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How can universities better support LGBT students?

20th May 2014

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The NUS’s report into the lives of LGBT students at UK universities threw up some worrying results – for example that only 21% of trans students feel safe on campus, and that over half of lesbian, gay and bisexual students who have considered dropping out have felt this way because they don’t fit in.

The NUS has published guidelines that it believes universities and students’ unions should follow, in order to combat the difficulties that students are facing on a daily basis.

The report found that universities were struggling to meet the needs of trans students in particular, with students reporting a lack of communication between university services causing them to be registered with the wrong name, leading to issues such as not being able to access the library.

Other, potentially more dangerous, problems included trans students having no appropriate place to get changed at the gym, and the lack of gender-neutral toilets at most universities.

To combat these issues, the NUS is advising that universities “facilitate changes of name and gender on student registers and preserve students’ confidentiality in doing so”, “train staff on LGBT issues and include respect for students’ identity in the code of conduct” and “have gender-neutral toilets and facilities to enable everyone use them safely and without fear of being outed.”

To tackle the bullying and harassment that one in three trans students have faced on campus, the report also suggests that zero tolerance policies for transphobic and homophobic bullying are introduced, that clear reporting procedures are put in place, that LGBT issues are brought up during freshers’ inductions and that a point of contact within the university’s established so that students can easily report issues.

Also advised is improved access to healthcare services on campus, with information “on sexual health for every sexuality.”

For students’ unions, the NUS suggests that compulsory training on LGBT inclusion is given to presidents of all societies, especially sports teams, and that a better dialogue is created between LGBT and religious societies – the latter of which often prove difficult for LGBT students to get involved with.

It also advises that unions elect a dedicated LGBT officer, use LGBT students more often in campaigns and impose a zero tolerance policy towards “homophobia, ‘banter’ or derogatory comments.”

LGBT societies should “create a system of buddies or peer-to-peer support for LGBT students to facilitate their inclusion in student life”, diversify their socials to avoid focusing just on nights out, raise awareness of events such as LGBT History Month, train officers on how to support victims of homophobic and transphobic bullying and “better take into account trans issues and have a trans representative on the committee to ensure that trans voices are heard within the society.”

NUS LGBT Officers Finn McGoldrick and Sky Yarlett said that they hope the suggestions “spur on research into the experiences of students in further education” and added that they “hope that students’ unions and institutions rise to the challenge of proactively supporting LGBT students.”  

To see the full study visit the NUS site here.

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