Campus climate for students with diverse sexual orientations and/or gender identities at the University of Otago, Aotearoa New Zealand
Treharne, Gareth; Beres, Melanie; Nicolson, Max; Richardson, Aimee; Ruzibiza, Christian; Graham, Katie; Briggs, Hahna; Ballantyne, Neill
Background & aims: Despite increasingly positive attitudes towards diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, university students who identify as lesbian/gay/takatāpui, bisexual/pansexual, trans, asexual, questioning, and/or queer* (LGBTAQ) continue to experience harassment and discrimination on campus to a great extent than students who identify as heterosexual and a binary gender (HAABG). Previous studies, predominantly conducted in the United States, have reported that LGBTAQ students experience harassment, threats, and even physical assault on campus, most commonly from other students. Because of this harassment, it is not surprising that some LGBTAQ students do not disclose their identity on campus for fear of negative consequences. Studies also suggest that support services can act to reduce the occurrence, and the impact, of harassment and discrimination. The main aim of this project was to survey the campus experiences of students attending the University of Otago and to compare the views and experiences of LGBTAQ students and HAABG students in terms of: forms of harassment and discrimination they have faced; fear for safety; concealment of sexual orientation and/or gender identity; views on which groups of people within the LGBTAQ umbrella they perceive as facing harassment on campus; views on organisational responses to LGBTAQ issues; views of the OUSA Queer* Support service; and views on the overall campus climate including climate within classes. Methods & sample: Students registered at the University of Otago were sent an email containing a link to the online survey in April 2014. A total of 1,234 respondents fully completed the survey and were included in the final analysis. Within the total sample, 66.5% of respondents identified as female, 32.5% identified as male, and 1.1% identified as ‘other’ (including trans, genderqueer, and agender individuals). Over two-thirds of respondents identified as HAABG (n = 878, 71.2%), whereas over a quarter (n = 356, 28.8%) identified as LGBAQ and/or reported their gender identity as ‘other’. The survey contained 41 fixed-response questions enquiring about demographics, ‘outness’, experiences of discrimination and harassment, views on likelihood of harassment for groups within the LGBTAQ community, campus responses and support service, and overall campus climate. Comments on respondents’ experiences and the survey itself were requested in two questions at the end of the survey. Results: There were significant difference between LGBTAQ and HAABG respondents on many of the questions. Over a fifth of LGBTAQ respondents reported being out to friends and family (21.4%) and around one in 10 (11.3%) were not out to anyone, compared to the majority of HAABG respondents (87.2%) reporting they were out to all people. Half of LGBTAQ respondents (50.3%) reported they had concealed their sexual orientation/gender identity to avoid intimidation and 31.6% reported they had also avoided disclosing their sexual orientation/gender identity to University staff due to fear of negative outcomes. Most respondents reported they had not been denied opportunities due to their sexual orientation/gender identity (95.9% for LGBTAQ and 98.1% for HAABG) but over 10% of the LGBTAQ respondents reported having felt fearful for their physical safety due to their sexual orientation/gender identity compared to 3.7% of HAABG respondents. A quarter of the LGBTAQ respondents reported experiencing harassment as a result of their sexual orientation/gender identity compared to 5.8% of HAABG respondents. Over 20% of LGBTAQ respondents reported being subjected to derogatory remarks compared to 4.1% of HAABG respondents. Nearly one in six LGBTAQ respondents had received direct or indirect threats (compared to 2.2% of HAABG respondents), and 1.7% had been assaulted (compared to 0.2% of HAABG respondents). LGBTAQ respondents reported that harassment was most likely to occur in a public space on campus (12.6%), while walking on campus (11.2%), or in a hall of residence (8.1%). The most common source of harassment was other students for both LGBTAQ respondents (21.9%) and HAABG respondents (3.3%). The majority of all respondents agreed that the campus is friendly (89.8% of LGBTAQ, 93.2% of HAABG) and respectful (73.1% of LGBTAQ, 82.4% of HAABG). In relation to improvements across campus, respondents expressed disappointment that only two gender options are offered on many University surveys and forms. Respondents also suggested that having more staff LGBTAQ role models and additional support and education for students in residential halls. The majority of all respondents reported they would feel comfortable using gender neutral bathrooms (78.7% of LGBTAQ, 64.6% of HAABG). In relation to support services, around three quarters of respondents agreed that there are visible resources on queer* issues and concerns at the University of Otago and two-thirds of respondents agreed that the OUSA Queer* Support service is inclusive, safe, and supportive. Conclusions & recommendations: The majority of students perceived the University of Otago campus to be friendly, respectful, and communicative, although perceptions were less positive among LGBTAQ students, who were also more likely to fear for their safety. LGBTAQ students were more likely to think there are not enough visible resources about queer* issues on campus but had more favourable perceptions of the OUSA Queer* Support service compared to HAABG students. Female LGBTAQ students were more likely to say they would access the OUSA Queer* Support service. This finding suggests that it may be beneficial to promote OUSA Queer* Support services specifically for students who are male or a non-binary gender. Students who are gay/lesbian/takatāpui and/or have non-binary gender identities were more likely to experience discrimination, fear for their safety, conceal their identities to avoid harassment, and had a less favourable perception of campus responses to harassment. Students with non-binary gender identities were more likely to have been denied opportunities, experienced threats of violence and threats to expose their identity, to have been harassed in a campus office, and had were less likely to have favourable views of campus in terms of friendliness, respectfulness, and communication. The OUSA Queer* Support service aims to provide an inclusive, visible, and responsive service and is using information from this survey in its work with LGBTAQ students and University staff to address harassment and other core issues such as availability of gender-neutral bathrooms. Future campus climate surveys will provide important monitoring of levels of discrimination and the success of efforts to support LGBTAQ students. The two key findings of this survey are that harassment is experienced by one in four LGBTAQ students at the University of Otago within a year, and HAABG students appear to underestimate the likelihood of this harassment. Discrimination and harassment leads around half of LGBTAQ students to conceal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, with a third avoiding disclosing their sexual orientation and/or gender identity specifically to University staff to avoid negative consequences. Derogatory remarks in public on campus are the most common form of harassment reported by LGBTAQ students and female HAABG students, particularly in the evening, although harassment outside campus was also highlighted. Respondents also reported witnessing harassment but being fearful to intervene. These findings suggest LGBTAQ and HAABG students may benefit from workshops about skills to apply when witnessing or experiencing derogatory remarks or other forms of harassment. Additional advertising of the OUSA Queer* Support service is recommended via posters, social media, and in course resources. Wider efforts are also required to challenge the culture of discrimination towards LGBTAQ people through events to raise awareness throughout the year and in relevant venues, including residential halls.
Publisher: Otago University Students’ Association
Rights Statement: Copyright © 2016 Gareth J. Treharne, Melanie Beres, Max Nicolson, Aimee Richardson, Christian Ruzibiza, Katie Graham, Hahna Briggs, Neill Ballantyne.
Research Type: Book
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