MyKlovr developed the world’s first virtual college admissions counseling app for high school students planning to further their education. However, even our service does not cater to all applicants’ unique backgrounds and needs. For that reason, we’re always on the lookout for organizations that share our mission.
This month, myKlovr is happy to introduce Campus Pride to our users and blog readers. The organization strives to make colleges safer for LGBTQ students with outreach efforts on numerous college campuses. A significant part of Campus Pride’s mission involves helping LGBTQ youth and nontraditional students pick the right school. In the following months, myKlovr plans to give away our service to select Campus Pride members.
To help myKlovr users learn more about Campus Pride, I interviewed founder Shane Windmeyer about the organization’s history and mission.
Note: The author modified responses for clarity and concision.
Thomas Broderick: Would you mind introducing yourself and describe how you become involved with Campus Pride?
Shane Windmeyer: I founded Campus Pride in September 2001 and currently serve as the executive director. The organization came out of a lack of support in my undergraduate experience for LGBTQ young people and originally started as an online clearinghouse of resources. At the time and still today, there is a lack of resources for LGBTQ young people on the majority of college campuses – resources to help foster positive change and support leadership development among LGBTQ students.
The mission of Campus Pride is to build future leaders and create safer, more inclusive communities. Currently, we work with 1,400+ campuses across the country. The organization has developed a number of signature programs and services, including Camp Pride, Campus Pride Index, Stop the Hate Bias & Hate Crime Prevention training, Safe Space, and others.
TB: In your own words, what is Campus Pride, and how does it help youth and their families?
SW: Campus Pride is a network of students, faculty, and staff at colleges across the country working to create safer more inclusive communities. The organization provides invaluable resources that offer leadership development and social justice skills. The organization has grown over the last 20 years from being an online website full of resources and information to a full-fledged nonprofit advocating and leading the way for LGBTQ youth within higher education.
Families can find LGBTQ-friendly campuses, attend a college fair, and access resources for their LGBTQ young person to help get into college, as well as better understand the challenges to LGBT youth on campus today. At its core, however, Campus Pride is a family. The organization has served as a family for many young people who have participated in our programs like Camp Pride.
LGBTQ young people require support beyond leadership development and safety. Campus Pride invests in LGBTQ youth in meaningful ways to improve self-esteem and emotional support. These young people need a “chosen family” that can support them holistically. Campus Pride is an enduring, lasting relationship with students from across two decades who still keep in touch and rely on each other.
TB: Looking up my alma mater, I was impressed by the in-depth information. How does Campus Pride gather so much data about a school?
SW: The Campus Pride Index Is the only national benchmarking assessment that looks in a comprehensive manner at LGBTQ inclusive policies, programs, and practices across the country. Since 2007, the Campus Pride Index has pioneered LGBTQ-friendly rankings for families to find LGBTQ-friendly campuses and providing a benchmarking tool for campuses to improve annually. The 80+ item assessment tool is taken by each campus with a main user that works with LGBTQ young people and is informed by several key stakeholders. It’s not a static measurement of LGBTQ inclusion in that every year a campus is asked to come back and update their information to see where they improve. Over 80% of the 430+ campuses that currently participate come back each year and improve in at least one area.
The assessment questions deal specifically with LGBTQ policy, program, and practice that are based on campus climate research and national LGBTQ studies for inclusion. The tool is informed and operated by LGBTQ researchers. It has been vetted and tested and has produced nearly 15 years of valuable data that is not found collectively anywhere else. Long before it was trendy to recruit LGBTQ young people, myself and the Campus Pride Index were pioneering the idea that LGBTQ youth matter. That LGBTQ youth exist intersectionally, and we must look at recruitment and retention of LGBTQ youth and make an institutional commitment to improve policy, program, and practice.
In return, this hopefully will improve the perception LGBTQ young people have of their campus community and their ability to achieve academically and successfully graduate. Nobody was talking about that in the early 2000s other than Campus Pride and my book THE ADVOCATE COLLEGE GUIDE. With the release of our BEST OF THE BEST list based on data from the Campus Pride Index, we continue to lead the way and create game-changing and pioneering resources.
TB: But my other alma mater was missing! Are there schools that do not provide information to Campus Pride, or has your organization just not had enough time to grow your database?
SW: A campus DOES have to want to participate and come out as LGBTQ-friendly. We want campuses to come out and find value in this data and want to improve their community for the safety of LGBTQ youth. Our hope is that every campus would want to know what they’re doing for LGBTQ young people and where they can be better. But the fact of the matter is that some campuses do not want us to know, as to not be held responsible for LGBTQ support, institutional commitment, and safety.
We even provide fee waivers for campuses that may not be able to pay the low annual membership dues to take the assessment. It’s hard for me to think some campuses may not know about the Campus Pride Index, but maybe for some, that is still true. We do our best to promote and share annually for nearly 15 years now. And I do believe for some campuses who may wish to participate, they may not be organized or have leadership around LGBTQ issues yet, too.
TB: I noticed that the ‘Worst List’ has a ‘Report It’ button for each school. What does Campus Pride do with these tips?
SW: These campuses are those that openly discriminate against LGBTQ young people and have a demonstrated track record of doing so within the last seven years. In addition, many have applied or received a Title IX religious exemption via the government that allows them to discriminate against an LGBTQ young person due to “religious beliefs.”
Every campus has a listing along with the links/documents that show why they are on the list. These campuses are unsafe for LGBTQ young people, and often you would never know the negative learning environment that is created because the campuses do not talk about it. We have the REPORT IT function for a variety of reasons. First, we offer support to students that need help if they wish to reach out to us. Second, we use it to document and potentially add new campuses to the list every year based on what the campus is doing or not doing. Lastly, we hope and look forward to hearing about improvement on these campuses where we can remove them from the list – but so far, that has not happened in the last five years. We are currently actively working with a handful of colleges on the list to improve for the future, so we don’t ever give up.
TB: Besides researching the rankings, where would you suggest first-time visitors start with Campus Pride’s numerous resources?
SW: It really depends on what they’re looking for. We have created Ultimate Queer College Guide – a landing page for people interested in going to college. It provides a detailed resource listing all on one page that would help someone who is looking at attending an LGBTQ-friendly college and what they need along their journey.
If you’re a student leader and you’re looking for help in your role on campus, I would go to the resource tab at the top of the page, and we have several topics that might help you. Also, as the youngest LGBTQ generation uses social media, we highlight many of our resources and what’s relevant or current through our Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook channels.
Prospective college students part of the LGBTQ community and their families should check out Campus Pride as soon as possible. The resource’s in-depth information about hundreds of colleges and universities makes it an invaluable tool for selecting a great school.