Shane Windmeyer, founder and CEO of Campus Pride, calls them “the absolute worst.” They are the 193 colleges and universities across the nation that he says are diligently working to inhibit the rights of LBGTQ+ students.
Each year, his organization releases its “Best List” of institutions striving to promote and foster positive and welcoming environments for students from all groups, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or religion. And it also releases its “Worst List”, which this year includes 13 new ones at a time when polarization and aggression against gay, lesbian, transgender and nonbinary students have reached a fever pitch.
“The growing anti-LGBTQ+ attacks on youth across the country makes the release of this year’s Worst List even more crucial and timely, shining a harsh spotlight on the religion-based bias, bigotry and discrimination happening on these campuses,” Windmeyer said. “All students deserve a college experience where they are welcomed and fully embraced to live, learn and grow – including LGBTQ+ students. The Worst List campuses are unsafe, unwelcoming. All youth and families should be warned and fully aware that these 193 campuses on the Worst List openly discriminate and perpetuate harm.”
He says those institutions are becoming more intentional in trying to tamp down speech and actions of the LBGTQ+ community on their campuses. Campus Pride notes that close to two-thirds have updated policies including codes of conduct, with seven of them “receiving a Title IX religious exemption from the U.S. Department of Education to openly discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.” Many of the rest, Campus Pride reveals, are ignoring Title IX by not accepting funds from the federal government.
The new list includes the 4,900-student Pensacola Christian College in Florida and headline-making Hillsdale College in Michigan all the way down to small Christendom College in Virginia and even smaller Gutenberg College in Oregon (20 students), all of whom refuse that Title IX funding, with Campus Pride noting that Hillsdale has “demonstrated history of anti-LGBTQ+ language.” Under each of the colleges and universities that appear, Campus Pride offers examples of why they consider them the worst. For example, one of the reasons for inclusion of Palm Beach Atlantic University is its stance on gay marriage and its additional policy within its View of Human Sexuality statement: “PBA expects that their students, faculty, and staff will neither engage in nor promote views of sexuality or gender expression that contradicts biblical standards.”
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The others all have less than 1,500 in enrollments, with many under 100: Grace College in Indiana; Lincoln Christian University in Illinois; Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin; Northwest University in Washington; Presbyterian Theological Seminary in America and San Diego Christian College in California; Wyoming Catholic College; and Yeshiva Toras Chaim Talmudical Seminary of Denver.
They join a wide-ranging list of institutions, including some of the biggest and well-known in America–Baylor University, Brigham Young University, Yeshiva University and Seattle Pacific University, which became a focal point this summer for LBGTQ+ rights as students held a monthlong sit-in and handed out pride flags to its president. SPU’s policies caught the eye of Washington’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson, whose state launched an investigation and was summarily sued by the university, which believes it has the right to exercise its own religious policies based on freedoms afforded in the First Amendment. However, students and some alums have strongly pushed back.
“It’s critical that we boldly call out schools with anti-LGBTQ+ policies at every level of community,” said Chloe Guillot, a 2022 graduate and current Masters of Divinity student at Seattle Pacific. “Students like me have been organizing for years against an administration determined to marginalize queer voices and weaponize power to further anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination on a campus that is overwhelmingly demanding change. It’s important that people see what’s happening at Seattle Pacific University and other schools.”
Campus Pride did call out SPU and others for those stances, and took aim at BYU for its continued policies and recent delayed action in backing the LBGTQ community.
“These campuses illustrate the necessity for the Worst List and are striking examples of the anti-LGBTQ actions that students face at these colleges and universities,” Campus Pride officials said. “BYU has earned its reputation as a hotbed of bigotry, spending 2022 cracking down against pro-civil rights protests and removing some 5,000 Allyship and Activism Resource Guides set to be distributed to incoming freshmen.”