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Gay-straight alliance debate tabled for week

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, February 8, 2012

 

Student Senate passed resolutions at its meeting Wednesday requesting the Hesburgh Main Library extend its hours and creating a formal process for selecting the Hall of the Year. Meanwhile, a discussion related to a possible gay-straight alliance was tabled until Wednesday.

The resolution to extend the library’s hours asked the Hesburgh Library administration to hire sufficient staff so the facility can remain open until 2 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. The library currently closes at 11 p.m. those days. 

Student body vice president Brett Rocheleau said there have been discussions about keeping the library open 24 hours, but no conclusions have been reached.

The resolution regarding Hall of the Year mandated attendance at all Hall Presidents’ Council (HPC) meetings by a member of hall government. 

It also stipulated the decision to award the title of Hall of the Year will be decided by a review board comprised of two senators, one senior Judicial Council member and HPC co-chairs, treasurers, social chairs and athletic chairs. The board will allocate points to each hall to determine the winner.

Ben Noe, internal affairs director for student government, said the resolution helps avoid overregulation of HPC.

“I think that this is a good intermediate step to put in a procedure, but also to give Hall [Presidents’] Council some leeway about how they go about the actual process itself,” Noe said.

Rocheleau said if someone believed the review board made a biased decision, a complaint could be filed with Judicial Council.

Sophomore Tom Lienhoop, a member of Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Students, spoke about the need for a gay-straight alliance (GSA) on campus.

“The reason we need a gay-straight alliance here at Notre Dame is partly that the environment is still largely homophobic,” Lienhoop said. “The fact that the gay-straight alliance has been denied [club status] … in the past is kind of seen by people outside the University as a homophobic act. It’s an act of discrimination.” 

Lienhoop said a student-led GSA would grant more independence to the GLBT community than Core Council does. He said the organization would also provide a venue for straight allies to express their support.

The GSA would be service-based, Lienhoop said. It would partner with high school GSAs to fund campaigns against teen bullying.

“We could also partner with GSAs at other universities in the region to make our outreach even more pervasive,” Lienhoop said. “And service isn’t really a mission of the Core Council at all, so that’s really a detriment.” 

The difference between Core Council and the proposed, more informal GSA is largely contextual, Lienhoop said.

“People could just come to a [GSA] meeting once every two weeks and it would be less formal in that sense, but we could also have a campaign targeted at specific issues,” he said. “The way that Core programming is set up right now, you have to declare your sexuality or be certain of your sexuality in order to participate.”

Lienhoop said this requirement dissuades students from attending Core Council events. He said the proposed GSA would not require students to declare their sexualities

“Certainly, things that alliance does could be more lenient and more student-based,” Lienhoop said.

Lienhoop said it was not practical to create a GSA as an outgrowth of Core Council.

“The number of people who want to participate in alliance is far too many to sustain an organized role with an expanded Core Council,” he said. 

The Student Activities Office had previously said a GSA was unnecessary because Core Council already served the functions the proposed alliance would serve, Lienhoop said.

Nich Ochoa, multicultural affairs director for student government, said there are multiple clubs for students that identify as black, and all target different interests. 

Student body president Pat McCormick asked if any other clubs had been denied recognition on the grounds that their purposes were already being served. 

“If we are unaware of another organization that has not been allowed to [duplicate some of the functions of an existing organization], then it seems to me to be a problematic point of inconsistency to then level that criticism with a gay-straight alliance,” McCormick said.

Multiple senators said members of their residence halls supported recognizing a GSA. 

Senate voted to table the resolution until next Wednesday’s meeting. Rocheleau said a similar resolution is in discussion at Faculty Senate and Campus Life Council. 

Lienhoop said representatives from Core Council planned to meet with Vice President for Student Affairs Fr. Tom Doyle on Thursday to discuss the creation of a GSA.