Syracuse University named top campus for LGBT students

Aug 26, 2014

Syracuse University has earned a top score for being a gay-friendly campus.

It’s hard for campus officials who work with the LGBT community to tell if more students today are coming to campus already out.

"I think they’re maybe a little more savvy and they realize that coming out is a continuous process. There’s no one way to do it," said Chase Catalano, director of the college's LGBT resource center. "And at least our hope is that coming out isn’t a requirement."

Campus Pride, an online resource center for LGBT college students, gave Syracuse University five stars this year for its resources for sexually marginalized students. It landed on a national top-50 list.

The university opened the LGBT resource center in 2001; it now has other campus groups and LGBT organizations.

But how being gay goes over in the admissions process - from both sides of the application - still turns up question marks.

It's a tricky line to toe for students applying to colleges and admissions offices advertising a campus as gay-friendly.

"We’re still at a point in history where people aren’t sure how they’re going to market or identify. It still feels like a really big risk, I think, for students to name themselves as being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer," Catalano said in an interview.

He says campuses are trending toward being a more welcoming place, but it’s never a sure bet.

"I think it is becoming a safer place, I don’t know that anyplace is ever safe because it has to do with context and personal point of view," he said. "What’s safe for me may not feel sale for you."

College is a time for growth and experimentation for all students. When it comes to sexuality, there are added challenges for an LGBT student. The traditional frat party scene doesn’t seem an easy place to be different.

"I’m pretty certain that a lot of our straight students have those same barriers," he said. "They’re just not given the same requirement that they name them, because there’s the assumption that everyone around them is heterosexual." 

Catalano says the resource center is always trying to adapt to the changing student body, but they struggle with it too.

He says for example, social media is a rapidly evolving place where gay students have a lot of tough choices to make about how open they are.