Concerns and recommendations
| Friday, January 29, 2010
Editor’s Note: This guest column was written by members of the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students as well as the former Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Network.
We come together as former members of the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students, as well as the former Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs, to address the Jan. 13 publication of “The Mobile Party.” We believe that the creation and allowance of this deplorable comic to go to press is evidence of the systemic problems of homophobia and prejudice that continue to exist on campus.
During our respective tenures, we worked tirelessly to advise the administration on how to remedy the very issues of hate, homophobia and intolerance promoted in the comic strip. We knew firsthand of students who were so uncomfortable in what was supposed to be their “home away from home” that they would pray before falling asleep that they didn’t wake up in the morning. Because of this, we worked to ensure that every gay and lesbian student felt secure and safe enough to actualize his or her full potential as a scholar, individual, and contributing member of the community. We hoped when we left that we had made it a more welcoming place. However, this recent event is an unfortunate confirmation that more needs to be done.
Even though this publication has resulted in outrage, we found the apology from The Observer Editorial Board greatly lacking. Except for a cursory mention of the Core Council, never once did their statement address the harmed community directly. They also never stated what the comic contained, why it was hurtful, and to whom it was directed. Even upon reading the University’s official response, we were still dissatisfied. The response merely echoed what was said by The Observer. This vagueness demonstrates that Notre Dame has not yet acknowledged the presence of a gay and lesbian community. The students negatively affected by this deserve more.
Over the course of our collected years at Notre Dame, we have been involved in an innumerable number of committees, advisory sessions and presentations related to tolerance and education about issues related to sexuality. However, those things can only do so much to create systemic change. They should not be used as a replacement for direct and concrete action by the University. It seems, at times, that all of these discussions and forums only exist to quell the demands being made for real action. It’s time for the University to put real substance behind what it claims to promote, instead of attempting to pacify the gay and lesbian members of its community with lip service.
We call on the University to address this shameful episode in a way more befitting a reputable institution of higher learning that prides itself on “seek[ing] to cultivate in its students … a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many.” We feel that the following actions need to be taken in order to show the public that Notre Dame is a place where everyone, gay or straight, is welcome and valued.
1) The University must take direct action to address the underlying problems of homophobia on campus. A declaration needs to be made that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by a school that states that “God’s grace prompts human activity to assist the world in creating justice grounded in love.”
2) As has been advised numerous times in the past, the University must add “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination clause to officially affirm that no individual on campus is considered a second-class citizen. They must show that all students — gay and straight — deserve equal amounts of fairness, respect and protection. The mere promise of a safe space for everyone is undone when no real body exists to authoritatively create and preserve the vowed environment.
3) An official gay/straight student group must be allowed/established. Notre Dame is the only school on the Top 20 National Research Universities list to not have a recognized gay/straight alliance. Ignoring and undervaluing select members of a community only serves to limit the learning experience for the whole campus.
4) The consultative role of the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students needs to be taken more seriously. In 2008, the Council composed an internal report to University officials about the serious conditions confronting gays and lesbians at Notre Dame and how to improve campus life and administrative policies. The counsels made were not heeded in a palpable sense, and that lack of action is evidenced by this recent dehumanizing event.
We hope that the University realizes it is time to move forward and takes our concerns and recommendations seriously. We implore the University to use the opportunity presented by this shameful episode to fulfill its obligation “to create a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good that will bear fruit as learning becomes service to justice.” In light of recent events, this is needed now more than ever.
Guillermo J. Alfaro