Partnership Aims to Boost LGBTQ Inclusion at HBCUs - Higher Education
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Partnership Aims to Boost LGBTQ Inclusion at HBCUs

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by Jamal Eric Watson

In an effort to increase diversity and inclusion for LGBTQ students at historically Black colleges and universities, the Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at the University of Pennsylvania is teaming up with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation to launch a three-year initiative to develop LGBTQ-inclusive programming at HBCUs across the nation.

Mary Beth Maxwell is a senior vice president at HRC.

“Empowering LGBTQ members of the African-American community is essential to ensuring that all students feel safe and comfortable in their learning environments,” said Dr. Marybeth Gasman, a professor of higher education and director of Center for Minority Serving Institutions at Penn. “HBCUs are a natural place to engage given their social justice and activist stance throughout history.”

Gasman said that HRC and CMSI will disseminate best-practice guidelines relevant to LGBTQ health and wellness to student health centers on minority-serving and HBCU campuses.

“For more than a decade, HRS has worked shoulder to shoulder with students, faculty and administrators in building LGBTQ-inclusive and affirming HBCUs across the country,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, senior vice president for programs, research and training at HRC. “We look forward to expanding our already strong relationship with the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions to expand and enhance this vital work in the years ahead.”

In recent years, civil rights leaders have called on HBCU presidents to do more to address homophobia on their campuses. According to Gasman, as of 2013, only 21 of the 105 HBCUs across the nation have LGBTQ student organizations.

But Gasman said that she is encouraged because the number of MSIs that offer support services for LGBTQ students is on the incline.

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“HBCUs around the country are improving their institutional support for these students, and we hope this partnership will help provide them the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals,” Gasman said.

She added that, later this year, HRC will hold its annual HBCU Leadership and Career Summit with the goal of training and preparing student leaders and administrators to advocate for LGBTQ inclusion and safety.

Gasman said that CMSI’s partnership with HRC is an extension of its advocacy work on behalf of MSIs.

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at jwatson1@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson.

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