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Counseling Centers’ LGBTQ+ ‘Friendliness’ Depends on State

December 9, 2021

A new study from Bucknell University found that the “friendliness” of a college counseling center’s website to LGBTQ+ students was significantly higher at institutions in states that offered hate crime and employment nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.

The study analyzed 212 randomly selected institutions across the U.S. for LGBTQ+ friendliness based on 11 criteria, including whether the campus counseling website addressed LGBTQ+-specific resources in individual, group and couples’ counseling settings; whether the counseling center staff listed their personal pronouns in their biographies; and whether the website’s support statement indicated that the counseling center would willingly provide services regardless of a student’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Those data were cross-referenced with the friendliness of the institution’s home state, measured by whether the state’s hate crime and employment nondiscrimination laws protected for sexual orientation alone, for both sexual orientation and gender identity, or for neither.

In states with LGBTQ+ hate crime and employment nondiscrimination protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity, the friendliness mean of college counseling centers at randomly selected institutions was 5.17 for California, 3.50 for Massachusetts and 2.88 for New York. Among states without LGBTQ+ hate crime and employment nondiscrimination protections for sexual orientation or gender identity, friendliness scores were 1.88 for Ohio, 1.83 for Pennsylvania and 1.67 for Michigan. The study also found that the public institutions analyzed had significantly more LGBTQ+-friendly websites than the private schools, which the study authors speculate may be a function of state mandates and financial incentives.

“Although we might want to see our schools as independent units, these results show that institutions of higher education and state-level policies are actually interconnected,” said Jasmine Mena, Bucknell psychology professor and researcher for the study. “All institutions of higher education need to be conducting a self-assessment and know how they’re presenting themselves to current and future LGBTQ+ students.”

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