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GSA resolution passes

Marisa Iati | Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Student Senate passed a resolution requesting the University approve an application for a gay-straight alliance (GSA) on Wednesday. The resolution also requested the University offer a public statement explaining its decision on the application.

Twenty-one members of Senate voted to approve the resolution and two members abstained from voting.

Junior Katie Rose, gender issues director for student government and vice president-elect, said student government’s records show the possibility of an official gay-straight alliance has been discussed since at least 1989.

Senate entered into closed, executive session for much of its discussion about the resolution. When public discussion resumed, student body vice president and president-elect Brett Rocheleau, a junior, clarified the position of the Office of Student Affairs on the recognition of a GSA.

“They believe that with [the Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students], the pastoral counsel that comes with these questions [of sexuality] is needed,” Rocheleau said. “With a peer-to-peer advocate, they are afraid that this need of the counseling won’t be as well met.”

Morrissey Hall senator and sophomore Cal Belden said if Core Council were the only resource needed by students that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (GLBT), more students would utilize it.

Sophomore Gaby Nunez, Cavanaugh Hall senator, said Student Affairs might not understand the value of peer-to-peer interaction.

“In a situation like a gay-straight alliance, if you have a gay student who has come out mentoring a questioning student through the experience, that might be more effective because the student has been there,” she said.

Tom Lienhoop, a Core Council member and sophomore, said a GSA would augment Core Council’s work.

“There’s so much value in having a peer-to-peer organization that is recognized at the University,” he said. “Without speaking on behalf of other Core Council members, that is something that has been expressed before — the fact that a GSA would be a benefit regardless of what Core is already doing.”

Student body president and senior Pat McCormick said the effort to request the recognition of a GSA is not a criticism of the Student Activities Office (SAO), but rather, an attempt to engage in dialogue.

“I think that as an administration we are also seeking to advance that spirit of inclusion,” McCormick said. “I think the hope of the resolution is that sense that we can do more on this issue, that we can include more fully, and that this resolution isn’t an attempt to criticize the attempts that have already been made, but an attempt to move them forward.”

Rocheleau said the next step is to promote collaboration between SAO and students that file an application to create a GSA.

Senior Joanna Whitfield, vice president of the Progressive Student Alliance, said after the meeting she was glad Senate took time to discuss the resolution and the effects it would have on the student body.

“I think that this resolution affirms that Notre Dame really is inclusive to all its students,” Whitfield said. “Students really want to further inclusion and they really want to help out GLBT students on this campus … We’re also really happy that it’s the Student Senate, so it does show that the students really do support this movement.”

In addition to approving the GSA proposal, Senate also approved junior Alexa Shaw as the next student union treasurer and passed two other resolutions.

One resolution changed the transition date for Student Union Board positions from April 1 to May 1, effective this spring. The other resolution imposed restrictions to maintain the balance of the “carry-forward” financial account that exists as a source of emergency funding for student government.