SDSU Again Among Best of the Best for LGBTQ Students

The five-star rating from Campus Pride reflects an ongoing and campuswide effort to create a welcoming environment for all.

Friday, August 25, 2023
SDSU is the only cmapus in California and one of just two on the West Coast named in 2023's Best of the Best list. (SDSU)
SDSU is the only cmapus in California and one of just two on the West Coast named in 2023's Best of the Best list. (SDSU)

An LGBTQ Studies program, LGBTQ living space, a campus resource center and 42 other criteria all get checked off for San Diego State University in the annual Campus Pride report card, the “Best of the Best” list.

SDSU received the five-star rating for 2023, announced on Thursday. But insiders attentive to the list of the nation’s most LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities say there’s at least one additional attribute outside of policy and staff that makes SDSU a welcoming place for any sexual identity or expression — one hard to measure by the numbers.

“The students,” said Kay Wong, director of the Pride Center. “They really are part of what makes SDSU the best of the best.”

“They are part of who are creating this campus culture and the campus environment that people feel like they can be themselves, that they can be out,” Wong said. And it contributes, they said, to the comfort SDSU’s LGBTQ+ students feel in the classroom, at Aztec Recreation Center or just walking across campus.

Thirty colleges and universities across the U.S. made this year’s Best of the Best list; SDSU is the only one in California and one of just two on the West Coast (shoutout to Southern Oregon University, Ashland). It’s SDSU’s third straight year on the roster.

SDSU as a Top Choice

Wong said SDSU can be an especially attractive destination for out-of-state 2SLGBTQIA+ students (the Pride Center and the SDSU Native Resource Center use a longer acronym that includes Two-Spirit, or 2S, people). The same goes for parents looking for a supportive place to send a child to college.

Marisol Lomeli, a third-year student, was living in Oregon and looking for a university with a good criminal justice program after graduating from high school. “All of my friends were going to Oregon State and the University of Oregon,” they said. “I kind of wanted to be more independent and branch out.”

In their first year, Lomeli hadn’t yet come out but wound up participating in the Pride House mentoring program. “Having that available allowed me to learn more about myself … and meet new people in the same environment.”

At SDSU, Lomeli discovered “People are very open to you finding yourself even if you don’t know specifically what you identify as, or you just don’t want to say it,” they said.

“A campus presenting these opportunities allows you to figure out whatever you need to,” said Lomeli, who identifies as pansexual.

Creating a Safe, Welcoming Environment

Campus Pride said the “Best of the Best” recognition gives recognition to universities that make an effort “to create a safe and welcoming campus for their LGBTQ+ students faculty and staff.”

“In the current climate, in which LGBTQ+ identities have become political talking points and laws are being weaponized against LGBTQ+ people, the commitment to creating campuses that welcome and protect LGBTQ+ students cannot be taken for granted,” Campus Pride CEO and Executive Director Shane Mendez Windmeyer said in Thursday’s announcement.

Jessica Nare, SDSU assistant vice president for community & belonging, said the university prioritizes support for LQBTQ+ students across campus, not just with a single program or initiative.

“The fact that we’ve been recognized year after year really demonstrates to me a sustained commitment to LGBTQ+ students,” Nare said, “and that’s really what it takes to change the climate on a campus.”

She said SDSU has a “super-vibrant” LGBT Studies department in the College of Arts and Letters, the Pride Employee Resource Group is one of the largest ERGs on campus, and campus leaders “who are really championing these efforts.”

“It’s all those interventions together that have made us really successful,” Nare said. Room for improvement? Yes; Nare said SDSU has not yet fully streamlined processes for allowing students to swap their preferred name for their legal name across all SDSU platforms, an issue Campus Pride looks at as a matter of policy inclusion.

The Pride Center, located on Campanile Drive, celebrates its 10th anniversary in January, Wong said. Earlier this year, the center received an award from organizers of San Diego’s annual Pride Parade for Best Youth/Student Contingent, they said, and received recognition from San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas.

According to figures submitted by SDSU last year to the website and magazine INSIGHT Into Diversity, about 8% of SDSU students identify as LGBTQ+.

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