBTQ community,” Johnson said. “However, I think we probably need a more formal and structured system in order to show our appreciation of inclusion and diversity.”

Campus Pride looked in detail at areas such as policy inclusion, support and institutional commitment, academic life, housing and residence life, recruitment and retention, counseling and health, student life and campus safety in order to make up a university’s “report card,” according to the index.

Campus Pride was contacted for comments but did not respond in time for publication.

WKU meets less than half of the requirements for several areas, according to the report. WKU meets none of the requirements for LGBTQ student life, which includes LGBTQ student organizations, an LGBTQ social fraternity or sorority, regularly planned LGBTQ social activities and educational events on transgender issues. WKU does have several LGBTQ-related student support groups, but Campus Pride lists those as requirements under LGBTQ counseling and health.

WKU scores well in LGBTQ counseling and health, missing only two of the six requirements. According to the report, WKU is missing a few insurance policies for transgender student counseling services and hormone replacement therapy.

While other universities with higher student populations seem to also have higher scores on the index, this is not a correlation for WKU. According to index, WKU has around 20,000 students and is ranked low while Transylvania University and Spalding University, both with less than 2,500 students, are ranked higher than WKU.

Brian Lee, a staff counselor for WKU’s Counseling and Testing Center, was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication.

Owensboro sophomore Cherokee Bennett said she is sad that WKU scored so low.

Bennett said she has a lot of friends at WKU who are in the LGBTQ community and would also be sad to know how WKU scores.

“For all the prevention stuff, WKU doesn’t do anything until there are actually victims,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she doesn’t think that addressing these inclusion shortfalls should fall under other priorities WKU currently has, but it probably will.

“We live in a small town, so there isn’t a big community here,” Bennett said. “But times are changing.”

According to the index, there is a correlation with the scores and where the universities are located in terms of population size. All the universities that scored well on the index are found in areas labeled “medium city” with populations ranging from 100,000 to 500,000 or more.

WKU and Morehead State, the two lowest ranking universities, are both found in areas with smaller populations collectively ranging from several thousand to 100,000, according to the index.

Morgantown freshman Grant Newland said he thinks equal rights are important for WKU.

“It’s important to take all people into consideration,” Newland said. “There is room to address the situation, and it certainly should be.”

Reporter Spencer Harsh can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]