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Alliancend plans demonstration

Joseph McMahon | Thursday, October 18, 2007

National Coming Out Day came and went last Thursday without the student activism that, in the past, marked the day with bright orange “Gay? Fine By Me” T-shirts.

But Alliancend, the unrecognized gay-straight group that typically organizes events to raise awareness about homosexuality at Notre Dame, has plans in place for a demonstration after fall break.

Alliancend co-president Alex Renfro estimates that there are 40 openly gay students at Notre Dame and another 500 that have not come out about their sexuality.

In two weeks, Alliancend will host a major poster demonstration in O’Shaughnessy Hall, which will seek to reach out to these “closeted” individuals, Renfro said.

“There will be giant posters reading, ‘We’re glad you’re here,'” Renfro said. “It was the same message that was sent to the first women on campus and now we’re trying to extend it to the closeted community here at Notre Dame.”

In the past, Alliancend set up a giant closet outside South Dining Hall and encouraged students to “come out” about some aspect of themselves -whether as a multi-racial student, an artist or a non-homosexual, among others.

But Renfro said the closet was stolen this year.

The Student Activities Office does not recognize Alliancend as a club, though the group has applied for the status – which would allow them to tap into Student Activities funds – for several years.

The University-sponsored voice for homosexual students on campus is the Core Council for Gay and Lesbian Students, a 12-member group of faculty, staff, administrators and students that advises Vice President of Student Affairs Father Mark Poorman about gay and lesbian student needs.

“Notre Dame’s stance on giving us club status is that the Core Council already accomplishes what Alliancend would do,” said senior Stacey Williams, one of the group’s co-presidents. “But many students, especially undergraduates, feel that there is not enough support for the gay and lesbian community here at Notre Dame.”

Alliancend has applied for and been denied club status each of the last two years. According to a March 22, 2005 article in The Observer, similar proposals have been denied nine times in the last 10 years, with no gay and lesbian student group successfully securing official status.

Still, the group plans to apply again this spring.

“The University has to reach out to students instead of students reaching out to them,” Renfro said. “The issues of the gay and lesbian community are often misunderstood at Notre Dame, and instead of being against us, the entire community should realize that we are just trying to create a more tolerant environment for all students at the University.”

Alliancend leaders have other events planned for the school year, all of which will attempt to build the spirit of tolerance on campus.

“This is an issue that has been very polarized in the community,” said Williams. “We are just trying to bring people towards a common ground in order to foster a spirit of tolerance.”