ISU community members speak to Congress about LGBT study

Adam Hayes

Two members of the ISU community spoke to Congress about issues and hardships that surround students of the LGBT community.

They were two of the five main speakers that spoke to an audience of 75 people on behalf of a year-and-a-half long research study. The study included surveys from 5,149 students, faculty and staff from more than 2,000 colleges and universities across the United States.

Warren Blumenfeld, associate professor of curriculum and instruction, and Jacob Wilson, junior in political science and women’s and gender studies, made the trip to Washington, D.C., to speak to Congress in the Capitol Visitor Building.

Blumenfeld was one of four authors of the research report, “The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.”

The research involved getting e-mail lists from ally organizations all over the country to survey people about their experiences on campuses. All 50 states are represented in the surveys.

“This is really the first comprehensive study specifically on higher education,” Blumenfeld said.

There have been studies on LGBT students in grade school and high school, but never on higher education institutions.

“We want to give campuses around the country the research that they can use to justify and rationalize looking at the issue, addressing the issue and going forward,” Blumenfeld said.

Blumenfeld, along with the three other authors of the report — Susan Rankin, Genevieve Weber and Somjen Frazer — conducted an extensive study that provided information on issues that LGBT people have to deal with on a college campus such as harassment.

According to the National Report Executive Summary of the study conducted, one-third of LGBT students have considered leaving the college or university they are attending due to harassment issues.

Transgender students are the students that are most frequently the victims of harassment on campuses, according to the summary.

“This study should really just sound the alarm that there are some very serious issues facing LGBT students on college campuses,” Wilson said. “These issues are affecting every campus in the U.S.”

Blumenfeld and Wilson each had different roles in presenting testimony to Congress.

Blumenfeld was responsible for presenting the qualitative analysis of the report, while two of the other authors presented other aspects of the report.

Wilson shared a student’s perspective of dealing with some of the issues in the report firsthand. “I shared my story. It’s not fun, but if I don’t speak out and if others don’t speak out, how are people going to know what’s going on on campus?” Wilson said.

Blumenfeld said he has seen a lot of positive changes made over the past seven years since he first arrived at Iowa State, such as hiring a full-time coordinator for the LGBT Student Services.

“I’m very proud of the advancements we have made on this campus,” he said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case in most college and university campuses around the country.”

Iowa State is in a very small percentage of colleges and universities that offer an LGBTSS program, or an equivalent program.

“More than 93 percent of universities and colleges do not have institutional support,” Wilson said. “We’re fortunate that we’re one of the 7 percent that does have that.”

Wilson and Blumenfeld both agreed that while Iowa State has made great strides in the past few years for LGBT students, there is still a lot of work to be done on achieving a safer campus.

They both believe that there needs to be some policies that change across the nation.

There are currently 19 states and the District of Columbia that include LGBT people in antidiscrimination policies.

“One of the major problems that I see, personally, is that there is no unified anti-discrimination law throughout the United States on a federal level to protect LGBT people,” Blumenfeld stated.

“I’m very hopeful that we will have allies in Washington, D.C. working with us because we can’t ignore this issue any longer,” Wilson said. “It’s 2010, almost 2011, and it’s time for us to treat all students with dignity and respect.”

Blumenfeld hopes the report will lead to increased awareness and changes on campuses around the country.

“Hopefully this report will raise visibility, and also raise the urgency of why it is in the best interest of every campus, to make it a safe and welcoming environment to all people, including LGBT,” Blumenfeld said.