UAlbany Earns Top Score from Campus Pride Index for LGBTQ+ Friendly Climate

Provost Carol Kim waves to a crowd of onlookers from inside a purple and gold UAlbany trolley at the Capital Pride Parade and Festival in Albany. Throngs of people in colorful outfits and holding rainbow umbrellas fill the street.
Faculty, staff and students from the University at Albany took part in Albany's annual Capital PRIDE Parade and Festival on Sunday, June 9, 2024. (Photo by Patrick Dodson)

By Bethany Bump

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 11, 2024) — The University at Albany has earned the top ranking from Campus Pride Index, a national assessment tool that assists colleges and universities in creating safer, more inclusive campus communities for LGBTQ+ people.

UAlbany earned a score of 5 out of 5 stars on the index, an increase from 3.5 stars in 2015. University officials attribute the increase to the creation of reporting structures for bias-related incidents; the new Harvey House living space for LGBTQ+ students; gender inclusive restroom policies; and new opportunities to use affirming names, pronouns and gender identity markers on official college records, among other factors.

A white and purple logo reads "Campus Pride LGBTQ-Friendly Campus 5 out of 5 stars"

UAlbany is the first SUNY campus to achieve a 5-star rating from the index, which began in 2007 with the aim of assisting campuses in assessing and improving LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs and practices.

“This recognition reinforces for many of us what we already feel and know, UAlbany is a committed and thriving campus for LGBTQ+ students and their allies,” said Courtney D’Allaird, associate director of the Office of Intercultural Student Engagement and founding coordinator of the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center (GSRC) at UAlbany. “Every identity and life experience in the world exists on this campus. What makes UAlbany extraordinary is how we hold all of it. It’s not about being perfect, but it is the vision and hope UAlbany has to remove barriers and create foundations for a better world. For me this is full circle. We started looking hard at our programs, policies and practices over 15 years ago when I founded the Gender & Sexuality Resource Center, and every step we have taken since then, every faculty, staff and student commitment has brought us to this point.”

In 2009 as an undergraduate, D’Allaird had helped launch the Lavender Awards and Celebration for graduating LGBTQ+ students and allies. Later that year as a graduate assistant D’Allaird founded the GSRC. At the time, it was the first such center on a SUNY campus specifically created from inception to empower LGBTQ+ students and their allies. These traditions and spaces continue to empower LGBTQ+ students today.

That year, UAlbany also commissioned the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council to assess the campus climate and provide recommendations and guidance for changes moving forward. As part of that evaluation, UAlbany participated in its first ever Campus Pride Index assessment, earning a rating of just 2 stars. The assessment had the intended effect — allowing the University to identify areas for improvement — and within a year the score had climbed to 3.5 stars.

In recent years, new and enhanced efforts to improve quality of life for LGBTQ+ people on campus, as well as SUNY-wide policy changes, have allowed the score to continue rising, D’Allaird said.

In 2015, the GSRC created a “first step” bias report form that enabled individuals to report incidents of gender-related bias or hate on campus. This reporting process was eventually folded into the purview of the newly created Bias Incident Response Team in 2020.

Rainbow signs for Harvey House adorn the columns at UAlbany
Signs for Harvey House, a living space for LGBTQ+ students on Dutch Quad, adorn columns at UAlbany. (Photo by Brian Busher)

In 2021, the University opened Harvey House, a new housing option for LGBTQ+ students on Dutch Quad. While the University already had gender-inclusive housing options in most residential spaces since 2012, Harvey House was designed as an intentional community that supports and affirms the experiences of queer and transgender students — with targeted programs, events, resources and staff.

UAlbany was also exploring the ability for students to use affirming names and pronouns on official records when SUNY passed a historic policy in 2022 requiring campuses to do so. The change allows for students’ chosen name and pronouns to appear in campus portals, class rosters, student email addresses and more.

Today, the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council continues to guide much of the work to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals at UAlbany. Individuals can report questions or concerns they would like the council to consider via a form on its website.

"As a co-chair of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Council, I am incredibly proud of this achievement,” said Zakhar Berkovich, who also serves as director of Undergraduate Student Services at UAlbany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy. “The University at Albany and many of its members worked hard to create a more inclusive and inviting space where all members and especially our students can find a sense of community and belonging here. While we are happy to receive this grading, there is still work that needs to be done. As we celebrate Pride Month, let us rejoice in the accomplishments and return to work to continue evolving our university. I would like to acknowledge the special hard work and dedication of Courtney D'Allaird, who had the vision of bringing UAlbany to this spot. It is because of their tenacity we are able to claim 5 stars."

These policies, programs, and practices have dramatically allowed UAlbany to increase visibility across campus for LGBTQ+ and allied faculty, staff and students as well as address systemic barriers affecting LGBTQ+ student persistence and retention. Today, LGBTQ+ students at UAlbany graduate at the same rate as their non-LGBTQ+ peers, a fact that is also representative across their cultural and ethnic background.

“The University at Albany is honored to have earned a 5 out of 5 star rating from Campus Pride Index,” said Samuel Caldwell, vice president of inclusive excellence and equity at UAlbany. “This recognition reflects our unwavering commitment to equity and inclusion, ensuring a supportive and welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+ community, including students, faculty and staff. We will continue to champion diversity and strive for excellence in all our initiatives, in both our learning and community spaces.”