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Campus groups place closet on quad

Angela Saoud | Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Notre Dame department of sociology, the Graduate Student Union and other student groups have coordinated a series of events to address heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and queer (GLBTQ) issues today with the aim to unify the campus community.A larger-than-life closet will be placed on South Quad from 5 to 7 p.m. tonight so students can come out of the closet not only as gay or lesbian but also as such things as a sports fanatic or a chemistry major.Organizers had tried to hold the same demonstration on Oct. 11, but the event was cancelled after Student Affairs declined to provide permission.Anna Gomberg, one of the organizers of today’s events and a member of the unrecognized student group AllianceND, credited a number of groups with easing the organization of the ‘Coming-Out Celebration.’ “This time around, the GSU and Sociology coordinated the communications with Student Affairs, without any connection to AllianceND,” Gomberg said. “AllianceND is not an established student group, and therefore does not incur the same rights and privileges as official student groups.”Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Kirk said the display is being allowed because the groups sponsoring it this time are officially recognized campus entities. “An academic department – sociology – and the Graduate Student Union were jointly granted permission to conduct a demonstration and use campus grounds for an event [today],” Kirk said. “The University procedures necessary to conduct these events were followed.”As part of today’s events, AllianceND will host activist Andy Thayer, founder of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, who will speak about social movements in America as well as his personal experiences with the gay rights movement. In conjunction with tonight’s campus opening of “Angels in America Part I: Millennium Approaches,” a Tony award-winning play about the AIDS crisis and its impact on the GLBTQ community, orange T-shirts stating the phrase “Gay? Fine by Me” will again dot the campus. Nearly 2,000 T-shirts were distributed in the spring of 2004. About 500 more T-shirts have been distributed and Gomberg said she hopes students will wear the shirts they have from last year both today and throughout the year.”We intend to do many more T-shirt days and will try always to order more shirts ahead of time to meet the demand,” she said. “I hope that this event will show the community that the Notre Dame community itself is a gay-friendly, non-homophobic environment and that individuals in this community are willing to support gay and lesbian students on campus.”In addition to the larger events, the day will also offer students a variety of informational handouts and a chance to share their opinions on the “Truth Ribbon,” a large rainbow ribbon that will be displayed near the closet. Students will be able to write their thoughts and experiences on the rainbow as a way to increase communication in the community. Gomberg said she hopes that even students who might not be supportive of the events will at least be willing to talk to one another about it. “I’m sure not everyone is supportive of these events, but I hope they inspire dialogue within the Notre Dame community. We want these events to contribute to campus life in good ways,” Gomberg said. “I want Notre Dame to be a safe space for all of its students, because we are all a part of Notre Dame.”Gomberg said while she hopes that the University will grant AllianceND club status this year, she just wants these events to cause people to discuss issues with one another.”Gay rights are human rights,” Gomberg said. “This is such an important point that so many people miss.”