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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

College guide: URI among top 100 for gay-friendly campuses

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KINGSTON, R.I. -- August 30, 2006 -- Gay students often struggle with rejection, fear, isolation, and ridicule on college campuses.

Visibility can lead to acceptance and normalization, according to Andrew Winters, assistant to the vice president of student affairs and director of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender programming at the University of Rhode Island.

URI is now receiving national visibility. The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students ranks the University as one of the top 100 colleges and universities in the nation that offer resources and create positive living and learning environments for the students. This is the first and only campus guide for gay students looking to find the right college. The guide was published this month by Alyson Books in partnership with The Advocate magazine, a popular award-winning LGBT national newsmagazine. More than 600 colleges and universities were considered before the final selections were made.

“It’s encouraging to be recognized as a gay friendly University,” says Andrew Winters. “We’ve come a long way. Seven years ago The Princeton Review placed URI among the top 10 most homophobic universities for two years in a row.”

The judges must have been impressed with URI’s programming and services such as:
• A GLBT Center, located in Adams Hall, was established at URI in 2001. It is one of 200 such centers on campuses nationwide. The center, generally open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, strives to create a welcoming and safe environment for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. The center’s programming includes:

1) Bi-weekly discussions focused on educational or social issues each Monday and Thursday evenings.

2) Sponsored talks about GLBT issues: For example, last year the Center co-sponsored Tour of Duty, a public debate about the rationality of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that removes soldiers from military service because of their sexual orientation, especially in a post 9/11 world.

3) An annual film series.

4) Trips to Provincetown

5) A GLBT Symposium has been offered annually in the spring for the past 13 years. The three-day symposium is one of the oldest, if not the oldest of its kind in the country. Designed to be thought-provoking, community-building, and entertaining, the symposium features academics, activists, artists, and students and often attracts a national audience.
6) Outreach efforts including:

a) “gay? fine by me” t-shirts were distributed last fall on National Coming Out Day on the University’s quadrangle to support the push for an inclusive URI community. Anyone wearing the t-shirts was entitled to a free ice cream sundae.

b) A Welcome Project to be launched this fall by the GLBT Center, in collaboration with URI Affirmative Action Office. The project is designed to affirm the dignity of all members of the URI campuses and beyond. The Welcome Project includes a resource brochure and a sticker, which will be offered at a time and space where meaningful discussion and reflection can take place.

c) Membership in URI’s Rainbow Diversity House, a residential house designed for 44 students from diverse backgrounds seeking to broaden social justice services.

“Much of the credit for URI’s inclusion in the guide goes to recent Rhode Island laws that puts protections and policies in place. The University’s policies reflect those laws, becoming one of only 70 institutions to have gender identity and expression in its policies. We’re fortunate to be living in such a progressive state.

“But our work is never done,” Winters says. “Transitions happen every year--students graduate and new freshmen arrive --and we begin all over again.”
To get involved with the Welcome Project or the GLBT Center call 401-874-2894.