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University deserves ‘LGBT-unfriendly campus’ trophy

Chris Rhodenbaugh | Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let me begin by stating clearly, I am a heterosexual male who loves Notre Dame as much as anyone on campus and believes ardently in the purpose of the school to promote Catholic values and educate at the highest level. It is precisely due to my love of this University that I am so disturbed that while we pride ourselves in topping lists across academia and athletics, we continue to be public champions for homophobia. The Princeton Review consistently ranks Notre Dame among the worst in accepting the homosexual community. In 2010 we were fourth on their list of “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Unfriendly” campuses. Easy and painless reforms can be made this year to move in a more tolerant direction that do not challenge the Catholic DNA of Our Lady’s University.

This article is not an attempt to debate the morality of homosexuality, but a request that we treat the homosexual students, faculty and staff on campus with the basic respect Catholic teachings demand every human being deserves. After all, the University’s mission statement reads that students shall develop a “disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice and oppression that burden the lives of so many.” Today, university officials can fire an employee on the charges that he or she is gay. Also, AllianceND — a student organization that would be an authentic voice for both gay and straight students to support the LGBT community on campus — has been denied club status 14 years consecutively after support has been demonstrated each year. It is incomprehensible why the University is willing to portray itself as homophobic for not making two basic changes. No one is asking for Notre Dame to be the most accepting school in the nation, but is it too much to ask to not place last?

A coalition of students and faculty are proposing that sexual orientation be added to the non-discrimination clause that currently reads, “The University of Notre Dame does not discriminate on the basis of race/ethnicity, color, national origin, sex, disability, veteran status or age in the administration of any of its employment, educational programs, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, athletics, recreational and other school-administered programs.” It is unclear to me the fear the University has in changing this policy. The Catholic teaching on the subject according to Notre Dame is, “the Church does not say that the homosexual orientation is wrong; rather, it is sexual activity between same sex persons that is ‘objectively disordered’ and therefore sinful. Consequently, the Church says that homosexuals are called to life-long celibacy.” If the Church does not believe homosexual orientation is wrong, what stands in the way of adding sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause? Any violation of University code of conduct on sexual behavior can continue to be cause for firing or punishment whether it is hetero- or homosexual. Leaving sexual orientation out of the non-discrimination clause is not consistent with the Church’s stance or the mission of the University.

Notre Dame requires approval for all student group activities, including protests or demonstrations. If a club holds an event without approval, club status can be revoked. Even with that level of administrative control over student club activity the University continues to deny its students the right to form AllianceND. AllianceND is “a forum in which gay and straight students can meet and form friendships, discuss and present important issues related to tolerance and solidarity within the broader University community, and find common ground in a supportive, respectful, comfortable atmosphere.” I am at a loss to understand the controversy behind that mission, particularly after reading the U.S. Catholic Bishops letter Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministers that promotes a loving dialogue and attitude of acceptance between heterosexual and homosexual members of the Catholic faith community. The bishops write, “It is not sufficient only to avoid unjust discrimination. Homosexual persons must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity.” Often, University officials cite the existence of the Core Council as a reason to exclude the AllianceND club. While Core Council is an important part of the University community, it is directly administrated by Notre Dame staff and members must be accepted through an application process. Notre Dame needs to entrust its LGBT students and straight allies with same rights of forming an organization within Catholic values that thousands of students enjoy in the more than 300 student clubs.

So join us Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Sorin Room of LaFortune for the kick-off informational event for the petition, or simply sign the petition when you get the opportunity to support changes in ND’s non-discrimination clause and the inclusion of AllianceND. As a proud member of the Notre Dame family, I ask the administration to be respectful to all its students, faculty and staff by acknowledging the petition and ending two discriminatory policies that do not reflect the strength of the Catholic character of the University.

Chris Rhodenbaugh is a senior political science major and editor of www.LeftysLastCry.com, Notre Dame’s Progressive Headquarters. He can be contacted at crhodenb@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.