Panel Paper: Understanding LGBT Student Outcomes In Public Universities

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 11:15 AM
Adams (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Pitts, American University

Policies and programs that promote outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students have become a crucial concern in the higher education community. A string of five LGBT youth suicides in 2010 highlighted the need for universities to better address campus violence and harassment, and empirical research demonstrates that LGBT college students are more likely than heterosexual students to report being victims of verbal harassment, physical assault, and discrimination. There are also documented disparities between heterosexual and LGBT college students in tobacco use, alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, and risky sexual behaviors. Campuses are struggling to identify policies and programs that address these issues, but there is very little research on the types of interventions that tend to be successful.

This paper will examine three sets of factors that have qualitatively been associated with LGBT student outcomes in the education policy literature: (1) peer effects, (2) family effects, (3) presence of LGBT faculty mentors, and (4) strength of pro-LGBT programs on campus. The analysis will identify how these four sets of factors influence both academic outcomes (e.g., GPA) and nonacademic outcomes (e.g., risky behaviors). It will do so using a unique data set of over 3,000 LGBT students from 70 state universities across the United States. The paper will focus on the policy implications associated with measuring performance of campus pro-LGBT programs, specifically whether campus initiatives can outweigh the impacts of parent and peer effects.