Transforming our Campuses into Spaces that Welcome, Support, and Value LGBT Students

 By: Jamie Piperato, Founder of


In 2016, more than 160 anti-LGBT bills were introduced in state legislatures, each bringing with them concerns about access and civil rights for students and campus stakeholders. As we make our way through 2017, our country, matches this number and introduces violent policies into law across the nation. As professionals, it is our responsibility to transform our campuses into spaces that welcome, support, and value LGBT students. This article provides three action steps that professionals can do to create a culture shift on their campus.


Take Responsibility for Our Action(s)

Elie Wiesel said, “We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” As professionals, silence during times of injustice is irresponsible and harmful as is blaming others for injustices without reflecting on our own actions. As professionals, transforming our campus culture begins with taking responsibility for our own contributions to oppressive structures and our own lack of understanding around marginalized communities. To create a culture shift on our campus, we must be transparent and model the way for our students and colleague. 

How do we do this? What are the first steps to becoming more aware of how we perpetuate and support systems of oppression in our own work? How do we become more aware of our own capacity to engage in these conversations and our own prejudices that prevent us from advocating for the LGBT community. To begin on the journey of answering these questions, we must reflect on the following: (1) why we are uncomfortable discussing the experiences of people within the LGBT community; (2) why our campus culture does not value and support people in the LGBT community; (3) what bias we may have that is impacting our work for this community; and (4) how do we contribute to the harmful actions towards this community on our campus (and in our own lives). These questions will assist professionals on their journey to build their capacity to have these conversations and advocate for the LGBT community on their campus.

Please note: the questions listed above are only a starting point for professionals.


Prioritizing Educational Trainings for Students and Staff

All across the country, on both conservative and liberal campuses, we are making LGBT students feel unworthy and invisible because of our own unfamiliarity and discomfort in having conversations about sexuality and gender identity. Every year, many of our campuses provide students and staff educational opportunities through mediums such as programs, retreats, or conferences. Prioritizing education trainings about the LGBT community within these opportunities helps contribute to a culture shift within our organizations.

How can we be consistent in providing trainings about the LGBT community? How do we fit more than one program about the LGBT community into our schedule? How do we center the experiences of marginalized students in our conversations? There isn’t one “right” answer and the “right” answer for your campus may be different than the “right” answer for another campus. But, on our campuses (and within Fraternity and Sorority Life) there are a few themes that always emerge in our programs for students such as community, values, integrity, relationship building, communication, etc. All of these themes are threatened if people do not believe they belong or feel welcomed. Discussing equity and inclusion in one program throughout the year will not create a culture shift for your campus or organization. Infusing these conversations into the DNA of your programs will help emphasize the importance of creating spaces that are inclusive for LGBT students.


Hold Our Organizations Accountable & Challenge Them to Be Better

James Baldwin said, “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

As professionals who are committed to creating a culture shift at our institutions, we must become comfortable with critiquing the organizations that guide our practice. This means that the policies, competencies, and structures modeled for us by our organizations (whether they are professional organizations, student organizations, national chapters, or campuses) must be held accountable and challenged when appropriate. Many of our organizations are microcosms of our larger society and many of them were founded in a time that supported racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, and religious oppression. We cannot afford to be naive and think that these same -isms are not threaded throughout our student organizations, national chapters, campuses, and professional organizations. We must be willing, out of our love for our organizations, to critique and challenge the systems of oppression that exist in our communities.

For more information on how to create a culture shift on your campus, please contact Jamie Piperato at [email protected]. To learn more about how to invite Jamie Piperato to campus for a professional development seminar, student program, or student retreat, please visit

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