Oklahoma State University is home to over 25,000 students, some of whom are members of the LGBTQ community.
The Office of Multicultural Affairs, a place that houses numerous organizations for minority students, is where Irissa Baxter, the coordinator of Women's and LGBTQ Affairs, works.
Baxter, who has been in her position since 2015, said her job involves looking at the needs of the community and seeing how she can serve. She created a resource guide for LGBTQ students, which includes information about on-campus organizations and scholarships.
There are two on-campus organizations for LGBTQ students: OSTEM and Oklahoma State Queers and Allies. OSTEM was formed last year for LGBTQ students in STEM fields.
OSQ&A was established just under 20 years ago. The group holds regular meetings and is open to any student, regardless of sexual orientation.
Andy Baker has been the president of OSQ&A for over 2 years. They said the group is treated fairly, but there is always room for improvement.
“We’re partnered with SGA to get gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, and it’s so amazing that they actually listened to us,” Baker said.
OSQ&A goes through the same application process for funding as other on-campus organizations, but it still isn’t enough money. The group depends heavily on money from Activity Fee Application Process but does receive donations from outside sources like PFLAG.
Baker said most of the group’s funding goes toward publicity for the group.
“Living in Oklahoma, the bottom line is that just that we’re not going to get as much funding as we would if we were in a different part of the country,” Baker said.
Tory Huff has been involved with OSQ&A during his freshman year at OSU. He said LGBTQ groups do not receive much support from the university.
“I think if the university as an institution promoted minority cultures more, such as pride week or black history month, students would feel more included,” Huff said. “I also think increasing funding to both student organizations and scholarships for queer students would help.”
In addition to a shortage of funding, OSU does not have as much staff dedicated to LGBTQ students as other Big 12 schools. Baxter recently attended a conference to see what other schools are doing for LGBTQ students.
“At OU, they have a Gender and Sexuality Center with staff there all the time,” Baxter said. “That’s a model I see a lot with other schools having centers. That’s one significant difference between OSU and other similar schools.”
Gender and Sexuality Centers are usually a safe place for students in the LGBTQ community to seek help and bond with other students. Scarlett Fisher, a pansexual sophomore at OSU, said LGBTQ friendships are important.
“Validation is also a huge benefit of having queer friends,” Fisher said. “Everyone has a different experience, but hearing similar feelings echoed by others makes them feel real.”
Baxter agrees creating a community for LGBTQ students and allies is important.
“Knowing there are a lot of other supportive people would be really helpful,” Baxter said.