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Colleges shell out for LGBT students whose families allegedly cut them off

It helps if you’re an activist

When LGBT college students reveal their true selves to their parents, some of them not only lose emotional support – they lose the financial support they need to continue their studies.

To ensure these students don’t become dropouts, several colleges around the country have set up “emergency” funds with varying requirements for assistance – including giving permission to be used in promotional materials.

Indiana University’s GLBT Alumni Association offers an emergency scholarship for current undergraduate students “who have lost or are facing the loss of financial support from their parents/family after disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Students “don’t have to decide between living their lives honestly and openly and an IU education,” Michael Shumate, a board director for the IU Foundation and former president of the GLBT Alumni Association, told The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The scholarship was created because “students were forced to drop out of school after coming out,” Doug Bauder, coordinator of GLBT Student Support Services at IU-Bloomington, told The College Fix in an interview.

As of now 13 students at the school have received an emergency scholarship and all have been able to stay in school, Bauder told the Chronicle.

The emergency scholarship is part of a broader activism effort by the GLBT Alumni Association to raise the visibility of non-straight students.

As a condition of receiving a $1,500-per-semester award, which students may receive no more than twice, recipients who do not elect to remain anonymous “must be willing to have their names, biographies and pictures published in various GLBTAA publications,” according to the scholarship guidelines.

The guidelines also imply that the association prefers LGBT activists to apolitical students with an emergency: “Career goals, community service, extracurricular activities, and involvement in activities promoting diversity and raising awareness of GLBT and related issues may also be considered.”

The association additionally awards “mini-grants” of $100 to $1,000 to student organizations and individual students who design and create projects that support the LGBT community.

In order to receive emergency funding or mini-grants, students must fill out an application that includes a budget portion. Bauder told the Fix he then meets with students to hear their stories.

IU’s effort to retain LGBT students at risk of dropping out is not part of a multi-school initiative, Bauder said: “Many schools have consulted with us over the years but we have no formal working relationship with other schools except for the various IU campuses around the state.”

No need to document hardship

Kent State University has a less formal, less lucrative fund for LGBT students at risk of dropping out because of financial problems from family disputes.

The Chronicle reported there’s no limit on how much a student can receive, and all awards are decided on a case-by-case basis, though they average $500 or less, according to Kenneth Ditlevson, director of the school’s LGBTQ Student Center and the fund’s administrator.

Critically, students seeking funds don’t have to document or prove their financial hardship.

“The fund was created to be easily accessed for those that are in emergent need. The criteria for the fund is loose and it is meant purposefully to be,” Ditlevson told the Fix in an interview.  “We take the student’s verbal word.”

Because the fund is intended to help students finish their studies at Kent State, seniors are more likely to get help than freshmen, Ditlevson said, while cautioning that each case is unique.

The emergency fund only stands at $3,500, much of it contributed by faculty and staff who helped create the LGBTQ minor at the school, he said.

Kent State also has an LGBT endowment fund scholarship named after local businessman Harry Jackson.

Countering Wheaton’s ‘one-sided narrative’ of gay students

Evangelical Wheaton College dealt with the reverse situation recently: an outside grant given to an unrecognized LGBTQ campus organization, OneWheaton, by a philanthropic foundation.

Composed of students and alumni and counting more than 1,200 Twitter followers, OneWheaton was formed in 2011 in response to a campus chapel “that maintained a single story about sexual and gender identity,” according to the group’s founding letter to the community.

Shortly after the group’s formation, Wheaton President Philip Ryken reiterated that “Scripture condemns … homosexual behavior” as well as adultery and premarital sex, while stating the school believes LGBTQ people are “created in the image of God himself.”

The $5,000 grant to OneWheaton came from the Crosswicks Foundation, established by the late Christian children’s author Madeleine L’Engle, known for books such as A Wrinkle in Time, Religion News Service reported earlier this month.

The unsolicited award thrilled OneWheaton. “Wheaton tells a very one-sided narrative about LGBT persons without making room for dialogue,” Paul Canaday-Elliot, a OneWheaton board member, told the news service. “So this will help us continue to supply something that the college isn’t.”

OneWheaton said in its announcement about the grant that it secured 501(c)(3) nonprofit status last year.

The news service noted that Wheaton doesn’t recognize OneWheaton because of the group’s “full affirmation” of LGBTQ students, or their right to be sexually active outside of traditional marriage: Students can be expelled for getting “caught in homosexual erotic behaviors.”

The school, which hosts a “special collection” of L’Engle’s papers, played down the grant.

“We hold papers and other effects of a wide array of Christian authors whose work overlaps with our institutional mission; we do so without insisting that those authors or their descendants align with every aspect of our institutional identity,” Provost Stanton Jones wrote in a statement.

Part of the grant will be used to host a public forum coinciding with Wheaton’s homecoming this October. Religion News Service reported that OneWheaton’s private Facebook page said the event would feature Matthew Vines, an author who makes a biblical case for same-sex relationships, and Wesley Hill, a gay seminary professor who promotes holiness through celibacy.

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About the Author
Samantha Watkins is a broadcast journalism and theatre double major at Point Loma Nazarene University. She is the director of activities and design, editor for the features section of The Point, manager of Coastline News, and is part of Turning Point, a dance ministry on campus. Samantha can also be seen on stage acting at Salomon Theatre.

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