The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Resolution returned for revision

Maddie Hanna | Thursday, October 27, 2005

Senators discussed a resolution urging the creation of a student-controlled organization to supplement the University Standing Committee on Gay and Lesbian Student Needs – unlike past Senate resolutions expressing support for existing groups unrecognized by the University – but sent it back for revision at Wednesday’s Student Senate meeting.

University Affairs committee chair Matt Walsh and Gender Relations committee chair Ali Wishon introduced the resolution, which begins by describing the atmosphere its writers believe currently exists at Notre Dame.

This atmosphere includes inequality, discrimination, lack of acceptance and lack of support for friends and family of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) individuals, the resolution reads.

A big reason these problems aren’t being resolved, Wishon said, is that the University Standing Committee – composed of administrators, faculty and students – is too busy to thoroughly investigate possible solutions.

“Because of the extreme amount of programming that [the University Standing Committee] has done in the past … They have not had an opportunity to really take a look at what is needed at this University and make recommendations to [Vice President of Student Affairs] Father [Mark] Poorman,” Wishon said.

The resolution also mentions the support for events such as the recent “Speak Out! Sexuality and Gender at Notre Dame” forum, as well as Catholic Social Teaching and Notre Dame’s commitment “to be the nation’s, if not the world’s, premier Catholic institution of higher learning.”

These factors all demonstrate the need for increased dialogue of GLBTQ issues at Notre Dame, Walsh and Wishon said.

They believe a student committee is the way to effectively increase this dialogue.

“Students have the most at stake and the most influence on other students – they are the most in tune with other students,” Wishon said.

The resolution concludes that the Standing Committee should function primarily as an advisory body composed of upper administrative officials, while a new “separate, student-controlled and operated organization” should be created to handle the Standing Committee’s programming duties and increase educational initiatives.

But the resolution’s vague wording prompted many senators to express concern about how the suggested goals would be implemented.

Walsh recognized that the resolution “might not be as clear as it could,” but said details weren’t the focus of the recommendations.

“We want the administration to recognize there is a direct and important need on campus to discuss these issues,” Walsh said. “We want this to be an issue at Notre Dame where the upper level of administration is talking about it. Right now, it’s not.”

Student body vice president Lizzi Shappell, who works as a student assistant at the Gender Relations Center (GRC), said the Center recently created several task groups, one designed to focus on GLBTQ students.

She noted that any resolution passed through Senate will go to the Campus Life Council, then to Poorman and ultimately to the GRC, which will be “the vehicle to enact change.”

With the GRC already pursuing related initiatives, student body president Dave Baron questioned the resolution’s objectives.

“I kind of have a problem making [the resolution] that ambiguous,” he said. “If you want to say, ‘Let’s start the discussion,’ then let’s start the discussion.”

Wishon responded by explaining she felt the issue was “bigger than the GRC,” saying that the Catholic Church’s teaching and theological aspects also came into play.

“Especially with the current media events surrounding the Vatican … We’re in the perfect place for these issues to be discussed,” she said.

The resolution was ultimately sent back to the University Affairs, Gender Relations and Diversity Affairs committees for revision.