Students and Faculty Question the Credibility of the Princeton Review's Ranking

By Hilary Burns, Editor-in-chief

In the midst of a year where gay rights have been at the forefront of many political agendas, the highly regarded Princeton Review publishes lists of the friendliest and least LGBT-friendly colleges in America.

This year Wake Forest University claimed number seven on the least LGBT-friendly colleges in America -- a step down from 2012 when the university was ranked number eight on this list.

This ranking has provoked much emotion and frustration within the Wake Forest community, both vocally as well as on social media in the past few days.

Wake Forest has an active LGBTQ center that was founded in August of 2011. The center provides education, advocacy, and support to the campus community around issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Director of the LGBTQ center, Angela Mazaris said the Princeton Review's ranking does not accurately reflect the experiences of students at Wake Forest.

"We have seen huge changes in the climate on campus in a relatively short time," Mazaris said. "Last fall, for example, over 800 people picked up our "Love is Love" t-shirts for National Coming Out Day, and wore them around campus."

In the past few months alone two students have used the Old Gold & Black as a platform to discuss their sexual orientation with the Wake Forest community. These articles received positive feedback on social media as well as in comments on the OGB's website.

Mazaris added that it is also important for people to realize that the Princeton Review ranking is based on one question on a survey that is administered every few years.

And what is this question that holds so much weight? "Do students, faculty, and administrators at your college treat all persons equally regardless of their sexual orientations and gender identity/expression?"

Mazaris said that a more useful tool to assess climate is Campus Pride's LGBT Climate Index, which ranks campuses based on a 50 question survey. "I am happy to report that Wake was awarded 4.5 out of 5 stars on the Climate Index this year."

Former Student Government President, Tre Easton, wrote an opinion piece for the Huffington Post titled, "Who's reviewing the Princeton Review?" on August 13. Easton questions why people blindly accept these rankings as accurate.

"As a gay man living in a world where LGBT rights are being fought for and earned literally on a day-to-day basis, I believe that poisonous and misguided information like this ranking sets back the movement for equality even more than a ballot measure or asinine court ruling," Easton said. "Its very premise -- assigning schools the moniker of "LGBT-unfriendly," which only functions to ensure that LGBT students will never venture to these places -- is offensive."

Student Government President Jacqueline Sutherland said she was also disappointed to see Wake Forest on this list.

"In the past few years, Wake Forest's LGTBQ center has made great strides in supporting and advancing the equal rights of all its students," Sutherland said. "While every community has room to improve, Wake's students, staff and administrators have developed tremendous resources for ensuring that every single resident of our campus feels safe, respected and reassured in their decision to call Wake Forest their home."

The Princeton Review is a private company based out of Framingham, Mass., which ranks colleges around the country in 62 categories in nine general areas. These areas include: academics and administration, quality of life, politics, campus life, town life, social life, extra curricular activities, social scene and schools by type.

To create these rankings, the company distributes surveys of 80 questions to 126,000 students at 378 colleges and universities. These surveys ask students one question to determine the least LGBT-friendly colleges.

The Princeton Review's website gives no indication of how many Wake Forest students were asked this one question.

University Chaplain, Timothy Auman said that the Princeton Review Rankings inspire him to be more of a visible ally to the LGBTQ center.

"We all have a responsibility, indeed an opportunity, to join together as a campus community to support our LGBTQ Center as we work together to dismantle all the many forms of oppression, including homophobia," Auman said.

Easton ends his article on an emotional note. "I'd much rather be called 'faggot' every day for the rest of my life than live with this misinformation being bandied about. Do better, Princeton Review. Do so much better."