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AllianceND hopes to gain club status

Joseph McMahon | Friday, October 30, 2009

For the 11th time in the past 13 years, AllianceND, the unofficial gay-straight alliance at Notre Dame, is applying for official club status.

The members submitted the application earlier this week and expect to hear if the group will be granted official status in April.

“I think even just in the time that I’ve been here this is an issue that has come to the forefront,” senior and AllianceND officer Jessica Mahon said. “We’re really hopeful.”

Despite the University’s refusal to grant AllianceND official club status in the past, co-chair Emily Salvaterra said recent events, such as the softening of the administration’s stance on adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause when it was presented to University President Fr. John Jenkins last March, have given many of the group’s organizers hope for this year.

“The response that [the Progressive Student Alliance (PSA)] got to adding sexual orientation to the nondiscrimination clause from Fr. Jenkins … was more than we’ve ever actually heard before,” she said. “It’s just another little thing.”

Senior Patrick Bears, who has been involved with AllianceND for the past four years, said he also noticed a shift since his freshman year in students’ attitudes towards the GLBTQ community at Notre Dame.

“It’s mostly been the student body that I’ve been seeing making the change. And I think the University needs to change with the student body,” he said. “Just looking around the residence halls, I see a lot more progressive attitudes towards the issues than freshman year.”

Bears said he was motivated when many students wrote to The Observer to argue against an Oct. 7 Letter to the Editor entitled “Don’t ask, Don’t tell,” which advocated instituting the military’s policy towards homosexuals at Notre Dame.

Officer Chris Collins said he knows of students who had decided to transfer out of Notre Dame because of the lack of support for the GLBTQ community.
“We know people who have left [Notre Dame] because they felt that it was hostile,” he said.

Collins said he believes AllianceND can involve more students that the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students, which is composed of eight students and four University administrators.

“Your name goes in a pamphlet and it’s a very public organization, but it’s also a very limited organization and very few people can be involved in it,” he said. “There’s a lot of support on campus and people that want to get involved and AllianceND is a way we can channel that energy.”

Currently, AllianceND’s Facebook group has 213 members, and co-chair Melanie LeMay said “20 or so” people interested in joining the club have approached her.

Salvaterra said AllianceND would be promoting Catholic social teachings by expanding Notre Dame’s spirit of inclusion.

“There’s a lot in Catholic social teaching that people sometimes forget about like the dignity of the human person,” she said. “What we are trying to say is there is a place in Catholic social teaching for [everyone], and it’s not something to be guilty about.”

Bears said accepting the application would show that the University has made major strides.

“I think if we were given club membership it would show the University is trying to make some strides in the progressive movement,” he said.

If their application is accepted, AllianceND would become an official club, complete with the ability to hold meetings, reserve spaces and fund events.

But if the application is denied for the 11th time, LeMay said the group would simply apply again next year.

“If we don’t get club status this year, we will continue to apply in the coming years just to carry out the principle of the matter that we’ve been denied for so long in equality, in principle,” she said.