ERIC Identifier: ED447841
Publication Date: 2000-03-00
Author: Leider, Steven
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for Community Colleges Los Angeles CA.
Sexual Minorities on Community College Campuses. ERIC Digest.
Participants in the ongoing dialogue surrounding multiculturalism and inclusiveness on community college campuses are beginning to incorporate the topic of sexual minorities - lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) students - in the debate. This digest provides a review of current literature on the topic. Notably absent in the literature is research specific to community colleges; however, several publications have begun to address the topic of LGBT undergraduate students.
OBSTACLES IN STUDYING LGBT STUDENTS
One reason for the paucity of study may be fear that faculty, staff, and administrators who wish to study LGBT students may be perceived as gay (Leider, 1999). Often, such perceptions are more than just a damper on an academic career; they can lead to the end of that career. According to Sanlo (1999), the mere perception of faculty or staff as gay may result in termination of employment in some states.
Anti-gay sentiment toward LGBT students by their fellow students is a subject well represented in the educational literature on four-year institutions (Reinhardt, 1997). Findings from the only study to examine anti-gay violence and harassment on community college campuses (Franklin, 1998) indicate that the problem is more widespread than previously thought. Franklin's anonymous survey, conducted at six San Francisco Bay-area community colleges, indicated that of the 484 respondents, 24 percent had engaged in verbal harassment of individuals perceived to be gay or lesbian. Another 10 percent admitted to committing physical violence or threats of violence against presumed gay men or lesbians. In other words, more than 1 in 3 community college students had engaged in hate speech or hate crimes on the six campuses studied.
There are added challenges for those students whose identities are complicated by multiple group membership or rejection of sexual labels. Students of color who also happen to be sexual minorities are frequently confronted with the problem of identifying with one or the other group. In their racial group they may be subject to homophobic bigotry, while in their sexual identity group they may have to deal with racism and prejudice (Wall, 1991). There are those students, too, who engage in same-sex behavior but do not identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, who reject sexual labels altogether but who nevertheless experience confusion regarding their feelings and behaviors (Green, 1998). As LGBT students undergo the process of sexual identity formation in largely hostile community college environments, they may fail to persist to graduation or they may exhibit other problems, thereby necessitating intervention by the institution (Sanlo, 1998).
THE NEEDS OF LGBT STUDENTS
A lack of institutional support services and inadequate opportunities to interact with other LGBT students, faculty, and staff, may also play a significant role in sexual minority students' failure to persist. Finally, administrative barriers to the formation of LGBT student groups may interfere with these students' abilities to form contacts and friendships. Typical of these is the practice of some institutions of printing the home telephone numbers of LGBT student group leaders in campus publications. For those students who may not be "out" to family or friends, this is a violation of their privacy. Making this information public may also leave these students vulnerable to anti-gay telephone harassment as well (Sanlo, 1998).
Improving campus life for LGBT students should begin with an assessment of the current state of campus efforts. Nan Ottenritter (1998) has created an "Institutional Assessment of Sexual Minority Status Checklist" containing twelve assessment areas by which institution's leaders may judge whether it is meeting its LGBT students' needs.
Chickering, A.W.; Reisser, L. (1993) Education and identity. Second Edition. San Francisco: Jossey Bass. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. (ED 423 498)
Downey, J. P., & Stage, F. K. (1999, January-February)." Hate crimes and violence on college and university campuses." Journal of College Student Development, 40 (1):3-9.
Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). " Gay, lesbian, and bisexual development." Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Franklin, K. (1998, August 16). Psychosocial motivations of hate crimes perpetrators: Implications for educational intervention. Paper presented at the 106th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association at San Francisco, CA. (ED 423 939).
Green, B. C. (1998, September) "Thinking about students who do not identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, but..." Journal of American College Health, 47 (2): 89-91.
Leider, S. (1999). Sexual minorities on community college campuses. (ED 427 796)
Ottenritter, Nan. (1998, April). "The courage to care: Addressing sexual minority issues on campus." Removing Vestiges, 1: 13-20. (JC 990 698) Reinhardt, B. (1997, August). "Examining correlates of homophobia in heterosexual college students." Paper presented at the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association at Chicago, IL. (ED 412 445)
Sanlo, R. L. (Ed.). (1998). Working with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender college students: A handbook for faculty and administrators. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. (ED 427 802)
Sanlo, R. L. (1999). Unheard voices : The effects of silence on lesbian and gay educators. Westport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.
Wall , V. A., & Washington, J. "Understanding gay and lesbian students of color." Beyond tolerance: Gays, lesbians and bisexuals on campus. American Association for Counseling and Development, Alexandria, VA. 1991.