By: Cory Berlekamp
According to niche.com, the University of Findlay is ranked third most conservative college in Ohio. With the hard line drawn between conservative spirituality and liberal sexuality, it might seem the LGBTQ community would not feel welcome at a traditionally Christian school. However, faculty and students agree this is not the case at UF.
“I feel like students would tell you that they feel safe here,” said University LGBTQ Faculty Advisor and Chair of the Social Work Program Dr. Robin Powell.
“Yes, we are at a Christian university, however, one of our great big eight strategic plan goals is to celebrate diversity,” said Powell. “How else would we do that without recognizing everyone’s differences and how great that is?”
This was not always the case. According to Powell, the attitude at the University in the early 2000s was one of “don’t ask, don’t tell” making the first attempt at a gay straight alliance at the school difficult.
“It failed miserably for whatever reason,” said Powell. “I think it was because there was a lack of faculty support, not that there wasn’t supportive faculty, but I don’t think the culture and atmosphere was right at that time.”
Powell has been the advisor for United, the University of Findlay’s GSA, since 2009. Since then, she has seen their score go from a one to a three out of five stars on the Campus Pride Index. The rating is based on “an overall indicator of institutional commitment to LGBTQ-inclusive policy, program and practice” which is a point of pride for Powell.
When she first decided to make a “LGTBQ Resource” sign for her building, she was wary of the push back she might get from the University. “Here comes security down the hall and I am like here we go and he said ‘hey about that sign, don’t you need two?’ So I don’t worry anymore,” said Powell.
Powell does her best to make sure that every LGTBQ student coming to the school feels comfortable and works with admissions when a new student is looking for information on LGBTQ resources. United’s secretary, Rebecca Osborne, was one of those students.
“I saw there was a LGBTQ office and I was like ‘this is where I’m going, this is it,’ because I wanted to go somewhere that had those resources,” said Osborne
Osborne grew up in Norton, Oh., a conservative area where there was not a GSA. She did not come out to her parents as pansexual until she came to UF. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, pansexual is described as “not limited in sexual choice with regard to biological sex, gender, or gender identity.”
“When I told my mom, she cried in a Cracker Barrel,” said Osborne. Both of her parents attribute her sexuality as “just a phase” but still support her decision on coming out. Her father sent her a letter expressing his feelings. “I’ll accept you no matter who you want to date and even though I don’t agree with it, I’ll still give you away on your wedding day.”
Osborne says she has never felt discriminated against as she walked around downtown Findlay and around campus with her significant other. Instead of dirty looks and honking horns they received smiles and waves. “It’s comforting to know that if people have opinions, they keep them to themselves,” stated Osborne.
According to Vice President of Spectrum Doug Marshall, multiple groups in the Findlay area have come together to form the LGBT Community council, including Spectrum of Findlay and University of Findlay’s GSA, United. Marshall says having a person from each group meet once a month helps them work together towards a common goal. This includes the businesses of Findlay putting up LGBTQ stickers in their shop windows.
“Seeing that sign automatically makes you feel a little safer and a little prouder,” concluded Marshall.