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Closet demonstration cancelled

Angela Saoud | Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Members of the unrecognized student group AllianceND, who had planned to display a super-sized Coming Out Closet on South Quad Tuesday, were told Monday that disciplinary actions could result if the closet appeared. The University saw it as a demonstration of an unrecognized student group,” said project coordinator Anna Gomberg. “Student Affairs did not give us the approval to put the display up, and I was told through one of our co-sponsors, the Sociology department, that disciplinary action would most likely be taken.”Project co-coordinator Anna Gomberg said the closet, scheduled to appear from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., was meant to serve as a “coming together of the community” and to highlight National Coming Out Day. The Graduate Student Union was also one of the event’s co-sponsors.University spokesperson Matt Storin said Student Affairs debated the event throughout the afternoon. “All I know is Student Affairs followed the policy of DuLac and other University policies,” Storin said. “The decisions made were consistent with these policies.”Attempts to contact the Office of Student Affairs were unsuccessful.According to statement from AllianceND, the three purposes of the event were to recognize National Coming Out Day, emphasize the term “coming out of the closet” and celebrate “the processes of growth and discovery critical to development across the lifespan in many domains.” Before the Purdue football game, AllianceND handed out orange armbands for students to wear during the game. Because of this event’s success, Gomberg said she was surprised that the closet was not approved.”I thought that was a pretty big demonstration, but there didn’t seem to be any opposition about it,” Gomberg said. “This makes me worried about students’ academic freedom. I just hope this isn’t going to become a trend.”Gomberg said the event was largely intended to be just a display.”We had really planned to do it in good spirits and good fun and also in support of gay and lesbian students,” Gomberg said. “We had a good handout prepared with a lot of information on it, but we refrained from distributing it until we knew whether or not we were going to get approval.”Gomberg said AllianceND does not intend to reschedule the event.In addition to the closet event, the Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Students distributed information and rainbow ribbons in support of gay and lesbian students in LaFortune Monday. Saint Mary’s also sponsored events Monday for National Coming Out Day.College psychology professor Catherine Pittman said opinions on the events were mixed. “Several students e-mailed us negatively after a mass e-mail we sent last week announcing the Coming Out week events were received,” Pittman said. “That concerns us. If it were students responding to a racially-diverse week e-mail, most everyone would say that was wrong, but people seem to get away with it when it’s a sexually-diverse topic.”Pittman said the events, including a guest speaker, concert and an ongoing display on sexuality in the Cushwa-Leighton library were organized to try to embrace acceptance and awareness at the College. “One of the important parts of our campus is to be accepting of all people. It’s in our mission statement,” Pittman said. “We are supposed to be supportive and loving but for some people, it’s challenging dealing with people who are different. Part of campus diversity is dealing with those who are different than ourselves and it’s important to recognize that these students, while in the minority, are always here. It’s important to make them feel like they are part of a community too.”