Last year, many watched in horror as new reports surrounding the suicides of several LGBT youth saturated the 5 o’clock news. The stories of Tyler Clementi, the freshman Rutgers student who committed suicide after being “cyber bullied” by his roommate Dharun Ravi and another student, Molly Wei resonated with people across the country.
These suicides and instances of bullying highlight the struggles that many LGBT students experience on college campuses throughout the nation.
Attitudes that contribute to the isolation, shame, and prejudice that drive young people to suicide do not change simply because people grow older and seemingly more sophisticated. The issue of LGBT discrimination, sometimes, grows even more acute on college campuses.
There are many who argue that black colleges are not the most welcoming and inviting environments for young people exploring their sexuality.
While Spelman College hosted its first LGBT summit last spring, homosexuality remains taboo in the black community; young, impressionable and emotionally vulnerable LGBT students at HBCUs are often forced to deal with a nonsupportive college community.
In order for LGBT students to fully benefit from the college experience without fear for their safety or the deterioration of their emotional well-being, HBCUs must foster a culture of tolerance and acceptance for all students.
How can we change a culture of intolerance to one of acceptance? Through dialogue and policy.
Many HBCUs have no substantive policies that offer support or remedy for students who experience discrimination due to sexual orientation.
The discrimination not only impacts students psychologically but also academically. These students are often distracted by the prejudice that they face and are unable to perform to the best of their ability. Many students are deprived of the full college experience because they feel excluded from certain college activities and organizations.
It is time for HBCUs to have honest conversations about homosexuality and LGBT discrimination. It is no longer acceptable to treat homosexuality as a taboo subject that we avoid due to our discomfort while LGBT students suffer in silence. The more we discuss these issues, the more opportunities we have to foster understanding and bridge the divide that sometimes exists between those who are supportive of the gay community and those who are not.
HCBUs must also implement policies that unequivocally prohibit discrimination in all facets of university life. A policy mandate is the only way to ensure that LGBT students have the necessary support from the administration if they happen to encounter discrimination.
It should be the goal of every institution of higher learning to cultivate an environment for students to thrive academically and socially. Don’t all students deserve a safe place to learn, grow and pursue their dreams?
Give H.O.P.E. Live H.O.P.E.
About the Author
Rochee Jeffrey is a pop culture addict, new media consultant, and screenwriter/filmmaker. She is an avid blogger and shares her opinions about everything from pop culture, fashion, relationships, sexuality and life on her personal blog www.ithastobesaid.com. Hailing originally from Jamaica, she balances and navigates two distinct cultures through her writing and life. As a devout feminist, she strives to empower women through her writing and advocacy. Feel free to follow her on twitter @ithas2besaid.