Magazine: Dartmouth one of worst schools for gays

by Wendy Yu | 11/18/99 6:00am

Dartmouth College was printed in a list of ten "Questionable Schools for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Students" in the Fall issue of Metrosource magazine, to mixed reactions among the College's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community.

Metrosource, a New York based national magazine with a growing circulation of 85,000, promotes itself as "A Celebration and Exploration of Urban Gay Life." This issue was the first one to be distributed nationally.

"To be on that list, doesn't mean that Dartmouth is a bad place to go to school, it means there are better choices for GLBT youth," said Evan Forster, New York freelance journalist and specialist in the field of college gay youth, who compiled the list.

The unranked list appears alongside an article called "Out on Campus" that was not authored by Forster and does not mention Dartmouth College.

The other nine schools that accompany the College on the list are Baylor University, Emporia State University, the entire Florida State University system, Hope College, United States Naval Academy, University of Missouri, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Vanderbilt University and Yeshiva University.

Two other lists -- Gay-positive Private Colleges/Universities and Gay-positive State Schools -- also written by Forster are printed in the issue. Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale Universities are included in this list.

Members of the GLBT community expressed a wide range of reactions, from surprise to agreement.

"I don't agree with [the list]," said Pamela Misener, the coordinator for GLBT advocacy and programming, adding that she thinks the College can be placed in the upper 25 percent of schools nationally in terms of a healthy GLTB environment.

Misener said she felt welcomed and supported here, and sensed that in general, GLBT students felt the same way, although there is always the potential for bad experiences.

"Every group has GLBT representation, support and the potential for advocacy," she said, listing the many resources on campus for undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff who have GLBT issues.

However, Sarah Burgamy '00 said she "absolutely" agreed with Dartmouth's ranking on the list.

"At this point, I don't think Dartmouth as a community has taken a sincere stand as to how to approach GLTB issues," she said.

Burgamy said she thought members of the GLBT community were the only ones who discussed GLBT issues, and that the campus at large neglects them, similar to topics like socioeconomic class, a subject matter that students tend to avoid.

Despite the lack of dialogue, Burgamy said she feels welcome and safe here.

"[Support] is here, but it's not immediately visible," Burgamy said, adding that she felt more safe here than at home, and that the key for her was to meet other GLBT people. "You need to shape your world by meeting people. Other people shouldn't be shaping it for you."

Ezekiel Webber '00 said he agreed with Forster's choice of word 'questionable' although not the interpretation that would imply that the College was bad. But he also said he was not surprised that Dartmouth appeared in the list.

Webber mentioned seeing expressions like "die gay fags" written in male bathrooms across the campus as evidence that the GLBT environment here needs improvement.

Webber said that he thought Dartmouth appeared on the list because of the legacy of the Dartmouth Review "which has labeled us as this hyper-conservative environment, as well as the predominance of the CFS system on the social scene, which, regardless if it is homophobic, has a national reputation of being homophobic."

"It does not look appealing, attractive or affirming to applicants," he added.

Margaret Smith, former GLBT coordinator, said that Dartmouth's old and outdated reputation of being an unsafe place of GLBT students as the reason that Dartmouth is listed.

"People refuse to give that up," she said, adding that she is surprised when people come to the College expecting homophobic attitudes.

Lisa Torrey '03 said she was surprised at Dartmouth's place on the list, especially in light of the fact that a naval academy makes an appearance on the list also.

"I have a pretty good opinion of the attitude of the people of the Dartmouth campus. It's a more open-minded community than people give it credit for sometimes," Torrey said.

For GLBT students who were comfortable at the College, Forster said, "I'm sure Dartmouth is a fabulous place to go to school, even for kids who are out. I would ask them if they have had an experience going to a school like Eugene Lang, [where they would experience] what it would feel like for them to be in the majority, or at least a large minority?"

"It's not a question of is Dartmouth homophobic, it is if I'm going to recommend [the College] to a gay kid out in high school, I want to make sure that he's going to a campus [with] an environment that's going to be receptive to his needs," he said.

Misener said she thinks there are many other schools which are "seriously GLBT dangerous" that failed to appear on the list. She will write a letter to the editor expressing her opinion as well as ask the magazine to print a follow up story that will be more extensive.

We need to "take advantage of these sorts of situations, which create an opportunity to tell people more about Dartmouth," Misener said.

The anti-discrimination policy of the school, administrative support for GLBT organizations and offices, vicinity to a large city, the existence of a large Greek system and anecdotal evidence were factors that the magazine considered, Forster said.

Forster told The Dartmouth his sources were books, admissions officers, educational consultants and guidance counselors. He did not speak to the admissions staff at Dartmouth, despite admitting that admissions officers were the best "barometers of what's going on."

His Dartmouth contacts were students, former students, fraternity members, former fraternity members and someone who was forced to leave his fraternity due to his sexual orientation, Forster said.

Forster said that the list was based on subjective standards and that it was not substantiated by scientific research, which was impossible for a study like this.

"Could I be wrong? Yes," he said.