The Arcus Fellowship at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) aims to encourage colleges and universities to improve their campus climates by building the leadership capacity of LGBTQ students who:
- Are non-cisgender (Transsexual, Transgender, and/or Gender-Nonconforming people)
- Are from communities of color, and
- Attend colleges or universities that have limited LGBTQ resources.
With support from a Home Campus Mentor (a faculty member, administrator, counselor, or student life professional from the Fellow's college or university) and an Arcus Mentor (a PhD student from the CIIS Human Sexuality program), each Arcus Fellow will design, implement, and evaluate a project that directly addresses harassment, bullying, discrimination, and social isolation experienced by LGBTQ students - particularly trans students and students of color - on the Arcus Fellow's home campus.
Many LGBTQ college students are often isolated with no ‘out' allies on campus, minimal LGBTQ representation in their classes' curricula, and a genuine fear of homophobic students, faculty, and administrators. The Campus Pride 2010 State of Higher Education for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People survey interviewed more than 5,000 LGBTQ college and university students nationwide and found that 13% of queer spectrum and 43% of trans spectrum respondents feared for their physical safety. 43% of queer spectrum and 63% of trans spectrum respondents concealed their identity to avoid intimidation. Fear for one's physical safety and hiding one's identity due to fear of intimidation were significantly more likely among LGBTQ and/or trans people of color.
How students experience campus climates influences both learning and developmental outcomes: academic achievement, healthy identity development, rates of substance abuse, and sense of purpose or hopelessness are all affected by students' experiences on campus.
Best practices in higher education show that colleges and universities can change their policies and procedures to be more inclusive, resulting in improved campus climates and enhanced learning experiences for LGBTQ students. These changes include creating and enforcing non-discrimination policies for employees and students, underscoring institutional commitments to inclusivity and opposition to overt and covert harassment, integrating LGBTQ material into curricula and co-curricular programming, responding swiftly and appropriately to bias- and hate-related incidents, and improving recruitment and retention efforts to maintain a truly diverse workforce and student population.