An open campus for all: LGBT+ at UIndy

The University of Indianapolis student handbook states “the university does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, age, religion, ethnic or national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression irrespective of whether the status is legally protected.” 

This specific policy was beneficial during Homecoming weekend in 2018, when members of UIndy Pride were walking through Tailgate Town outside of Key Stadium when they heard a derogatory slur that was directed towards them, according to senior anthropology major and UIndy Pride co-chair Jordan Borden. The slur offended and triggered some of the members, he said. Pride immediately went to the administration about this issue and Borden said that the next day, University President Robert Manuel, Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli, Executive Vice President and Provost Stephen Kolison and former Vice President and Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer Sean Huddleston had sent out a campus-wide email about inclusivity. 

Although members of Pride experienced the issue with slurs last year, Borden said that there has never been a time where he has felt unwelcome on campus. 

“[A] part of why I love being on this campus is that it’s very welcoming,” Borden said. “I’ve never felt that unwelcome anywhere or that my presence was not allowed somewhere. It’s nice.” 

When it comes to housing and living on campus, students may want certain housing accommodations. According to Associate Dean of Students Jonathan Yorkowitz, UIndy is open to the needs of all students, not just specifically LGBT+. 

“For example, if a student is feeling really bad about a roommate situation and they live in Cory Bretz, then we want to get them into a space that they are comfortable where they can be successful,” Yorkowitz said. “So, I don’t know if it’s as much about somebody’s identity as it is just about the care of all students.”

Yorkowitz said that in the Office of Student Affairs, they try to work individually with students and to understand their hopes and needs and their hopes with their living environment. He said that the university, along with the student, can look at what options they have and decide what is best .

“I think there are students who may identify in a particular way and they feel most comfortable living with people who they identify with, as opposed to maybe some government registration that says they’re a different identity,” Yorkowitz said. “It’s never our hope that they would be in places that would be uncomfortable for them and also, at the same time, not put them into situations that are not conducive.” 

According to Yorkowitz, the worth of every individual is important. He said that if a student does not feel comfortable where they live, then they will probably not be very successful inside of, or outside of, the classroom.

“I think we really work with students as they present needs and we don’t ever want to assume that anybody needs anything,” Yorkowitz said. “But if they’re raising their hand saying ‘Hey, can we talk,’ then come on in and let’s talk, let’s figure out what your needs are and what you’re hoping for and how we can accommodate it.”  

According to sophomore social work major and UIndy Pride treasurer Tylyn Johnson, Pride is a safe space for LGBT+ students to talk and have fellowship. Pride hosts educational events and meetings focused on aspects of the LGBT+ community. 

When it comes to Pride, according to Johnson, he said he wants the organization to grow and have more students of color, students with disabilities and students of different socio-economic statuses. 

“[Have more] students with disabilities or students of different socio-economic status,” Johnson said.  “For me, personally, and I know the other board members would agree, we want to make more students feel included and feel safe to go there.”