Pride and prejudice at KSC

As of the 2022-2023 academic school year, the Campus Pride Index gave Keene State College an overall LBGTQ inclusion and equity score of three out of five stars.


Since 2007, The Campus Pride Index has offered for college administration, faculty or staff to answer a questionnaire which calculates ratings centered around a campuses LGBTQ inclusion. The overall rating takes into account eight categories, which are as follows: Housing and Residence, Counseling and Health, Support and Commitment, Student Life, Policy Inclusion, Academic Life, Recruitment and Retention and Campus Safety. All categories are weighted equally toward the overall score allotted, according to the Campus Pride Index website.

 In recent years, former Coordinator of LGBTQ Student Support Hunter Kirschner filled out the questionnaire, according to the inventor of the index, Shane Windmeyer. Windmeyer noted that the annual dues to become and maintain a college’s membership in the index were $300 annually, which can be paid by the person who fills out the questionnaire  But with Kirschner leaving the college in August, nobody has re-upped the dues or filled out the questionnaire, leading to Keene State College’s discontinuation of membership in the index.


According to the Campus Pride Index, the rating is broken down into a four-tiered system. First, there is ‘the overall pride index score’, the rating given after all factors are taken into consideration. Second, there are the sexual orientation and gender identity inclusion scores, the two main focuses of the pride index, and the basis for determining overall score. Third, there are eight categories which each focus on a specific area of inclusion and equity on the campus, all with equal weight toward overall determination of the inclusion scores. Finally, there are 50 assessment criteria used to determine the score of the eight categories.


Campus Safety


KSC received a score of two and a half out of five stars in regards to campus safety for LGBTQ students, according to the Campus Pride Index. The criteria for the category is broken up into the following six sections: Procedure for reporting LGBTQ bias incidents and hate crimes, active ongoing training for hate crime prevention, active outreach to LGBTQ students and organizations, trains campus police on sexual orientation issues, trains campus police on gender identity/expression issues and supports victims of LGBTQ sexual violence and partner violence.


President of KSC Pride Julia Stearns responded to the rating saying “I haven’t experienced or seen anything with queer students regarding personal safety, them worried about “Oh there’s a group of students who are following me and their calling me slurs and being rude.”


She said KSC Pride has always made it a point to have meetings regarding safety, where general members are able to voice safety concerns and share accounts of discrimination. According to Stearns, the only pervasive experience often recounted was in regards to older faculty members’ lack of initiative to respect students’ gender identities. Stearns spoke of an experience she witnessed saying, “Sometimes when we’ve had a transgender student in one of my classes and an older faculty had used the wrong pronouns and misgendered them. That student had corrected them and other students had stood up for them, and [the faculty member] will immediately change and use the right pronoun, but when it happens X amount of times clearly there is no change happening.”


She mentioned one Campus Safety officer, “Ian Matheson who has been very friendly toward KSC Pride and very friendly to myself, reaching out and saying ‘Hey if there are any Pride problems let us know… Having him being so open and friendly towards queer students on campus, I think that is so important and so awesome,” explained Stearns. 


Matheson is the LGBTQ coordinator for Campus Safety, and is in charge of the mandatory LGBTQ training and education for Campus Safety officers. “I went through the Out to Protect LGBTQ liaison Academy… as well as the LGBTQ Awarness for Law Enforcment,” explaining how he obtained certification to lead LGBTQ based training.


He explained that the training is “supposed to be two hours, but sometimes end up running to three or four hours. [The officers] have a lot of questions about everything and want to be informed so they can make the right decisions.” 


When an incident occurs Matheson said the job of Campus safety was to assist in gathering information about the occurrence and to provide support to the potential victims. He said Campus Safety has worked to create a more “comfortable” space for the afflicted party to be in while having to undergo the interview process. He said they changed the location of the interview room from a wide-open room located in the bottom of the Campus Safety Office, to a room designed with the specific intent of providing “comfort” to the victim, all according to Matheson. From office chairs to sofas, from incandescent to natural light, Matheson noted.


When it comes to providing LGBTQ specific support he said “[Campus Safety] has a really robust community resource library…The Trevor Project is on there. There’s a couple that are focused on trans individuals.” Matheson said he recognizes that not everyone is going to want to talk to the Wellness Center and other on campus support systems, so having more individualized resources available is something he said is important to provide.

Matheson said that Campus Safety works with and reports all incidents of harassment and bias to the Title IX Office and the Office of Community Standards. 

Kelly Jo Harper, the sexual misconduct and bias investigator at Keene State, explained the “empowerment based model” that she and the other staff at Title IX and Community Standards try to follow when dealing with a situation. 

Harper said, “The first step is outreach with the impacted student or party to better understand what the experience was… to check in first and say “how are you, what do you need?” She said that all support and resources needed are made available to the student. Next, she said, was to help the impacted student make a “well-informed” decision about options they can pursue. She said that any action taken is determined on a case by case basis, and can range from a student wanting a new housing assignment, to wanting to pursue legal action. 

Housing and Residence Life 

KSC received a score of three out of five stars in regards to housing and residence life for LGBTQ students, according to the Campus Pride Index. The criteria for the category is broken up into the following seven sections:  LGBTQ living space, theme floors and/or living-learning community, roommate matching for LGBTQ students to find LGBTQ-friendly roommate, gender-inclusive housing for new students, gender-inclusive housing for returning students, gender-inclusive/single occupancy restroom facilities in campus housing, gender-inclusive/single occupancy shower facilities in campus housing and trains residence life and housing staff at all levels on LGBTQ issues and concerns.

Keene State College is one of 424 colleges/universities that self-report having gender neutral bathrooms and one of 450 colleges/universities that self-report having gender neutral housing, according to the Campus Pride Index. Only two other campuses in New Hampshire are listed by the Campus Pride Index of having these gender neutral areas.

Darrien Waugh, the Coordinator of Student Diversity, Equity, and Belonging at Keene State, said he believes accessibility to be the major drawback of Keene State’s gender-neutral facilities. “[Lack of gender-neutral bathrooms] was one of the first I noticed… the campus isn’t as accessible as it should be,” said Waugh. He said that The Commons residency building in specific was an area of accessibility “but nowhere else.” 

Waugh said that he has started conversions with KSC Community Directors to try and come up with a plan to increase the institution of gender-neutral facilities. However, Waugh said that limited and inadequate funding has been the biggest problem when trying to come up with an executable plan. Despite the financial barrier, he assured that he and the DEI office are going to do everything they can, with the resources they have, to develop a creative and effective plan to try and push for change. 


Support and Commitment

Support and Commitment to LGBTQ students was the highest rating awarded to KSC at four out of five stars, according to the Campus Pride Index. The criteria for the category is broken up into the following seven sections: Resource center/office with responsibilities for LGBTQ students, paid staff with responsibilities for LGBTQ support services, ally program or Safe Space/Safe Zone, actively seek to employ diversity of faculty and staff including visible, out LGBTQ people, standing advisory committee that deals with LGBTQ issues and an LGBTQ alumni group.

As president of KSC Pride, Stearns said she has had ample opportunity to hear from LGBTQ students about their experiences, provide support, and help run an organization whose commitment is specifically to those queer students.

 “I know a lot of queer and trans students on campus. From what I’ve seen, within their friends and their community, they seem to be very happy…very comfortable…not worried about being an outcast, not worried about not having friends,” 

One resource for students that Stearns noted was theThrifty Owl, which provides gender-affirming clothing free of cost. One roadblock in regards to the Thrifty Owl is accessibility in terms of when they are open, Stearns said. As of the Spring semester of the 2022-2023 academic year at Keene, they were only open three days a week, 3 p.m to 5:30 p.m on Mondays, 6:30 p.m – 8 p.m on Tuesdays, and 9 a.m -11 a.m on Wednesdays. “I have a couple friends who are like ‘I wish the hours were better’. I think [improving the hours] is [a way to improve], potentially with more staffing… or just having more open hours,” Stearns explained. She also believes that the addition of workshops for non-cisgender students “is very important.” These workshops would help transgender students have access to, and learn about more masculine and feminine ways to present oneself.

Stearns cited the Keene Pride Organization as an useful support system for LGBTQ individuals on campus and for those who graduated and have stayed in Keene, but still wish to be with people like them. While an off campus organization “they’re still a resource… Keene Pride does have resources like [gender affirming care, therapy, social support, and health education],” Stearns explained. 


Recruitment and Retention

KSC received a score of one out of five stars in regards to recruitment and retention of LGBTQ students, according to the Campus Pride Index. The criteria for the category is broken up into the following five sections: Annually participates in LGBTQ admission fairs, LGBTQ student scholarships, LGBTQ mentoring program to welcome and assist LGBTQ students in transitioning to academic and college life, special Lavender or Rainbow Graduation ceremony for LGBTQ students and allies and admission counselors receive LGBTQ-inclusive training and resources.


According to Waugh, neither state nor federal resources have been provided for KSC to determine who on campus is a member of the LGBTQ community or specifically target LGBTQ individuals in recruitment processes.  “[Lack of resources] makes [targeted recruitment] really difficult and affirmative action just got canceled so it is now even more difficult,” he said. KSC does not record numbers of incoming LGBTQ students or LGBTQ students who have been on campus. The Keene State fact book only breaks down the statistics between male and female and does not include students on campus who identify as LGBTQ. “Our main thing is,” explained Waugh, “you could bring as many students of any identity as we can on campus, but it’s not gonna mean a thing if they do not survive a semester.”

Stearns voiced her support for more diverse demographic information to be recorded. She explained the importance of being a recognized part of the community, making it known that not just straight and cis-gendered people are at Keene State. Both Waugh and Stearns mentioned “being where we are in the country” as an important reason to track LGBTQ demographics. It’s important for it to be known that “[LGBTQ] people are here, go to school here, and they feel comfortable to be here and out,” Stearns explains.


Counseling and Health

KSC received a score of three and a half out five stars in regards to LGBTQ counseling and health, according to the Campus Pride Index. The criteria is broken down into the following five sections: LGBTQ counseling/support groups, trans-inclusive trained counseling and staff, free, anonymous and accessible HIV/STI testing, LGBTQ-inclsuive health information and safer sex materials available and trans-inclusive student health insurance policy which covers ongoing counseling and hormone replacement services.

According to a 2016 study published to the National Library of Medicine by H.G Virupaksha, Daliboyina Muralidhar, and Jayashree Ramakrisha, transgender individuals have a suicide rate that ranges between 32%-50%, with 41% attempting suicide at least once. Since 2009, New Hampshire has exceeded the national average for suicide rates, currently being 12th in the country based on overall suicide rate, according to the 2021-2024 New Hampshire Suicide Prevention Plan released by the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. 

According to Waugh, he and the Wellness Center have been collaborating a lot recently to put out initiatives to speak on mental health for marginalized groups. Waugh said a big focus has been “making [the initiatives] more inclusive to all identities,” to make sure everyone has a chance to feel heard and supported, to have relevant and inclusive resources for all identities. He said the initiatives are planned for Oct. 10 and Oct. 11.

Starting on Sept. 28, the Wellness Center is leading a weekly support group dedicated to creating a safe environment for exploring identity and connecting with other students. This group gives students an opportunity to find support and heal together from acts of discrimination and oppression. This group will meet on Thursdays and is one of the “many events” Director of The Wellness Center, Barbera Berthiaume has promised to conduct.

A 2022 study published by Giuliana Grossi for HCP Live, reported transgender youth who receive gender-affirming are 73% less likely to have suicidal thoughts and urges, and are 60% less likely to experience depression/depressive thoughts. Stearns mentioned that while the Wellness Center is not fully equipped to deal with all the aspects of gender-affirming care, specifically hormone related treatments, they are still able to provide gender-affirming counseling, on top of resources that can be utilized for pursuing hormone replacement therapy and additional counseling opportunities outside of the Wellness Center. 

Much like Waugh, Stearns noted her experiences with the Wellness Center as positive. She mentioned several occasions where staff from the center have approached her asking to be a part of KSC Pride meetings. Stearns said the staff wanted to learn more about gender-affirming care and the information and resources that members would find helpful, while exposing members to the resources provided by the Wellness Center.

Harvie Marcotti can be contacted at

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