The University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas, has approved funding for two LGBTQ-focused events on campus for the coming school year.
The funding, passed by the Student Government Association (SGA), comes with the stipulation that campus ministry and the SGA’s Catholic Identity committee be involved in the planning process. The inclusion of these two organizations was, in the words of one SGA officer, “so we don’t run into problems down the road again.”
The events are the work of junior Samaria Herbert, Vice President of the newly-formed Diversity and Inclusion Organization. Herbert had originally requested funding for the events in an earlier meeting, but was told to wait until the fall semester and to include more details about the events, including names of speakers.
St. Thomas’ student newspaper, The Celt Independent, reports that this request was made “to ensure that the events would be held in a manner consistent with UST’s Catholic identity.”
Herbert contested that this extra level of scrutiny was a form of discrimination and appealed the decision to the SGA’s Chief Justice. In a subsequent meeting, student press was barred from the room as the University’s legal counsel addressed the legal implications of targeting LGBTQ events for additional scrutiny.
“During allocations I was trying to tell SGA, ‘The LGBT events are set up just like my other social groups and ethnic events; you have to ask me about those too,’” Herbert told The Celt Independent.
Herbert and SGA members later met for a private mediation, in which the funding compromise was reached. The Diversity and Inclusion Organization has a $1,500 budget for the two LGBTQ-focused events.
Herbert told The Celt Independent that she is satisfied with the outcome.
“It is a positive step that the University of St. Thomas community moved forward on LGBTQ inclusion,” said Robert Shine, associate director of New Ways Ministry. “But while Catholic higher education has led the way on equality in the church, there are still too many campuses where unfortunate disputes arise. LGBTQ organizations do not need particular oversight anymore than the a cappella group or the frisbee team,”
This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s “Campus Chronicles” series on LGBTQ issues in 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 by clicking here.
—Jonathan Nisly, New Ways Ministry, June 29, 2019