Every year, gay-rights charity Stonewall publish a university league table to show how "gay-friendly" universities up and down the country are. Launched back in 2010, this year is the first year that a total of six universities received full marks - but Brunel didn't make the grade.
After sweeping University and Student Union websites for information, Stonewall have proclaimed only Cardiff, Essex, Glasgow, Liverpool John Moores, Sheffield Hallam and York St John Universities scored 10/10 this year - Brunel, on the other hand, achieved just five.
Brunel’s five green ticks were awarded for successfully having an LGBT Society, events for LGBT students, consultation with LGBT students, careers advice specifically for LGBT students and for the existence of an LGBT staff network. We lost marks because Brunel does not have an anti-homophobic bullying policy or mandatory training scheme in place, it does not monitor the sexuality of its students nor does it have explicit welfare support or information for LGBT Students. Brunel also does not have a Stonewall Diversity Champion or engagement with the wider community.
A number of individuals from both within and outside of the LGBT+ community at Brunel have questioned the necessity and suitability of these criteria, with one Brunel student telling Le Nurb “the prospect of student sexual orientation monitoring seems like something out of 1984”, and another asking “Why does not having a Stonewall Diversity Champion mean that an institution can’t be classified as completely gay-friendly?”
Anna Tippett, a PhD student at Brunel told Le Nurb her thoughts on the Gay By Degree scheme:
I think it's good that there is some kind of info out there for prospective students to look at in terms of how 'gay friendly' a university is. However, I think it's sad that this still needs to be done and merely highlights that we are still living in a homophobic society. The checklist for Brunel isn't looking too good as it hasn't said anything about the LGBT peer support network we now have, so it is clearly not up to date. I really don't think it's wise for someone to choose a university on the basis of how many LGBT events/meetings it has, but I can understand why someone moving away from home for the first time (particularly if this has been a homophobic environment for them) would deem an LGBT scene very important. So I'm a bit torn on this one - I'm both for and against it I guess. I suppose if anything it pushes universities who don't have much LGBT stuff going on to improve on this.”
Speaking to Le Nurb shortly after the release of this year’s rankings, Brunel LGBT+ Society President Lucy Hawkes said there had been “No consultation with anyone to do with LGBT+ in the university or UBS. There are boxes that should have been ticked, and it in no way reflects all the progress that has been made in recent years.”
Another Brunel student also told Le Nurb:
The gay by degree criteria is full of holes. It’s all well and good having these criterions, but there is no way of assessing how well an institution meets the criteria – they just either do or they don’t. This sort of ranking should be as fluid as sexuality is; there needs to be a ranking system in place that assesses how well the institution fulfils a particular criteria. It’s all well and good getting a tick next to having an LGBT+ Society, but if it’s not a particularly active society or not well supported by the Union or the University, then it’s essentially a false positive.