Student leaders and campus groups working to make colleges safer for students put together a list of campuses that have problems with "religion-based bigotry" against those in the LGBTQ community.
Two schools in our area - Bethel College in Mishawaka and Andrews University in Berrien Springs - ranked in Campus Pride's top 100 “Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth.”
According to Campus Pride, schools on the “Shame List” have chosen to “openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth.”
All of the schools on the list are religiously affiliated.
Bethel College, a Christian Evangelical school, ranked because the school holds a religious exemption to Title IX.
Andrews University, a Seventh-Day Adventist institution, made the list because it has “opposed student advocacy for LGBTQ homeless youth, bans same-sex relationships & official LGBTQ student groups.”
Andrews issued the following response:
"At Andrews University, we are strongly committed to non-discrimination in the admission and enrollment of our students on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. We recognize that LGBT students may be marginalized on faith-based campuses. As a result, in the past few years, we have actively worked alongside our LGBT student community to more fully realize our commitment to creating a harassment-free environment for all students. Andrews is proud of its LGBT students, and they have contributed in many important ways to the University’s faith and learning community. We will continue to invite their participation as the University seeks to create a campus culture that is reflective of the Seventh-day Adventist commitment to biblical faithfulness, which includes demonstrating care and compassion for all persons."
At Bethel College, President Gregg Chenoweth emphasized that the school’s legal protections date back to the 1970s for religious liberty. He says Bethel is an opt-in community that promotes healthy biblical relationships.
Their Title IX exemption was granted by The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2015.
“The notion of a shame list assumes that we have ill-will toward students of any background, but, we don’t," says Chenoweth, "I guess people who are part of our community know our reputation for hospitality. It’s also legally precedented.”
Some students at Bethel say they weren't surprised by the news, but that their school is welcoming to everyone.
“Bethel is a loving community, and we do embrace people," says Bethel College Senior Jordan Hopkins, "While we are a Christian campus, we don’t push anyone away based off their sexual orientation. We still accept people for who they are. That’s part of what being Christian is.”
Members of Andrews University's unrecognized LGBTQ student group AULL4One say the school's relationship with LGBTQ students has improved.
“We have student life administration who is willing to work with students," says Andrews University Senior Jonathan Doram, "They want to have conversations with us. They want to have dialogue with us. They want to be supportive an compassionate. And that’s why I have hope for Andrews – that’s why I’m optimistic.”
Still, he says there is more work to be done.
“But I think it’s just a wake-up call – that we can keep working harder, and keep on making changes," says Doram," So just to view it as a chance to grow and learn from this, that next year we are not on the list.”