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Faculty support LGBTQ individuals

John Cameron | Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nearly 400 University faculty and staff called upon the administration to add protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) persons to its non-discrimination policy in a full-page ad in Tuesday’s issue of The Observer.

The University publically declined to add sexual orientation to its non-discrimination clause in April. On May 2, faculty members submitted a Letter to the Editor in The Observer asking the University to reconsider that decision.

The Tuesday advertisement’s text was taken from that letter but included an expanded list of 366 signees.

Sociology professor Richard Williams, who led the effort to collect signatures, said it was important the complete list of signees be made visible to readers, whereas it had been limited to The Observer’s website in May.

“When we first put it out there, we put it together in less than a week and we only had 120 people sign, but we thought we could get a much broader and diverse group [if given more time],” he said. “Originally [the list of names] was all online, so I think they got lost in the shuffle. I thought by getting more names and paying to get them all in the paper, it would be a more striking statement.”

The tripling in signatures between the issuance of the Letter to the Editor and the running of this week’s advertisement indicates faculty participation in the original letter was limited by lack of awareness, not lack of support, Williams said. Since running of the ad, 20 additional names have been added online.

“The biggest reason people didn’t sign is that they didn’t know about it,” he said. “There was no University mailing, it was more listservs and word-of-mouth. I had people telling me today ‘I would have signed if I had known about it.'”

One material difference in the secondary issuance is a document posted to Williams’s webpage titled “Catholic Justification for the Notre Dame Faculty/Staff Letter in Support of Notre Dame’s LGBTQ Community,” which refers to Catholic teaching on the treatment of homosexuals. Williams said the addition was inspired by questions he received after running the original letter.

“That was prompted by someone emailing me, asking how [the letter] fit with the Catholic mission of the University,” he said. “These statements are not in conflict with Catholic teachings in the least. If there are people out there who think we have to be hostile to [homosexual individuals], they can’t use the Catholic Church to justify those beliefs and behaviors.”

While the end of the letter encourages the University to add LGBTQ persons to its non-discrimination policy, Williams said he hopes readers will not overlook the first paragraph, which pledges signees’ “offices and classrooms will be safe and open spaces, where anti-LGBTQ discrimination, harassment or violence will not be tolerated.”

“We aren’t just trying to influence the University. … We can’t control what other people do, but we can control what we do ourselves,” he said. “We wanted to show the members of the LGBTQ community that we support them, that we will not discriminate against them.”

Whether or not the declaration of support affects the University’s decision on the non-discrimination policy, Williams hopes it will impact individuals’ views and behaviors toward LGBTQ people.

“Maybe we’ll influence someone in their personal behavior,” he said. “We don’t know what will come of this, but we hope some good will.”