Around the peak of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, Randall Cook ʼ93, ʼ96S (MBA), assistant dean for the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester was discussing the violent displays of hate and racism with his husband, John. Eventually, their conversation turned to their experience being a gay couple in the early 1990s.
When they started their relationship in 1992, it wasn’t easy or common to be an out couple. But neither wanted to hide who they were or alter their behavior to “fit in.” Being together in public, knowing they may encounter derision or worse, made every appearance of the Pride flag feel like a warm “Hello.”
Wanting to recreate that feeling at the libraries, Cook led an effort to develop a “welcome cloud,” a new University symbol meant to help communicate that Rochester is dedicated to cultivating an environment in which everyone feels welcome and respected.
Although the new symbol is comprehensive in its message, it can certainly be counted among the many actions Rochester has taken to earn recognition for LGBTQ+ inclusivity.
Inclusive and proud
The University received the maximum five stars from Campus Pride Index (CPI), the premier, LGBTQ+ national benchmarking tool for colleges and universities to create safer, more inclusive campuses.
“We’re excited that students searching for inclusive institutions will find us near the top of the list,” says Col Raimond, director of LGBTQ life at the College. “The University has been steadfast in its dedication to LGBTQ inclusivity. Over my six years here, I’ve seen significant and meaningful changes to both infrastructure and the student life experience.”
Rochester scored five stars for the LGBTQ+ community in the areas of support and institutional commitment, academic life, housing and residence life, campus safety, and counseling and health.
Some strides that contributed to Rochester’s performance include students being able to use their preferred first name (if different than their legal name) directly into UR Student, all-gender multi-stall restrooms in River Campus residence halls, and University Health Service, which uses a provider that can prescribe hormone replacement therapy and its Counseling Center, which has LGBTQ+ counselors on staff.
Diversity, equity, and inclusivity create Boundless Possibility
CPI uses an LGBTQ-friendly “report card” that is based on 50 areas. Rochester checked 49 boxes—more than any other institution on the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) or in the Association of American Universities (AAU).
We’re proud of this, but we know our work is far from done—new initiatives continue, some of which are some outlined in President Sarah Mangelsdorf’s message on support for the University’s transgender community.
Boundless Posssibility, the University’s new strategic plan, is looking to expand student success initiatives by making the changes and additions to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture in and out of the classroom.