University of Notre Dame makes strides in supporting LGBT students; Catholic University of America denies recognition of LGBT student organization
Catholic universities display contradictory policies toward recognizing LGBT students as full campus community members
Last week, the University of Notre Dame announced plans to expand their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students on campus, including recognizing an official LGBT student organization on campus for the first time, a request that first dates back to 1986. Meanwhile, the Catholic University of America denied official recognition to CUAllies, an unofficial LGBT organization founded on the campus in 2009, expressing fears that a LGBT alliance would turn into an advocacy group. The contradictory responses to requests by LGBT students highlight the tensions among Catholic universities struggling to respond to calls for inclusivity and acceptance of LGBT people on campus.
Shane Windmeyer, Executive Director of Campus Pride, released this statement following the announcements: “Despite the contradictory decisions announced last week, it is undeniable that progress is being made on religiously-affiliated campuses across the country. Students at the University of Notre Dame and the Catholic University of America, among others, are doing incredible work to make higher education a more inclusive place for all. Campus Pride has worked over the years to assist these students and alumni to continually push forward and we are very proud to support them. We call on the Catholic University of America to recognize the value of these students’ efforts and the importance of ensuring their academic success, support, and safety on campus.”
The decision at Notre Dame comes after much work by the Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Questioning Students and the Progressive Student Alliance’s 4 to 5 Movement, as well as a lengthy review process by university administrators. Camp Pride alumnus Karl Abad is currently a senior at Notre Dame serving on the Core Council, and 2011 Notre Dame graduate and Camp Pride alumnus Adrián López was also a member of the council during his time on campus. Following the announcement last week, Abad and López expressed optimism and hopefulness. Adrián (Camp Pride 2010) explained, “For me, being a gay student at Notre Dame was not the easiest experience, something made much worse by the fact that there were simply not enough resources to address and support my needs. These changes are promising in addressing these issues. And though the fight is not over, though Notre Dame is still not the most gay-friendly environment, this is a huge step in the road ahead. I am proud of my alma mater, I am proud of President John Jenkins, CSC, but most importantly proud of the student body that is actively changing Notre Dame.”
Karl (Camp Pride 2011) echoed those sentiments and lauded Camp Pride’s role in his leadership development, saying, “This decision means so much to me as a student who specifically decided to attend Notre Dame because it needed the most work. Camp Pride has given me the critical tools for sparking dialogue, mobilizing momentum and improving structures that are necessary for any feat of incredible change. For those tools, and for the inspiring relationships I made, I am grateful.” Campus Pride lauds the efforts of Adrián, Karl, and their fellow students to create a more LGBT-friendly campus climate at Notre Dame.
LGBT student leaders at the Catholic University of America expressed disappointment and called on CUA administrators to follow the lead of Notre Dame. In a press statement written, former Director of CUAllies Ryan Fecteau said, “The answer surprised me given tenor of discussions with the administration and the University of Notre Dame’s recent approval of organization geared towards LGBT students. If any university in the United States was to ensure that people participate in Catholicism and feel comfortable doing so, it should be the Catholic University of America. In essence, yesterday this University denied CUAllies and LGBT students communion. They said to us that we are not valued enough to participate in this campus community, this faith community, this human community because of our sexual orientation.”
To learn more about LGBTQ initiatives on religiously-affiliated campuses, visit the Campus Pride in Faith page under the Religion and Faith Resources area of the Campus Pride website. LGBTQ students and alumni of religiously-affiliated colleges and universities might also be interested in a new project titled “On God’s Campus: Voices from the Queer Underground,” created by Paul Southwick, a friend of Campus Pride and member of the 2011 Camp Pride faculty.