Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Raising the Bar: Law Schools in the Heartland Struggle to Recruit LGBT Students

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Raising the Bar: Law Schools in the Heartland Struggle to Recruit LGBT Students

Article excerpt

Liz Van Deusen, a first-year law student at the University of Iowa College of Law in Iowa City, is frustrated. Despite the administration's best efforts, only one other student at the law school self-identifies as gay. "We need to do a better job of promoting ourselves as a welcoming environment," says Van Deusen, "so that prospective students understand that they don't have to be in a major metropolitan environment to have a gay-positive experience in law school."

That's the challenge facing many law schools in the American heartland these days, as budding LGBT lawyers and legal scholars flock to programs in big cities, leaving schools that are in seemingly less cosmopolitan environs scrambling for diversity.

"It's definitely difficult for schools in the Midwest and South to attract politically active students, regardless of sexual orientation," says Carolyn Bratt, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law in Lexington. But she knows firsthand how difficult it can be to be gay in her part of the country: She taught for 15 years before she publicly came out while testifying before a state legislative committee against a pending homophobic bill.

Since then, "things have changed," says Bratt, who's been at the law school almost 32 years. …

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