Western Kentucky University makes strides in queer inclusivity

Western Kentucky University is striving to make its campus a welcoming place for all queer students, faculty, and alumni. In addition to raising their score on the Campus Pride Index – a national standard for LGBTQ+-inclusivity – the university is actively building its on-campus support for the queer community. Their effort is paying off: students and faculty now have more access to resources than ever.

Dr. Molly Kerby is one of the diligent workers behind these efforts. Assistant Provost for Institutional Affairs and Co-Chief Diversity Officer for Academic Affairs, Kerby helped raise WKU’s Campus Pride Index score from 2 stars in 2016-17 to 4.5 stars in 2021-22. She attributes the improved rating partly to the efforts she and her colleagues have made to understand the rating program’s application. “It’s a long and hard application that isn’t very cut and dry. It deals with everything from students, staff, insurance, and academic life.” Kerby’s goal is to gain a 5-star rating within the next year.

The 4.5 rating is only a half a star behind other major universities in the state, such as the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky. You can view the Campus Pride Index score for WKU as well as the application on the Campus Pride Index’s official website. 

The rating speaks to the work being done within the Hilltopper Pride Network, an organization that provides support for the WKU Pride Center. This work includes a gender-neutral bathroom map and a Campus Resource Guide for LGBTQ+ students. The guide is still in progress and will be posted on the Hilltopper Pride Network website when it’s available.

“The main goal of the Hilltopper Pride Network is about success. For students to feel supported and be successful.” Said Patrick Collins, Mesonet Systems Meteorologist II. “They are truly bridging the gap for when students become alumni – they are proving that they will always be there with the knowledge and resources to be successful.”

The guides at the Hilltopper Pride Network are there to connect LGBTQ+ students and alumni with resources including health information, contact info of LGBTQ+ friendly doctors in town, LGBTQ+ friendly housing within WKU’s Stonewall Suites, counseling, and even mentors to help guide students through ups and downs of college life and beyond.

According to Collins, there is also hope for potential graduate groups, fraternities/sororities for LGBQT+ students, and a go-to guide for queer-owned and queer-inclusive businesses. The Pride section of WKU’s website will provide information on these updates, as well as events that are happening in the local LGBTQ+ community.

Western Kentucky University is making it a point to put their students first, and it’s starting to pay off in amazing ways. Resources like the Hilltopper Pride Network are a necessity for any queer person making their way through college life. We applaud WKU for holding themselves accountable to do more for their LGBTQ+ students, faculty, and alumni.