Students at Boston College and the University of Notre Dame are challenging their universities to enact more concrete means of LGBTQ support, showing that even schools which offer a welcome sometimes do so without providing real pastoral care.
For Here All Are One
Seniors just weeks away from graduation have released an open letter to Boston College administrators as part of a new movement called “For Here All Are One,” a phrase drawn from the school’s alma mater.
More than 400 seniors and alumni affixed their signature to the letter calling for an LGBTQ resource center with the promise to withhold donations until it is opened, reports Boston Magazine. The letter, written by student government leaders Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, Connor Bourff, Ben Miyamoto, and Sean O’Sullivan, says, in part:
“Until administrators are allowed to fully and openly express their support as allies, Boston College will continue to send the message that LGBTQ students are not supported, do not matter, and do not belong…
” ‘Without the support of institutional policies, there will continue to be students on this campus who think it is acceptable to use derogatory and homophobic slurs; student groups will continue to be unfairly limited because of their affiliation with the LGBTQ community; alumni will continue to reflect on Boston College as a university that caused pain and does not practice what it preaches; students will continue to fear reactions from their roommates, classmates, professors and peers; students will continue to be afraid to be who they are.’ “
The letter also states that those signing are proud of Boston College and hopeful their efforts will improve the community. Administration spokesperson Jack Dunn, however, called the letter an “unproductive gesture that will do little to advance dialogue.”
Some students note that Boston College’s support of LGBT students is mixed, with administrators cancelling several major LGBT-positive programs without explanation in recent years. Senior Tyler Bean writes in campus magazine The Gavel about feeling unsupported as a gay man while expecting more precisely because of the school’s Catholic identity:
“I was made in the image and likeness of God; therefore, I am good and deserve love. God created me gay and He makes no mistakes. God knows that I am gay, He has always known…I know that God cares about me, but I am left asking myself, does BC care about me and the rest of the GLBTQ community?
“All I know is that if BC does care, it clearly does not care enough…lthough I will miss BC, I am ready to leave an institution that lacks the resources and support the GLBTQ community needs and deserves. I hope that in the future BC chooses to live out its Jesuit values by caring for the whole person of every person.”
If you are an alumus of Boston College and would like to sign the letter, you can do so here. For more information on recent LGBT incidents at BC, see campus newspaper The Heights or For Here All Are One’s video on YouTube.
Out at ND
The University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, answered a decades-long call for LGBT outreach in 2012, announcing its pastoral plan “Beloved Friends and Allies” which recognized a student group, Prism ND, improved advisory structures, and hired a full-time staff member to focus on LGBTQ campus issues.
A new group, Out at ND, now claims that though these efforts are necessary, they are insufficient. University programming cannot recognize the goodness of same-gender relationships or publicly endorse marriage equality, a gap this new group hopes to fill. Member Jake Bebar explained to WNDU:
” ‘Notre Dame’s culture is pretty unique. We’re the number nine LGBTQ unfriendly school in the nation right now…We’re really trying to do something that fixes that a little bit…We’re trying to make a social change.’
Bebar was clear that Out at ND is not a challenge to Prism ND, but serves a complementary role in its unofficial capacity. Unlike many student groups we report on at Catholic campus, Out at ND leadership will not be seeking university recognition.
What each of theses two campus developments reveals is the limitations of Catholic education’s efforts to welcome sexual and gender diverse people. The church’s colleges have been at the forefront of LGBT outreach in recent years and Bondings 2.0‘s “Campus Chronicles” series attests to this trend. Indeed, this welcome has been an essential first step, but it must be followed now by concrete expressions of Christian love for LGBT students such as resource centers, staff members, and programming. As before, it is true now that students will accept nothing less.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry