Students at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, have begun organizing against an anti-LGBT campus group which critics claim is intolerant and therefore should not receive University support. Campus newspaper The Hoya reported:
“Students opposed to the student group Love Saxa plan to present a petition to the Student Activities Commission on Monday, demanding the advisory board strip the group of its funding and no longer grant it access to campus facility benefits on grounds that it holds intolerant and hateful beliefs. . .
“Jasmin Ouseph (SFS ’19) submitted a formal notice to Assistant Dean for Student Engagement Erika Cohen Derr on Sept. 25, arguing Love Saxa’s definition of marriage and relationships violates the Division of Student Affairs’ Student Organization Standards, which disavows groups that foster hatred or intolerance.”
Other student leaders are joining the petition, including Chad Gasman, the head of GU Pride, the main LGBTQ student group on campus. He said that promoting heteronormativity in marriage and identifying homosexuality as “a distorted view of homosexuality” are “directly homophobic.” Gasman continued:
“‘We’re calling on the university to follow Jesuit principles and follow its own policies for student conduct and not allow hateful groups on campus that foster an unwelcome and hateful environment for queer students because, at the very least, if they can’t stamp out homophobia and actually commit themselves to queer people, they can make sure they are not funding homophobia, which is what they’re doing by funding Love Saxa.'”
Love Saxa, which received $250 in school funding this year through the Student Activities Commission, denies claims that its views are homophobic. The group’s president said Love Saxa has never promoted violence nor discrimination.
The Hoya’s recent editorial “Defund Intolerance” agreed with petitioners against Love Saxa, which the editors wrote “does not deserve recognition.” Appealing to Georgetown’s Catholic identity, the editorial continued:
“By actively advocating a limited definition of marriage that would concretely take rights away from the LGBTQ community, Love Saxa differentiates itself from other Catholic organizations on campus. Though these other groups may agree with Love Saxa’s definition of marriage, actively and vigorously promoting this definition — one that is directly intolerant of the LGBTQ community — is not a primary focus of their missions, as it appears to be for Love Saxa.
“Though Georgetown is a Catholic institution that respects the church’s view of marriage, its student groups nevertheless have a responsibility to care for and protect the entire student body.”
The Student Activities Commission will decide whether to sanction Love Saxa this week, which might mean the group loses its ability to receive University funding and use campus facilities. Like all unrecognized groups, it would still be able to “fundraise, table in the free speech zones. . .and use public resources,” according to The Hoya editorial.
There have been advances on Georgetown’s campus when it comes to LGBT issues, reported The Hoya. The LGBTQ Resource Center just celebrated its ninth anniversary, having grown from the student movement Out for Change into an office with six staff members and extensive programming. University President John DeGioia marked the occasion by acknowledging the progress that has been made in recent years, saying:
“While we recognize that there is always more work for us to do, we also recognize that the work we’re able to do today has been made possible by the efforts of those who have come before us and by the moments in time when our community has come together in extraordinary ways to deepen our commitments to one another.”
Georgetown Voice , another campus newspaper, reported on the Center’s latest initiative: a student-led peer mentoring program called “Passages” that aims at helping LGBTQ underclassmen and transfer students.
All of these developments reveal a wrong way and a right way by which Catholic higher education can move forward on LGBT issues. The wrong way is to censor students’ voices when they offer reasonable and respectful opinions, even if these opinions might oppose LGBT equality. Certainly, homophobic speech should not be tolerated, but simply disagreeing with marriage equality or professing church teaching on sexual ethics is not such speech.
The right way is to keep building up resources and institutional support for LGBT students and other members of university communities. Respecting a diversity of student voices does not prohibit the University itself from practicing a preferential option for sexual and gender diverse communities on campus. Georgetown University has led Catholic higher education in this respect.
Though I disagree with Love Saxa’s mission, it is my hope that the Student Activities Commission decides this week to keep funding the group. Ultimately, this student organization is not a threat because the arguments for LGBT equality are more persuading more people than those arguments of our opponents. Despite what Love Saxa claims, we know that love, in all its forms, wins.
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on Catholic higher education. You can read more stories by clicking “Campus Chronicles” in the Categories section to the right or by clicking here. For the latest updates on Catholic LGBT issues, subscribe to our blog in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
For a listing of LGBT-friendly Catholic colleges and universities, which includes Georgetown University, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 25, 2017