Arts & CultureSex & Relationships

The UO is one of the most queer-friendly campuses in the country with an abundance of resources

It’s Sunday, June 28, 1969. The Stonewall Riots occurred after a popular New York gay bar was raided. The patrons of the bar — sick of homophobic oppression —  fought back that night against the New York City police.

Across the country a group of University of Oregon students was making a statement by forming a group to fight for gay rights. The group — which we now know as the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans Queer Alliance —  has been around the UO campus in one form or another since then.

That rich history has paid off in laying the groundwork for the accepting community we know today.

“We have a long history on this campus of trying to do the right thing or at least have a loud progressive voice,” said Maure Smith-Benanti, assistant director of the LGBT Education and Support Services Program.

Smith-Benanti works alongside Chicora Martin, the director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Education and Support Systems Program. The two spend their time helping to advise students and groups. There is also a standing committee — part of faculty senate — who report on LGBT concerns to UO President Michael Gottfredson.

Due to successes in this area, Campus Pride — a national LGBT organization — named the UO as one of the top 25 LGBT-friendly college campuses in its 2013 start-of-the-school-year poll.

It wasn’t the first time. The University has been recognized every year that Campus Pride has released a poll in its seven years. And, just last year, the University was recognized as one of the top 10 in the nation for “trans-friendliness.”

Loren Clupny, the internship coordinator for the LGBTQA program on campus isn’t at all surprised by the high rating.

“We have quite a few LGBT student run groups on campus. There are just generally accepting attitudes on campus. Eugene is a pretty progressive city, at least in that regard,” said Clupny. “Not only the fact that there are a lot of resources available, we have such a large school in a accepting environment. It just makes for a really positive and welcoming queer community.”

There are currently at least three LGBT groups on campus: The LGBTQA, Theta Pi Sigma and UO QT’s, a group in housing.

All three groups have regular meetings and programs that anyone — gay or straight — can attend. Smith-Benanti described those who attend the meetings, yet who are not gay, as allies.

“An ally is someone who aligns themselves with a group of people in order to seek a positive change,” said Smith-Benanti.

Smith-Benanti previously worked for another college and was so impressed by the UO’s LGBT programs that she moved here from out of the state.

“It’s my goal to stay in the top 25 (of Campus Pride’s yearly poll of LGBT-friendly colleges) and to keep innovating,” Smith-Benanti said. “I love it here and the best thing that has ever happened to me was moving here and working for the University of Oregon.”

By Camille Lieurance. You can follow Camille on Twitter at @clieuranc

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