Editorial Board | Thursday, February 9, 2012
As Notre Dame’s election season gradually makes its way through every pore of student government, students will head to the polls to determine next year’s leadership. Like Wednesday’s election of future student body president and vice president Brett Rocheleau and Katie Rose, the ballot will be simple — no special referendums, no initiatives and no propositions.
Why should it be any different? As a student body led by a representative government, we trust our elected leaders to make decisions that speak for the entire student community. We may not agree with all of them, but senators, class presidents and council representatives have been mandated to act with our best interests in mind.
On Wednesday, Student Senate discussed the formation of a gay-straight alliance (GSA) on campus, a conversation advocates of GLBTQ rights have repeatedly asked for. The conversation came a day after a federal appeals court overturned California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, arguing the ban discriminates against gays and lesbians.
Senators and administrators have considered extending Notre Dame’s current non-discrimination clause to include sexual orientation in the past, but the sides remain far apart.
Through the Core Council for GLBTQ students, Notre Dame recognizes the need for a forum to address the concerns of gay and lesbian students, but it doesn’t go far enough.
A GSA on Notre Dame’s campus would give both gay and straight students an avenue to show solidarity without having to explicitly declare their sexuality. The Alliance would also participate in service opportunities with local high schools and fellow universities to prevent bullying.
The Student Activities Office has previously said GSA was unnecessary because of the existence of Core Council. However, the Council only seats eight student members, the majority of which must be openly gay, lesbian or bisexual. That leaves three seats or less for straight students to lend their support, furthering the stereotype that straight students don’t share the same conviction as the GLBTQ community for change.
Clearly that isn’t the case. The 4-to-5 Movement, organized on campus in October 2011, was established on the premise that four out of five college-educated people between the ages of 18 and 30 in the United States currently support a general package of gay civil rights. The organization wants to bring that ratio to five out of five.
But the movement lacks the recognition to fully advertise its mission, the resources to program much-needed events and the clout to advance its widely-accepted goals.
A GSA could change all that.
As an officially recognized club by the Student Activities Office, a GSA could immediately mobilize support for its cause, beginning with open membership for the entire student body, less restrictions on number and sexual orientation. Surely the voices and commitment of an entire organization of students will resonate louder than those of eight.
You’ve never seen an advertisement for a GLBTQ group in The Observer. No one has. As a publication distributed across campus, The Observer cannot accept advertisements from student-run organizations not recognized by the University. But a GSA could easily place an ad, extending its reach to the entire campus and exposing the community to its mission.
A GSA could fundraise, program campus-advertised events and, perhaps most importantly, receive a mailbox on the third floor of LaFortune, right next to every other University-recognized club. The movement for extended GLBTQ rights would finally have the same access to resources awarded to any other student organization.
This campus has leaders, from student-athletes, to exceptional intellectuals, to student government policy makers. They can inspire classmates to demand quarter-priced hotdogs and advocate for men against violence. But they lack organization. The physics professor, the lab partner and the All-American share more than you might think. The formation of a GSA would centralize the efforts of the entire campus for GLBTQ rights, raising the whispers to voices that couldn’t be ignored.
Rocheleau and Rose have been given a great gift: the opportunity to lead. In their platform, they have included a push for the extension of the non-discrimination clause and the establishment of a GSA.
We believe they can and trust they will; if students truly consider themselves one of the four out of the five, they should show their support for this initiative.