No Gay-Straight Alliance for DeSales University

DeSales University, a Catholic campus in Eastern Pennsylvania, is rejecting a request by an alumnus to start a gay-straight alliance (GSA) at the school.

According to the Upper Saucon Patch, Tim Gallagher, the alumnus, had circulated a petition on Change.orgafter several unsuccessful attempts to persuade the school’s administration to approve a GSA.  The petition states:

“Each student at DeSales University is told repeatedly to ‘be who you are and be that well’ [part of the school’s motto] per the direction of St. Francis de Sales. This is a wonderful motto but currently excludes LGBT students and alumni. The university has repeatedly denied requests to allow a Gay Straight Alliance on campus and has even turned down an application for a PRIDE DSU club which sought to celebrate diversity on campus.Meanwhile, 16 Catholic Colleges in Pennsylvaniahave officially recognized pro-homosexual clubs, LGBTQ Resource Centers, or student organizations according to a recent poll.

“IT IS TIME that we stand up for our fellow bulldogs [school mascot] and allow each person to live out the Salesian motto and ‘Be who you are and be that well’ without threat of persecution or harassment.”

The petition came as a result of a campus incident where an anti-gay slur was written on a student’s dorm room door. Repeated earlier attempts to establish campus support networks for LGBT students had been rejected also.

In a follow-up Patch story, Dr. Jerry Joyce, DeSales’ vice president for student affairs, disputed the use of the campus’ motto to support the proposal for a GSA:

” ‘The full quote is “Let us be what we are and be that well, in order to bring honor to the Master Craftsman whose handiwork we are,” ‘ said Dr. Jerry Joyce, vice president for student affairs at DeSales. ‘Just like the quote says, if we are staying true to the teachings of the Catholic faith, it would be hypocritical to allow a club that would celebrate a LGBT lifestyle.’ “

With all due respect to Dr. Joyce, the quotation does not say anything about the teachings of the Catholic faith or LGBT persons.

According to Patch, Joyce said the campus decision to deny clubs for LGBT students had to do with the “exclusive” nature of such organizations:

“Joyce also confirmed a meeting with a member of the student body about forming a LGBT club, and again cited the exclusive nature of the club as the reason the student was denied.

” ‘The way [the group] was presenting themselves was as an exclusive club, and we don’t do exclusive groups at DeSales. We use student activity fees to fund [student organizations], which would mean students wouldn’t be able to get into a club they were paying for.’ “

It is puzzling to see the “exclusive” nature of a gay-straight alliance.  It’s very title and mission is inclusive.

Adrian Shanker, president of Equality Pennsylvania, commented in an op-ed on the DeSales controversy:

“. . .DeSales University is more interested in preserving an antiquated Church doctrine than they are in creating an inclusive campus community for the people they are hired to serve, their students — and what a message to send to current and prospective students.”

Gallagher explained his motivation for starting the petition to institute a GSA:

“I love DeSales, it’s an amazing university with fabulous faculty, staff, and students. But it’s time for DeSales to live up to it’s motto and help students thrive.”

New Ways Ministry supports the movement for a GSA on DeSales’ campus, and on all Catholic campuses.  We are happy and proud that our website’s gay-friendly college list has assisted Mr. Gallagher in his quest for such an organization.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

4 replies
  1. Joe J Pepe
    Joe J Pepe says:

    I realize that DeSales is a Catholic University, however if they receive any government funds then, that might be a way of bringing pressure to bear to allow the Alliance.

  2. Jay
    Jay says:

    DeSales says they don’t support “exclusive” clubs, but they have many..such as a mens club, a womens club, a pro life club, etc.

  3. Alina Yacik
    Alina Yacik says:

    This is so very upsetting.

    My sister attends DeSales. I enjoy visiting her on campus, and have always been envious of the school’s small, close-knit community. However, I shudder to think how the school’s denial of a GSA must make an LGBTQ student feel – silenced, unsupported, irrelevant, unrepresented?

    When I was searching for colleges, I chose to only apply to schools that had active GSA-type organization on campus. Although I identify as straight, sexual equality is something I value very much. Being a member of my university’s GSA opened my eyes to the many challenges that LGBTQ students face, and taught me how to be a better ally – and thus – a better Christian. GSA-type organizations benefit the entire student body by promoting education, inclusion, and tolerance.

    If DeSales continues to actively deny the establishment of a GSA on campus, the school will fail to attract open-minded, intellectual students…who will instead opt to attend universities that promote the debate and discussion surrounding “controversial” issues. DeSales students will graduate never having their beliefs or convictions challenged – a very unrealistic representation of what The Real World will be like after graduation.

    Kudos to Tim Gallagher for making an effort to combat the homophobic atmosphere of the DeSales campus, and for seeking to positively impact the lives and education of DeSales students.

    What would Jesus do…

  4. Lydia
    Lydia says:

    I was accepted into the English program at DeSales University this past fall and am seriously considering committing there. However, I too struggle with the fact that DeSales does not accommodate their LGBT community. I’ve attended multiple events on their campus, and students and faculty love to talk about diversity and how their religious affiliation is not forced upon their students. I find those statements quite contradictory, however, given that they refuse to have a GSA. I stand with Tim Gallagher, I would also love to see DeSales live up to their motto, especially as a prospective student. Although I identify as straight, I would have a very difficult time attending a school where I do not feel like I can openly support or discuss the LGBT community.


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