Colgate’s Sexual Climate

Results of the Sexual Climate Survey administered last spring were recently presented to Dean of the College Adam Weinberg as part of the Women’s Studies Department’s Brown Bag Series and the new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) “Lavender” Bag Series.

The survey polled both LGBTQ and heterosexual students to provide a representational account of the entire Colgate student body.

The results of the survey show that LGBTQ students on campus are less comfortable compared to their heterosexual peers in terms of being open about their sexuality, dating and other such issues.

LGBTQ students also feel Colgate is less accepting of gay men, lesbians and bisexual men and women than of heterosexuals.

The survey revealed a dichotomy of Colgate’s gay and heterosexual students in their perceptions of campus environment. Additional results, presented as part of the Women’s Studies Brown Bag, demonstrate similar results among women compared to men.

Several other important correlations were brought to light by the survey. The data showed that the more LGBTQ students believed that their sexuality is respected in the classroom and by their peers, the more comfortable they are with being open about their sexuality, and the more they feel that the campus is accepting of them.

The survey does not include a plan of action to encourage greater acceptance of LGBTQ students at Colgate, but the data show that LGBTQ students’ comfort level and perceptions of Colgate would improve if class curricula addressed more LGBTQ issues and contributed to the spread of LGBTQ awareness on campus.

“I think it was a success in that the survey results give us a starting point and the impetus for positive change at Colgate, especially for LGBTQ students,” faculty advisor and Associate Professor of Mathematics and the Liberal Arts CORE Curriculum Ken Valente said of the survey. “Granted, the survey confirms many of our preconceptions, but even this has value. I would hope that we can now agree on some particular issues regarding the sexual climate on campus and move forward from these points of agreement.”

“I believe our goals were twofold,” faculty advisor and Visiting Professor of Psychology William Jellison said. “Foremost, the students and faculty were interested in gathering information on the sexual climate at Colgate. Our second goal is to use this information to bring about a positive change at Colgate.”

The audiences of these presentations of the Sexual Climate Survey have been responsive.

“Overall, our audiences have been extremely supportive. However, this should not be too surprising, given that these audiences are already supporters of LGBTQ and gender issues on campus,” Jellison said.

“It was one of the most rewarding experience of my life here at Colgate,” Valente said of the survey in his presentation.

Originally conceived by Colgate graduate Ilyse Morgenstein ’05, the idea of the survey developed into an independent study class with the help of fellow students Jonathan Arsenault ’05, Jason Bailey ’05 and Katelyn Macrae ’05; juniors Ian Maron-Kolitch, Kellen Myers and Domenico Ruggerio; and faculty advisors.

“I am surprised that this relatively short questionnaire has been so informative,” Jellison said.