Campus climate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) students is unique and varied across campuses in the United States. In light of this, many universities have designed support systems to help this student population navigate and overcome challenges to a positive experience. As an example, a number of colleges and universities offer support services for their campus communities through programming and engagement offered with an LGBT Resource Center. While some institutions may still be developing space and resources for a full and comprehensive center, others have established centers that are thriving, visible, and actively engaging LGBT students, allies, and the whole campus community. Among some of these centers are examples of extremely active and effective social media presence. Using digital engagement exceeds traditional measures to make student contact and allows these centers to engage a broader community. Examples of successful digitally engaged LGBT Centers include:
The University of California Los Angles (UCLA) LGBT Campus Resource Center has an active and robust social media presence. While researching best practice samples for this column, I reached out to Raja Bhattar, Director of the UCLA LGBT Campus Resource Center to inquire about the value of social media to LGBT resource centers. According to Raja, “being active on social media is critical for us to reach the many members of our community who are not comfortable accessing our services in person and to maintain an active conversation on issues of importance to our identities.” Further explaining the reach of social media for the Center, Raja goes on to share, “…it’s a great way for us to stay connected to our alums and community partners and all the great things happening.
Facebook has been a primary platform but we are also getting quite active on Instagram and Twitter, and are considering Tumblr as well.” Raja also notes that the Center’s social media interns pay attention to national and global current events. In detail, Raja shares, “being on one of the most diverse campuses in the nation, it is our responsibility to make sure our outreach spaces are representative of our values and truly meet students where they are while engaging topics that touch on intersections of our many identities. Further, the #UCLALGBT hashtag allows various constituents to tag themselves at the Center or center-related events and helps us track digital traffic.”
Tufts University Lesbian Gay and Bisexual and Transgender Center was founded in 1992 to offer a space for all students, faculty, and staff to explore their unique relationship to gender and sexuality through personal, activist, or academic lenses. The Tufts LGBT Center offers a digital newsletter, Group Listserv, a YouTube Channel, and is active on Twitter.
The University of Michigan Spectrum Center provides an interactive Gender Inclusive Restroom Map via Google on their website.
The Ohio University LGBT Center offers a live Twitter feed on their campus website as well as a social media portal to connect with the center on Tumbler, Vine, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. The Ohio University LGBT Center also offers a digital newsletter to provide updates on relevant topics on campus, in Athens, and across Ohio.
The University of Oregon LGBT Education and Support Services Program provides a downloadable sign to support use of Gender Inclusive Restrooms.
Resources to Develop Social Media Strategy
For campus leaders interested in developing a social media presence for their LGBT Center, a dynamic resource from UC Riverside titled “From selfies to social networking, a guide to connect online with the LGBT community on your campus” provides a detailed guide and set of best practice tools to help create and implement digital strategy. UC Riverside also offers “A Matter of Pride: UC Riverside’s History of LGBT Firsts” a ten-minute documentary where faculty, staff, students, and alumni tell the story of LGBT history and support on campus. This is a helpful resource for campus leaders seeking a digital method to demonstrate outcomes of their efforts via social media. A valuable resource that captures global trends in LGBT presence via social media comes from Salzburg University’s Academy on Media and Social Change, which offers a summary of LGBT social media socio-political activity in the United States, Russia, and Egypt titled, “Finding a Voice through Social Media: the LGBT Community.” Other ideas can be generated by reviewing the Top 50 List of LGBT-friendly Colleges & Universities sponsored by Campus Pride.
Using digital media is a powerful way for LGBT Centers to engage the entire campus community. Social media allows space to share information that advances ideas and thoughtfulness. Raja Bhattar explains that the UCLA LGBT Campus Resource Center “tends to post progressive ideas and content that engages people in conversations and challenges all of us to be more aware of global events and critical thinkers.” The digital discussion and dialogue flowing from LGBT centers is valuable for LGBT students on campus and for all current and future students, alumni, and faculty across the entire university community.