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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘Deis left out of LGBT guide

Published: September 22, 2006
Section: News

The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students was released last month, evidencing a growing concern for the accommodation of LGBT students on college campuses. The guide profiles 100 U.S. colleges with the best learning and living environments for queer students based on features such as nondiscrimination policies, student groups, housing for LGBT students, support resources and Queer Studies courses. Brandeis, which was named the fifth most gay-friendly college in the nation by the Princeton Review in 2004, was not included in the guide.

Although Brandeis did not make the cut, Triskelion Communications Director and the Justice Editorial Board member Aaron Finegold 09 believes that the University is definitely in the top five percent.
Finegold said the LGBT community at Brandeis gets support from both the student body and the administration. He also pointed to the various branches of Triskelion and their collective effort to make Brandeis a safe space for LGBT students.

OUTreach, the political activism wing of Triskelion, educates students about legal and political issues concerning the LGBT community, such as civil marriage for same-sex couples. The Queer Resource Center (QRC) offers a wide selection of books, magazines and movies, as well as confidential counseling from trained staff members. Students can talk to peer counselors in person or via instant messaging, telephone or email. PRIDE organizes social activities including one theme dance each semester. These dances, which typically attract 400 to 500 people, are some of the most successful events on campus, Finegold said.

A new and effective engine of change at Brandeis is TransBrandeis, a division of Triskelion formed last year. Thanks to the groups efforts, Brandeis became the 53rd university in the U.S. to change its non-discrimination policy to include protection from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, according to TransBrandeis Coordinator M. Simon '07. TransBrandeis other accomplishments include updating the health center admission and gynecology forms and removing the gender designations from the single-person restrooms near the cardio room in Gosman.

However, the group still sees much room for improvement and has an agenda of goals to make Brandeis more trans-inclusive. According to Simon, some of the major plans are to create at least one gender-blind bathroom in each academic and community building and to establish a Thematic Learning Community (TLC) for upper class students. TransBrandeis also hopes to get an LGBTQ advisor and obtain insurance coverage for transgender students' needs.

The administration here is pretty supportive, although any changes are very student-motivated, said Simon. We go to [the administration] and say this is the issue we need to work on and this is how it needs to be dealt with, because theyre not self-starters and need to be told.
Brandeis also incorporates LGBT issues into academics. The University offers a number of courses from various academic disciplines that focus on gender and sexuality, including Issues in Sexuality, Sociology of Gender, Lesbian and Gay Studies: Desire, Identity, Representation, and many more. Some students have created independent gender/sexuality major, and TransBrandeis is planning to talk to professors, departments, and administrators about offering a major or minor at Brandeis.

[Queer studies] are important at an institution of higher education because for something to be deemed legitimate, it needs to have a course of study about it. If it is worth studying, it is worth writing policy about, said Simon.

Although The Advocate did not recognize Brandeis as one of the nations most queer-friendly colleges, Scott Frost 09 of Triskelion said, the administration is very supportive of LGBTQ students. Overall were very pleased with the general atmosphere of acceptance from Brandeis students as well as faculty.