Emerging Research on Queer & Trans-Spectrum Students Across Higher Education

By Maren Greathouse, Director, Tyler Clementi Center, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


This event is sponsored by the Tyler Clementi Center, the Tyler Clementi Foundation, Rutgers University Undergraduate Academic Affairs, the Rutgers University Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities, the Rutgers
U​niversity Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, the Rutgers University Committee to Advance our Common Purposes, and the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.

About the Tyler Clementi Center

Established in 2013, the Tyler Clementi Center conducts research on the impact of bias, peer aggression, and campus climate on stigmatized student populations within higher education.

On October 26, 2017, the Tyler Clementi Center of Rutgers University will host a daylong Academic Colloquium to highlight critical research on queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum student experiences in higher education. The program will feature a presentation of findings from the largest1 and first-ever meta-analysis of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum student experiences in the history of American higher education, comparing national datasets from the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, the SERU-AAU Consortium led by UC-Berkeley and U-MN, the American College Health Association, and Rankin & Associates. Collectively, these findings represent the responses of 78,798 queer-spectrum students and 8,361 trans-spectrum students at 1,291 institutions.

This project has significant implications for policy and practice. Despite the presence of disparities across measures of campus climate, academic, and health outcomes, less than 15% of American colleges and universities provided dedicated staff and operational support to address the support needs of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum populations.2 The quantitative instruments that institutions utilize for assessment/academic planning – both locally and nationally – commonly omit demographic variables measuring sexual orientation and gender identity, rendering queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum populations invisible. Indeed, a study of quantitative research published among tier-one higher education journals from 2010-2012 found that only 1.88% addressed sexual identity and 0.54% addressed gender identity.3 Conversely, while qualitative studies provide deep insight into the experiences of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum students, their findings offer limited generalizability and present a significant obstacle to demonstrating the need for increased support of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum students.

This climate is in the midst of a major shift, however, as higher education research centers have begun to incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity demographic variables into survey instruments widely utilized by American colleges and universities.

Year Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Variables were Included in National Datasets

Survey Instrument (Year Established)**​

Sexual Orientation

Gender Identity

CIRP Freshman Survey (1966)CIRP Freshman Survey (1966)

2015

2015

CIRP Your First College Year (2000)

2011

2011

CIRP College Senior Survey (1993)

2015

2015

CIRP Diverse Learning Environments Survey (2011)

2011

2011

Before College Survey of Student Engagement (2009)

2017

2014

Nat’l Survey of Student Engagement (2000)

2013

2014

Student Experience at the Research Institution (2010)

2010

2010

ACHA National College Health Assessment (2000)

2008*

2008*

*From 2000-2007, sexual orientation and gender identity were ineffectively collapsed into a single question, “Which of the following best describes you? Heterosexual, Gay/Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgendered, Other.” In 2008, the NCHA revised the survey with two distinct questions.

**Survey information retrieved from the following websites on 3/27/2017: https://heri.ucla.edu, http://nsse.indiana.edu, https://seru.umn.edu, and http://www.acha-ncha.org.

This timely meta-analysis promises unprecedented insight into the experiences of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum students, centering experiences often on the periphery and identifying areas that have long needed the attention of campus administrations. Bookending this presentation will be two panel discussions addressing the complexities of conducting survey research with queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum students, the challenges of translating research to effective policy and practice, and the climate for queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum students within different institutional settings (HBCUs, faith-based institutions, 2yr institutions, etc.). Visit the Tyler Clementi Center’s website for more information on their 2017 Academic Colloquium or to register for the event. If you wish to attend the event via Livestream, you will receive access free of charge during registration.

References

1 The largest quantitative study of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum student experience was conduct by Dr. Susan Rankin, Dr. Genevieve Weber, Dr. Warren Blumenfeld and Dr. Somjen Frazer, entitled “The 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People.” (n=5,149)

2 Dedicated staff defined as either one graduate assistant fully dedicated to service of queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum student support or one professional staff whose job duties are at least 50% dedicated to queer-spectrum and trans-spectrum student support. (The Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals)

3 Garvey, J. (2014). “Demographic Information Collection in Higher Education and Student Affairs Survey Instruments: Developing a National Landscape for Intersectionality." In Intersectionality and Higher Education: Research, Theory, and Praxis, edited by C.S.D. Mitchell & L. Greyerbiehl, 201–216. New York, NY: Peter Lang, 2014.

 

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