Bentley Earns High Marks on National List of Inclusive LGBTQ+ Campuses
Bentley is one of only 14 schools in New England to score 4.5 out of 5 stars in the Campus Pride Index, an overall indicator of institutional commitment to inclusive LGBTQ+ policies, programs and practices. The 30% increase in the university’s overall rating reflects improved scores in categories like student life and counseling and health.
“The biggest thing that contributed to our Campus Pride Index score jumping so high was an intentional investment in infrastructure and professionals by the university,” says Matt Banks, who joined Bentley in 2019 and currently serves as associate director for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Nana Adu was hired in 2021 as coordinator of Gender and Sexuality Student Programs.
“This is a group effort from across the university; but having positions — particularly in different offices — that are dedicated to LGBTQ+ students really helped us to further facilitate initiatives and gather information about the great work from people across campus,” Banks continues.
RELATED: Pride Flag Raising features professor’s ‘Three Ps of pride’
The Campus Pride Index is a national assessment tool assisting campuses in improving safety and campus climate for people who are LGBTQ+ and ultimately shaping the educational experience to be more inclusive, welcoming and respectful of LGBTQ+ and ally people. Ratings are based on eight dimensions: support and institutional commitment, policy inclusion, academic life, student life, counseling and health, public safety, housing and residence life and recruitment and retention.
Banks credits Bentley’s recent success in part to the “amazing work done by the Bentley human resources team and University Health Services.” The Bentley employee health care plan now includes gender affirmation surgeries and hormone medication coverage for employees, their spouses and dependent children. The Health Center and Counseling Center implemented LGBTQ+ awareness and ally training for staff, and a Counseling Center staff member serves on the LGTBQ+ Steering Committee and regularly updates and educates other staff members on new policies and the campus LGBTQ+ climate.
This kind of work is critical to student success: According to a recent BestColleges survey, more than 30 percent of LGBTQ+ college students have considered dropping out due to their mental health status. The survey also reported that LGBTQ+ students are also more likely to say they have experienced symptoms of social isolation and/or loneliness.
Student life at Bentley has benefitted from visible, active LGBTQ+ representation and leadership roles in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Gender and Sexuality Student Programs and PRIDE student organization, which have collaborated on several highly visible campus-wide social and educational programs, including an annual T-Party as part of Trans Awareness Week, the Rainbow Luncheon as part of LGBTQ+ History Month, Pride Prom, Drag Bingo and others.
RELATED: Bentley hosts first in-person Rainbow Graduation
Banks also emphasizes the importance of supporting an inclusive infrastructure on campus. One recent policy implementation is a requirement for all building renovations and new construction to include a gender-inclusive restroom.
According to Gallup, the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or something other than heterosexual has increased to a new high of 7.1%, which is double the percentage from 2012. Nonetheless, McKinsey & Company reports that today’s workplace is falling short of full inclusion.
To respond to the growing importance of DEI in the workplace, Bentley launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion major in 2021. The Pulsifer Career Development Center also provides resources for identifying inclusive workplaces for internships, career services and job opportunities.
RELATED: DEI major aims to encourage an inclusive workplace
“I hope that we can prepare students, particularly queer and trans students, to go into the workforce knowing who they are, knowing what they want and knowing how to advocate for themselves,” Banks says.
Though grassroots LGBTQ+ initiatives were underway on campus for years, Banks says it is empowering to see policies officially implemented. “We have an institution that structurally is making great strides in showing up for queer and trans people, changing the way that we do things to make our campus inclusive.”
And while Banks contends that there is still much work to be done on campus, they believe the important work of the Steering Committee and those participating in the culture have “created a place and a system where students don't feel hopeless when something goes wrong ... they know that they can go someplace and have someone care.”