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Spirit of exclusion?

Letter to the Editor | Monday, April 6, 2009

The effectiveness of the “Spirit of Inclusion” doctrine was discussed on Monday. In the words of Fr. Hesburgh, “[a]ll you need [i]s a vision of where you want to go and the ability to inspire a lot of people to help you get there.” By meeting with Fr. Jenkins, students from the Campaign for Human advanced their vision – equal treatment of GLBTQ persons within the Notre Dame community.

The University maintains that its 1997 “Spirit of Inclusion” doctrine is sufficient to meet the needs of GLBTQ persons. Although in its introduction the doctrine mentions discriminatory bases other than sexual orientation, it then focuses specifically on GLBTQ persons and provides justifications for the University’s refusal to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination clause. The University states that it will not add sexual orientation to its legal non-discrimination clause, but instead calls the Notre Dame community to inclusiveness. Ironically, the “Spirit of Inclusion” doctrine claims to include GLBTQ persons; it excludes them. The doctrine’s practical effect is the demarcation of Notre Dame community members into two discrete groups; it separates GLBTQ persons by classifying them as distinct from non-GLBTQ persons.

Despite its elegant phrasing, the doctrine does little to generate a feeling of inclusion for GLBTQ persons. Although creating the “Spirit of Inclusion” doctrine was an important step, more than a decade has passed without progress towards the addition of sexual orientation to the University’s non-discrimination clause. By perpetuating the notion that sexual orientation is not significant enough to be included in the clause, the administration has, perhaps unintentionally, conveyed to the Notre Dame community that persons other than heterosexuals are not equally accepted. This stance has created a culture in the Notre Dame community of exclusion at best and intolerance at worst.

Notre Dame is a unique place; it is an institution whose members work together to maintain a genuine and caring community. It is unfortunate that the perpetuation of separate treatment towards GLBTQ persons threatens to dismantle Notre Dame’s historical tradition of holding itself to a high standard of civil rights and social justice.

Jacqueline Cahill

grad student

Fischer Grad Housing

April 2