As of Sept, 1, 2017, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was named among the country’s top 25 LGBT-friendly colleges for the third consecutive year.
At UWM,officials are comparing themselves to other campuses all over the country, trying to see where they match up when it comes to their LGBTQ+ community and how it impacts students.
The Campus Pride Index which currently has 300+ campuses, is the top national benchmarking tool for self-assessment of LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices.
“The listing this year includes colleges from 16 states including more conservative places like North Carolina, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Colorado, Wisconsin and Ohio. These campuses represent a range of academic studies with student populations from 807 to over 45,000, public and private schools alike,” reports campuspride.org.
This year, the UWM campus LGBT Resource Center is celebrating its 15th year anniversary. Jennifer Murray, who has been with the center since 2004, and has been the Director since 2007 sat down to talk about the center’s progress this year and what it means to those who use the center.
“I think this is reflective of the work that the LGBTRC has done in its tenure and speaks to the student engagement and connections that have been made,” said Murray when asked about her feelings on UWM’s LGBT ranking.
In celebration of the anniversary, the center has been sticking to its staple events such as: the coming out monologues, working with the Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival, Lavender Graduation and coming in November they plan on focusing on Trans empowerment.
The UWM center originated from a group of students within the Student Association who drafted up a proposal for a resource center for LGBT students, which the student finance committee then considered and approved. Since that time 15 years ago, the center has been 100 percent funded by student segregated fees.
At UWM, the LGBTRC was needed during a time when people were just starting to recognize the LGBTQ community on campuses. The campus was lacking the resources that students were looking for which prompted them to draw up the proposal.
Not all students are familiar with the Resource Center, when first time center user Carter Vanasek, a senior at UWM described his first experience at the center. “Walking into the center had the feeling of calm; there were students working on different things, and it seemed like a place where anyone can go and just unwind.”
Since its preliminary stages, the resource center has been named among the top of its kind and has won numerous awards for being at the forefront of the LGBTQ movement.
“The ranking is certainly exciting and celebratory, and it’s something to be grateful for and see the value in the work that we are doing on this campus but what I would say is there is always room for growth and improvement,” said Murray.
There have been a couple setbacks along the way with budget cuts and policy proposals for the center but they have managed to climb their way back to the top of the rankings.
With a controversy last year dealing with the lack of transgender locker rooms on campus and debates over proposed drafts taking what seemed like forever the center has had to fight for what they believe in to make their voices heard. With stories involving students like Adelaide Kramer below it allowed us another look inside the struggles that members of the LGBTQ+ on our campus face regularly.
Shortly after the locker room proposal the controversial speaker, Milo Yiannopoulos, came to UWM where he publicly mocked a transgender student, who had fought for the locker room policy in the past.
Despite these minor setbacks the center has helped to form a unified front for the LGBTQ community here at UWM and provides a place where students can voice their opinions and propose ideas for upcoming policy changes or modifications.
UWM was recently recognized for the LGBT Resource Center pronoun card that they hand out in the resource center and around campus. The card shown below gives examples of preferred forms of pronouns.
The center uses these cards to try and help people better understand the proper use of preferred pronouns. The cards have been extremely popular for the UWM LGBTRC and have helped to set a good standard.
Director Jennifer Murray leaves us all with something to keep in mind, “the best day will be the day when there is no need for the LGBTRC, and we’ve worked our way into having a fully integrated society”.
For students or staff of UWM that are looking to learn more about what the LGBT resource center has to offer they can go to: