TU earns 4 stars in LGBTQ+ 'Pride Index'

By Sean Welsh on June 26, 2019

Towson University continues to work toward a more diverse and inclusive campus.

TU Pride
Students and President Schatzel during TU Pride Week in 2019.

At Towson University, providing a welcoming, inclusive and robust environment to LGBTQ+ students isn't just a goal — it is a pre-requisite for a high quality education.

So when TU was given a four-star ranking by CampusPrideIndex.org in its 2019 compilation, it was no surprise to those working on advancing the campus culture. But it was also motivation.

"We are moving forward — even in the short time that I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of movement," said Dr. Leah Cox, vice president of Inclusion & Institutional Equity. "Up until a few years ago, we didn’t participate in a lot of things outside the university's community. Now, we’re doing that. We know what we have to do, we know our work isn’t done. It motivates us even more."

The ranking arrives amid Pride Month and just after the university’s participation in the annual Baltimore Pride parade. In the state, only the University of Maryland, College Park (five stars), Goucher College (four) and Johns Hopkins University (four) are peers for TU.

When President Kim Schatzel arrived at TU, she made the diversity and inclusivity of TU's campus one of her priorities.

“A diverse and inclusive classroom and campus provides that our graduates have learned to both thrive and support others to thrive in an environment inclusive of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and levels of able-ness," President Schatzel said. "I firmly believe that we cannot achieve a high quality educational experience without such a commitment to diverse experiences and perspectives in our university community.”

We know what we have to do, we know our work isn’t done. ”

Dr. Leah Cox

Hundreds of schools were ranked, with about 50 earning five-star ratings. On its website, Campus Pride says it "commends the campuses participating in the index and their willingness to come out, be visible and actively advocate for improving higher education for LGBTQ people."

Erin Rook, who joined TU in 2019 as the assistant director for LGBTQ+ Student Development & Diversity in the Center for Student Diversity, says the ranking is indicative of TU's momentum in its work to support LGBTQ+

“It does show that Towson puts a lot of effort into LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff — there are people who have put a lot of work into things across campus to garner that ranking. It shows things that are missing: they’re things that we’ve already created or we have coming out in the fall. It is a nice parallel on the work that we’re doing."

The work continues this fall.

As an institution, TU is working to develop support across campus divisions for a more inclusive LGBTQ+ culture. Programs specifically to support LGBTQ+ students transferring to TU, as well as first-year students and alumni are in the works.

A fall lecture series is planned to develop more in-depth conversation around issues.
Issues surrounding individuals identity — including gender pronouns and primary names — are topics of ongoing dialogue.

TU will be registered for International Pronoun Awareness Day in October.

Rook says she would love to see the five-star rankings expand to a 10-star ranking, in order to push institutions of higher learning to strive for even more.

“It would be cool to see that,” Rook said.

This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: Diverse and Inclusive Campus.