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Group addresses GLBTQ inclusion

Nicole Toczauer | Monday, January 23, 2012

 

In its first meeting of the spring semester, Campus Life Council (CLC) discussed the continuation of last semester’s efforts to expand inclusion, improve school spirit and create a safer campus. 

Student body president Pat McCormick first invited members to voice their opinions on the possibility of a peer support group for a gay-straight alliance on Notre Dame’s campus.

“Is there a foreseeable future for a gay-straight group if it took place within the bounds of Catholic moral teaching?” he asked. “The work of Campus Life Council has focused on expanding inclusion, and this is one set of recommendations that has evolved, notably with the 4-5 Movement.”

Sr. Sue Dunn, assistant vice president of Student Affairs, said the Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students is currently the main venue through which the University’s Spirit of Inclusion is upheld. 

“It is a blend of students and administrative types. We have someone representing Student Affairs, the Gender Relations Center, the Counseling Center and Campus Ministry,” she said. “We also have eight students, most of whom identify as GLBT and some heterosexual allies, who build a network and programs.”

She said the issue is that many students perceive the Core Council to be directly aligned with Notre Dame’s administration. 

“Certainly, there has been at times a tension, but more and more student-run activities happen, especially now that we have a space,” Dunn said. “We feel that certainly there is a greater growth in understanding on campus.”

Dunn said if a gay-straight alliance were recognized and kept with the mission of the University, it could join the coalition created by the Core Council.

“The coalition consists of like-minded groups we can work with, so people can be more involved,” she said. “I certainly think there is the opportunity for a formal group, but were it not there, it would still exist informally through reaching out.”

Fr. Tom Gaughan, rector of Stanford Hall, said if a group were approved, it should work within the existing structure the University has created to meet the needs of the LGBTQ community.

“There’s always been the logical code of sexual conduct guided by natural law, but the Church has always lived with the pastoral response,” he said. “Coming from the standpoint of pastorally, what are the needs? If what exists now doesn’t meet the needs, we should work within the system to make what we do meet the needs.”

Diversity Council representative Alexa Arastoo said she would not want to see a gay-straight alliance become a part of Core Council. She said a completely student-run organization would allow more opportunities for leadership, and would allow the group to branch out more.

“Having a club on the student level changes the culture. It’s where we get involved and know what’s going on,” Arastoo said. “This isn’t just a tutoring or interest club, it’s part of their person.”

McCormick said the Faculty Senate expressed strong support for the proposed group and that CLC would request a meeting with representatives from the 4-5 Movement to discuss the possibilities further.

“We need to work out how we could contribute constructively to inclusion and recognize the sensitivities on all sides of this,” he said.

CLC also discussed the incorporation of a student advisory council into the Athletic Department.

Jay Mathes, co-chair of Hall Presidents’ Council, said the council would offer opportunities to students who might be interested in pursuing a career in sports. The council would also work as a sounding board, he said.

“We could see how people on campus feel about things like playing music in the stadium turf fields and a megatron,” he said.

McCormick said the group would incorporate residential life through work with Hall Presidents’ Council and other groups such as the Leprechaun Legion.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for students interested in athletics,” he said. “It would be an ideal venue to relay our concerns and work on pep rallies and school spirit.

CLC wrapped up its meeting with a quick discussion on safety.

Chief of staff Claire Sokas said Notre Dame Security Police is working on providing a mobile app that would be available to students.

McCormick said working with local law enforcement on projects such as this one helped build relationships and create a sense of accountability on all sides.

“We all have an interest in keeping the community safe and take pride living in it,” he said. “We’ve been in conversation to mitigate anything getting out of hand.”