MSU takes steps for inclusion of LGBT students, more resources during MSU Pride Month
In 1972, East Lansing made history and was the first city to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in regards to city hiring.
The city ordinance now prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and public accommodations or services in addition to employment, according to the city code.
Since then, MSU has worked to foster an accepting and supportive atmosphere for all of its students, including LGBTQ students, said Alex Lange, Assistant Director of the LBGT Resource Center at MSU.
Resources on campus
Lange said the university has done a good job of providing a physical space for resources like social belonging programs for LGBT students.
"One of our top premier programs is New2U," Lange said. "And that is our first-year experience program, so it's a time that we sort of help students transition into the university, figure out what the university is like, what it means to be LGBTQ+ in the university."'
Lange said MSU is one of the few colleges in the country with a program specifically for first-year LGBT students.
New2U, which was founded in 2007, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary, Lange said.
Lange also said the LBGT Resource Center offers a peer mentoring program called SparQ to help first-year students in situations where it might be awkward to speak with staffers.
Lange said it helps to have someone who is around your age to talk to and the peer mentors provided from SparQ are often alumni of the New2U program. For all students, Lange said there are educational programs on campus. One such program is Queer Inclusive Learning and Leadership program, or QuILL, which is open to anyone with a valid MSUnet ID.
"It's essentially an educational course on LGBT 101," Lange said about QuILL.
The resource center has also worked to consolidate all of the policy information, especially for transgender students, in one place that is easy to find, Lange said.
There is also an all-gender bathroom map of campus online that is being worked on, Lange said.
"We're a very large campus, that's no secret," Lange said. "But we are a small-but-mighty office that's trying to do a lot … and so, I think our programs are amazing and can benefit students."
Lange said although many LGBT students don't utilize all of the programs, it isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"They may be in a different place in their development, or they don't need us, and that's OK too," Lange said. "Or they don't want to come to the door because they're nervous about what that means. We've had students who have paced outside the door, like, 'What does it mean to come into this office?'"
Straight, cisgender people are in and out of the LBGT Resource Center's office often, seeking to learn more, Lange said.
One student who hasn't utilized all of the LBGT Resource Center's programs is psychology senior Jacob Jean.
Jean, who is also part of MSU's cheerleading squad, said he hasn't felt like he needed the resources throughout his time at MSU.
"I would say it's been a good experience, I've never really had a negative experience here," Jean said. "I've never really been blatantly harassed by anyone or anything like that, on campus at least."
Jean said his friends on campus are accepting of his sexual orientation. "I remember when I came here freshman year, and my roommate was also gay, and we decided to go to the (LBGT) Resource Center," Jean said. "I think they were having an event where you introduce yourself. That was pretty cool."
Jean said he made a couple of friends through that experience, and now he doesn't necessarily think he needs to utilize the resources on campus. But he said he knows if he were to need those resources, they're there.
Jean is an RA in South Neighborhood and said he is aware of LGBT caucasus in each neighborhood on campus.
As an LGBT student-athlete at MSU, Jean said his experience has been extremely positive and even credits sports for helping him get through tragedies relating to his sexuality.
"In high school, my senior year, my boyfriend committed suicide," Jean said. "That was when I was making the team at State, and my coach helped me through it. She basically was one person that was there for me all the time and she barely even knew me."
Jean said he'd known his coach for a month at the time, but not in a setting where he saw her every day.
"It's like knowing her for a month, I made the team and I haven't even had a practice yet," Jean said.
Jean said his teammates and coach, Elyse Packard, helped him feel comfortable from the get-go. He said Packard went out of her way to ensure he knew she was there for him and he was getting what he needed.
Jean said Packard reached out after seeing a Facebook status about the tragedy.
"She said, 'It seems like that person was really important to you, I want to let you know I'm here for you.' She created this bond, or sense of comfort," Jean said. "I don't know, I can't think of anything specifically. I feel like you can always do more with awareness, no matter what it is. You can always make people more aware. The reality of it is there's people on campus that aren't so accepting of who you are."
Jean said he knows where everything is, such as the resource center, but not often does he read about anything LGBT-related.
"Just seeing more positive things being told about the community, not that negative things are being told," Jean said.
"MSU has been a leader in sort of talking about name policies on campus, talking about how me make sure our policy reflects really good things for students when they come in," Lange said. "And we're still not perfect, we're still not completely there, where students need it to be … but we're still working on it."
Continuous improvement is something the university has displayed, Lange said. There have been additional trainings for staffers at Olin Health Center and the Counseling Center on campus, Lange said.
One of the things the university has done is kept the center around, Lange said.
"We have a dedicated space here at Michigan State University that's consistently funded," Lange said.
There are also two different housing options for folks on campus to help best meet the students' needs, Lange said.
"Residence Education and Housing Services has a transgender housing policy, so students can indicate where they generally want to live on campus and (REHS) will work with them to get them there," Lange said. "It used to be only buildings on campus, and really two wings of two buildings on campus was considered all-gendered housing on campus."
Lange said all-gendered housing has been expanded to just about every building on campus at this point.
The second option is called flexible housing and is accessible to any student on campus, transgender or not. It allows students to live with whoever they want to, regardless of gender.
"That works if you're a second-year or above on campus," Lange said. "Students need to apply for this type of housing, though."
A measuring tool called the Pride Index looks at different colleges and universities to see what's available and what isn't available for LGBT students, and scores them on a scale of one to five.
MSU scored a three, but Lange said this was scored before a lot of improvements were made at the university.
Lange said they hope to see MSU continue to do what it's doing and seek improvement.
"I think it's about continuing what we're doing and being thoughtful about it," Lange said.
Lange said they also hope to see increased awareness of the resources available for LGBT students on campus, especially since a lot of students in their second or third year at MSU will learn about the LBGT Resource Center for the first time.
Jean said MSU is doing a good job of helping to ensure LGBT students are well-accommodated.
"I think that reflects on my positive experience," Jean said. "I mean, I have obviously had a positive experience for a reason. They must be doing something right."