Dave Chappelle’s Netflix comedy special “The Closer” made headlines shortly after airing in October 2021, as it was widely perceived as transphobic and homophobic. Despite the criticism, Netflix has continued to back Chappelle, choosing him to be one of their headliners in an upcoming comedy festival in Los Angeles this spring.

Intelligent.com wanted to learn about how the comedy special and similar content affects LGBTQIA+ college students as well as their experiences on campus, so we surveyed 800 students identifying as members of this community.

Key findings:

  • 61% say they’ve experienced more discrimination since the special aired
  • 18% say they feel unsafe on campus every day because of their identity
  • 29% believe that they have experienced discrimination from a professor
  • 42% have dropped or failed a class due to discrimination

6 in 10 Have Experienced an Increased Level of Discrimination Since the Special Aired

When we asked the students if they have experienced more discrimination since the special aired in October 2021, more than 60% said that they had. Thirty-seven percent stated they had experienced somewhat more discrimination since October, while 24% said they had experienced a lot more discrimination.

40% Believe the Special and Similar Content is to Blame

We asked students to state their opinions on whether or not content like “The Closer” is responsible for increasing confrontation or tension with other students. Twenty percent of respondents stated that they believe this is somewhat likely, while 19% believe that it is very likely.

18% of LGBTQ+ Students Feel Unsafe on Campus Every Day

The influence of content like “The Closer” adds to an already unsafe environment for many students who identify as LGBTQIA+. When asked how often they feel unsafe on campus due to their sexual identity or gender identity, nearly one in five respondents said every day.

Online Bullying and Verbal Slurs Are the Most Common Sources of Discrimination

When we asked students to describe the ways in which they have felt unsafe on campus, the largest percentage of respondents (47%) said that they had been subjected to online bullying or discrimination as well as verbal assaults like slurs or name-calling. Thirty-three percent also stated that they had been physically threatened or assaulted on campus.

Students also contributed responses in the “Other” category about being stared at, having unwanted photos taken of them, feeling unsafe walking alone on campus at night, fearing being kidnapped or sexually assaulted when walking alone on campus, feeling judgment from the higher-ups on campus, and feeling disconnected from a personal safety net of other LGBTQ+ persons.

29% Say They Have Experienced Discrimination by a Professor

When we asked students to detail where the discrimination on campus most often came from, the largest percentage (44%) said that they experience discrimination from fellow students. In addition, 30% say they have experienced discrimination from campus staff, and 29% have been discriminated against by one of their professors.

47% Believe They May Have Received a Lower Grade Due to Discrimination

When asked if they believe that discrimination from a professor has resulted in them receiving a lower grade in a class, 25% of respondents stated that they thought it was somewhat likely, while 22% said it was very likely.

42% of LGBTQ+ Students Have Dropped and/or Failed a Class Due to Discrimination

Eighteen percent of respondents said that they had dropped a class due to discrimination from a professor, and 23% have dropped a class because they felt unsafe due to another student in the class. Additionally, 22% say they believe they have failed a class due to stress caused by discrimination received from their professor, and 20% have failed a class because of stress from discrimination by fellow classmates.

Our findings show that many LGBTAQIA+ college students feel unsafe on campus and their grades and attendance have been affected by stress and fear caused by discrimination from fellow students, campus staff, and even professors. The data also shows that a notable percentage of students in this community believe “The Closer” and similar media has had a negative effect on the discrimination they have experienced on their campuses.

As Netflix doesn’t seem to be taking any steps to ensure additional harmful content is not aired, it will be even more important for institutions to provide resources, support, and safety to this essential part of their student population.

This survey was commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish between December 14, 2021, and January 1, 2022. In total, 800 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were between the ages of 18 and 24 and currently attending college at least part-time in person. Additionally, respondents had to clear three screening questions to determine if they identified as members of the LGBTQIA+ community and were comfortable with the content of the survey.