LGBT/Ally group Campus Pride is warning LGBT students to take Princeton Review’s ratings of gay-friendly campuses with a big grain of salt.

Princeton Review’s guide to The Best 371 Colleges ranks schools on how inclusive and welcoming they are to members of the LGBT community, but it does it on the basis of a single survey question, asking responders whether they agree or disagree with this statement: “Students, faculty, and administrators treat all persons equally regardless of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.”

That’s it. That’s the whole basis for the ranking.

As Campus Pride points out, “the majority of students responding to such a question — irrespective of response — will be straight. Their perceptions of equality are likely quite different from those of LGBT students.” Without knowing what conditions on the campus actually are, or what LGBT students actually think, it’s hard to put much weight on the results of a single survey question.

Campus Pride isn’t quite a disinterested bystander on this issue, since they publish a guide to gay-friendly campuses and maintain a LGBT “campus climate” website. But their point is a good one, anyway. Asking straight students whether a campus is a good environment for LGBT students doesn’t give you much information at all. In fact, it may give you the opposite of the information you need.

If a campus has an active LGBT student community, and a climate of openness to LGBT issues, straight students are likely to know about any difficulties that LGBT students are confronting and reflect that awareness in their answers to the Princeton Review survey. If such a climate doesn’t exist, straight students may assume that there aren’t any problems, since they haven’t heard of any. So a gay-friendly campus could easily rank lower on the Princeton Review ratings than one with a less supportive environment.

PR should really rethink this survey for next year’s edition of their guide.