For LGBTQ Students, Campus Life Is Steadily Improving, According To New UVM Study

Sep 25, 2017

A new study out of the University of Vermont shows that experiences on campus for LGBTQ undergraduates at colleges around the country has been steadily improving over the last 70 years.

The study's co-author, Jay Garvey, an Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs at UVM, is concerned that climate could be shifting in some regions of the country. 

The study is based on surveys of LGBTQ students who graduated from 1944 to 2013. Through those surveys, the authors found gradual improvements in how students perceived the climate of their campus. Those perceptions often shifted along with national historical events, including the AIDS epidemic of the 1980's, the federal Don't Ask Don't Tell policy of the 1990's and the death of Matthew Shepard in 1998, Garvey says.

Given the influence of historic events on campus climate for LGBTQ students, Garvey says some current national and state-level policies could be affecting perceptions of campus life, especially for transgender students. Those policies include the ban from the Trump Administration on transgender individuals serving in the military, and so-called "bathroom bills" in some states.

"It creates a cultural ethos of negativity and isolation, and perhaps fear, resentment and anger against the current administration," Garvey says. "That certainly has an impact on, of course, student experiences and narratives, but also likely on queer and trans student activism."

Garvey also says more data collection from queer and trans individuals is needed to better understand student experiences at campuses around the country.

Garvey spoke to VPR's Henry Epp. Listen to their conversation above.