Learn more about the AEI
The Athletic Equality Index (AEI) is Athlete Ally’s reporting of LGBTQ inclusion policies and practices in collegiate athletics. Launched in 2017 and updated in 2019, the report initially provided insight into how NCAA Power Five conference schools support their LGBTQ student-athletes, coaches, administrators, staff, and fans. The 2020 AEI looks at the athletic departments of all NCAA D-I schools with an updated methodology. As of November 2021, the AEI has expanded to include D-II and D-III institutions.
Athlete Ally believes sport will change the world when it welcomes and empowers all people. As a leading national nonprofit working at the intersection of sport and LGBTQI+ equality, Athlete Ally works to end the structural and systemic oppression that isolates, excludes, and endangers LGBTQI+ people in sport. We educate individuals and institutions to understand obstacles to inclusion for LGBTQI+ people and how they can build an inclusive culture within their athletic communities. We work to ensure sport governing bodies, teams and leagues adopt policies that reflect the diversity of their constituents. We incubate athlete activism to advance LGBTQI+ equality in and through sport. For more information, visit www.athleteally.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
In 2019, hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community were on the rise, with the number of anti-LGBTQ hate groups soaring 43%, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. COVID-19 has also placed LGBTQI+ youth at increased risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality as a result of social isolation, financial hardships, and increased stress around the pandemic. According to a recent study on mental health by The Trevor Project, when LGBTQ+ youth have access to sports, they earn higher grades and are less likely to have depressive symptoms. That access depends upon schools proactively fostering an environment where students are safe, welcomed and accepted for who they are.
This year’s report differs from 2017 and 2019 in several ways. For the first time, every criterion for the 2020 AEI was within the control of the athletic department alone. In light of changes to the ways Title IX is – or isn’t — being enforced under the current U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights administration, point allocations in the 2020 AEI emphasized policies that supported LGBTQ+ student-athlete safety. Further, all criteria needed to be publicly accessible information. In 2017 and 2019, if an institution shared they had a policy or enacted a practice, they were awarded points. In 2020, the department needed to demonstrate its commitment to LGBTQ inclusion publicly through official channels.
The AEI is not representative of the experiences of every current or former LGBTQ+ student-athlete, staff member, coach, administrator, or fan at an institution. The AEI does not provide an in-depth analysis of institutional culture, historical context, or societal context. To address these gaps, we are developing a campus climate survey and looking to tell the stories of more LGBTQI+ student-athletes.
The AEI aims to:
It is our hope that the AEI can be a blueprint for inclusion by showing schools exactly where policies and practices are lacking and providing resources to develop them. We also see the AEI as a resource for LGBTQ+ student-athletes and their loved ones, who want to be sure that the institution they choose has welcoming and inclusive policies in place. In a world where local and national politics are constantly shifting and offering different levels of protection to LGBTQ+ students, we see college and University campuses as having a unique role in proactively creating safe spaces and modeling for society as a whole what inclusion can and should look like.
Our team performs a comprehensive audit of the student-athlete handbook, policy manuals, and official athletics website of every NCAA D-I institution, and a growing number of D-II and D-III institutions as well, to identify policies and practices of LGBTQ+ inclusion. The following eight measures have been proven to positively impact the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community:
Every athletic department (see our statement on Religiously-Affiliated institutions for exceptions) has the capacity to earn full points on the AEI by enacting and making publicly accessible each policy, resource, and training to staff, fans, and student-athletes. Access to information is imperative and demonstrates a department’s commitment to sustained LGBTQ+ inclusion. Learn more here.
Great question! If your school scored well (generally an 85 or above), we encourage you to use the social media tools on your school’s AEI page to spread the exciting news! If your school didn’t do well, you can post on social media calling for greater action or contact the Athletic Department / Alumni office and let them know your concerns. Please note that scores are constantly being updated and your school’s score may change!
Scores are updated on a rolling basis as we receive updates from schools. This means your school’s score may change.