The 10 Most Progressive Campuses

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Imagine a college where protests break out on the quad as often as the on-campus wind turbine produces electricity. At each of these schools, open-minded students feel at home in the company of peers who aren’t afraid to voice their opinions. They care about the environment, LGBT equality, vegan-friendly dining, sustainable practices, gender-neutral dorms, access to sexual health resources and transparent administrations. In turn, these universities have shown their support.

10. Brandeis University

Credit to Flickr user dhilowitz.

The facilities at Brandeis University create the ideal “go green” environment. Check out the water runoff-reducing pavement, solar panels, solar trash compactors and rooftop garden on the Mandel Center, one of the most environmentally friendly university buildings in the world. Brandeis’ liberal reputation continues with its active GLBTQA student group, Triskelion. The group branches off into TransBrandeis (transgender issues), Sex and Sexualities Symposium, Shalem (LGBT Jewish students) and Queer People of Color Coalition. Each group runs discussions and events and serves as a resource for students of all genders and sexualities. Student Peter Murray commended the school’s openmindedness; Brandeis is a campus in which different races, orientations and religions come together to embrace individuality, he explained.

9. University of California – Berkeley

Credit to Flickr user bnookala.

The LGBT community and health services join forces at UC Berkeley. The Trans Care Team, consisting of experts in transgender health, offers special medical and mental health services for transgender students, including a student health plan that covers gender accuracy procedures. For more support and sense of community, check out T-Cal, a group focusing on gender expression issues. For all of the LGBT community, the health center offers free sessions with health coaches to assist in the process of coming out as well as free and confidential HIV tests. If you eat vegetarian or vegan, Berkeley’s dining halls offer extensive options for those lifestyles. Feel free to mix it up once in a while with several surrounding vegan and vegetarian restaurants. This includes the Berkeley Student Food Collective, focused on providing sustainable and affordable food in the form of delicious grab-and-go sandwiches, soups and more.

8. New York University

Credit to Flickr user wallyg.

Does your school host an annual drag competition and The Real Queer Film Series? That’s what we thought. NYU also takes the cake when it comes to protests. Get fired up about any and every injustice right on campus; past protests have tackled financial negotiations with the school, the university’s sale of sweatshop goods and the removal of Chick-fil-A on campus.

When asked about the liberalness of NYU, student Talya Fischbach thought the Facebook page NYU Secrets displayed it best. “It’s really the biggest open forum that over 20,000 people follow, so we can really express our views and have open discussions about what is posted,” she said.

7. Smith College

Credit to Flickr user maskology.

Smith prides itself on its widespread eco-friendliness. Purchase policies include recycled paper and toilet paper and removing non-reusable water bottles from dining halls. Although student commuters do not account for transportation impacts, Smith has taken measures to help employees reduce their transportation, such as establishing carpool programs and paying them not to drive. The college also cooperates with a local farm to compost dining hall food waste and encourages its students to reduce electricity use. You may enter college as an energy waster, but if you go to Smith, you’ll leave as green as the Hulk.

If you’re looking for liberal with a little more edge, check out our Top 10 Hipster Campuses.

6. Oberlin College

Credit to Flickr user brianzimmerman. 

Oberlin can be found at the top of just about every liberal-related ranking out there, from Popular Mechanics’ most eco-friendly colleges to Campus Pride’s most LGBT-friendly colleges. If those rankings don’t say enough about Oberlin’s openness, student voices make up for it. Oberlin students participated in several different protests in the past few years, fighting bigotry and the college’s “no trespass” list (which blocked students from certain parts of campus unbeknowst to them). The college also offers sexual health resources such as HIV and STI tests and emergency contraception.

5. New College of Florida

Credit to Flickr user photocat001.

Eco-friendliness and sexual resources give New College of Florida students a liberal environment to live and learn. On the Council for Green Affairs students run campus composting, a community garden and a bike-sharing system. Looking for the CGA meeting? Search in one of the environmentally friendly buildings with air quality sensors, high-efficiency windows, reflective roofs and toilets that flush using rainwater. NCF also cares about the sexual health of its students. Contraception (including oral and emergency), pregnancy testing, gynecological exams and STI screenings are available through the health center, which also provides education on all topics regarding sexual health to inform its students.

4. Wesleyan University

Credit to Flickr user wesleyanuniversity.

Dining services at Wesleyan purchase 19% of dining hall food locally and cook all meals from scratch. For this reason, the dining hall abounds with vegan and vegetarian options, making it the winner of PETA’s Most Vegan-Friendly College contest in 2012. Composting and Bread Salvage, a waste-reduction bread delivery service, only begin the list of ways that Wesleyan practices eco-friendliness and sustainability. The LGBT services at the college provide another opportunity to find your niche on campus. Part of the Queer Resource Center, the Queer Sib program matches participants to a pen pal to share LGBT experiences within the college and beyond.

3. University of California – Santa Cruz

Credit to Flickr user sailorstarrr.

The open-mindedness of UC Santa Cruz is no secret. The LGBT friendliness of the school, though, makes it even more unique. Clubs such as Queer Writers, Queer Geeks (board games, card games, video games), Queer and Questioning Women’s Group, Queer Coffeehouse (LGBT gathering), Queer Book Club, an LGBT Greek organization and a variety of other LGBT clubs, gatherings and programs provide a smorgasbord of fun opportunities for the LGBT community. If your idea of fun is more along the lines of picketing, find several protests going on downtown. This year alone, UC Santa Cruz students protested workplace intimidation and unfair labor conditions.

2. Bard College

Credit to Flickr user wselman. 

Bard’s dorms feature heating and air from a geothermal heat exchange system and automatic lights. Doesn’t impress you? How about Bard’s on-campus sexual health resources, including gynecological exams, birth control, male and female protection, emergency contraception and tests and treatment for STIs? Look to the dining hall for vegetarian and vegan options at every meal, gathered and disposed of using Bard’s twelve sustainability practices. These practices include composting, fair trade organic coffee and sustainable seafood, guaranteed to impress even the biggest food critic.

“It’s the only place I can unapologetically be myself,” said Bard student Maya Osborne.

1. Macalester College

Credit to Flickr user macalester.
Finding vegetarian options isn’t always easy. But choosing Macalester’s Veggie Co-op is. It’s a meat-free living community that shares vegetarian meals and good times. The campus also goes above and beyond to provide an eco-friendly campus. Their green initiatives include composting, green cleaning products and recycled toilet paper. They also hold bragging rights as the first campus to host a wind turbine. A freaking wind turbine! When it comes to the sexual health of their students, the health center eats, sleeps and breaths safe sex. They offer STI tests and treatment, birth control counseling and prescriptions, pregnancy tests and counseling, emergency contraception and free sexual health supplies. Condom anyone? At the end of the day, it’s truly the students that make Macalester’s top spot possible by being avid social activists, evident by their protest of ties to Wells Fargo and sweatshop boycotts. The students even voice their opinion on the food, giving Macalester an “excellent” ranking for vegan and vegetarian options. It’s the students’ voices that catalyze social change on campus.

Main image credit to Tumblr user alescicchitano.


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Meaghan is a junior English and Communications major at Boston College. She enjoys going to concerts, taking photos, catching the train home to Cranston, Rhode Island to play outside with her three nephews and dining hall cookies.

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