CAMPUS CHRONICLES: Edgewood College Opens Queer Student Center; Georgetown University Celebrates OUTober; And More

Here are few Catholic higher education stories from the start of the academic year:

Edgewood College Opens Queer Student Center

LGBTQ students at Edgewood College, a Dominican college in Madison, Wisconsin have a queer center for the first time in the college’s history.  For many years, LGBTQ students have requested a space specifically designated as their own.  With the help of faculty, staff, and administrators, the college offered a suite of rooms for students to create the center.

As a partnership between the Office of Student Inclusion and Involvement and the Women’s and Gender Studies program, the Queer Student Center will house meetings, programs, and campus events for LGBTQ students and guests.

As a Catholic college, both students and faculty were unsure how Edgewood administrators would react.  The opening of the Center is a positive development, which should be replicated on more campuses.  Diocese of Madison Bishop Donald Haying responded to the opening of the Center with a statement that starts with love and a recognition of the dignity of all people:

“The Catholic Church loves everyone; each person bears an immeasurable dignity, created in the image and likeness of God.  The rich complexity of the human person includes our sexuality but is not solely defined by it. My hope is that Edgewood College upholds the Church’s teachings in a transformative fusion of love and truth, teachings that set us free to become fully who God has called us to be in Christ.”

The establishment of the Queer Student Center means a lot to LGBTQ students on Edgewood’s Catholic campus.  Rae Howe, the vice president of SAFE,Edgewood’s LGBTQ student group, said that the Center is “such a special and important place to bring the community together in solidarity, as well as a place for activism and the sharing of knowledge.”

John Carroll University Faces Complaint Over Drag Show

As Bondings 2.0 reported earlier in September, John Carroll University president Michael Johnson cancelled the annual drag show at the Cleveland, Ohio, school.  The show had been held annually since 2013. Johnson cancelled the event because it was deemed divisive.

In response to the cancellation, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) sent a letter to Johnson informing the administration that its unilateral decision to cancel the drag show because of its divisiveness was incongruent with its own stated commitments to free expression, and, therefore, potentially unlawful.

FIRE informed Johnson that courts recently ruled against two other Catholic universities (Marquette and Fordham) in similar circumstances.  Additionally, the university’s accreditation was at risk if it betrays its own stated commitments of free expression to students.

For his part, Johnson assured students in a letter that “John Carroll unambiguously supports our LGBTQIA+ community of students, faculty and staff.” He went on to say that he judged that the drag show was not the best way to show that support, despite student insistence that it was.

Georgetown University Students Celebrate OUTober

Students celebrating OUTober at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, advocated for a more sustained appreciation and recognition of LGBTQ history both on and off campus.  While recognizing OUTober as a meaningful celebration of LBGTQ identity on campus, GU Pride co-president Siena Hohne wrote in The Hoya, the student newspaper, that Georgetown had a long way to go before LGBTQ students feel truly at home on campus.  Hohne acknowledged that Georgetown has been supportive of the community on campus, having been the first Catholic university to establish an LGBTQ resource center.  However, she sees the need for dedicated, sustained institutional efforts to honor LGBTQ history and identity throughout the year.

Fairfield University Hosts First PRide March

Fairfield University, Connecticut, hosted its first annual Pride March this year during LGBTQ History Month in October.  Fairfield University Student Association, Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, and Fairfield Alliance, LGBTQ+ Group cosponsored the event, that included music, food, and speakers. At the event, Fr. Michael Tunney, S.J. spoke to those gathered:

“Some of us are people of faith, and all of us are people of good will. Those of us with faith believe that we are made in God’s image and likeness, and all of us, even those of us who don’t believe for a moment in God, we do believe that our humanity is suffused with dignity…we are also beloved and lovable, and we are made and we are here for lives of love and sacrifice and service.”

Trump Administration Appoints Anti-LGBTQ Catholic University Professor

John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, publicly congratulated Robert Destro, a law professor at Catholic on his confirmation as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. He told Catholic News Agency that Destro’s “appointment is a unique opportunity for him to work at the highest levels of our nation’s government to protect the freedoms of all people, and in particular of those on the margins of societies around the globe.

LGBTQ groups, however, protested the confirmation of Destro, arguing that he was incapable of protecting human rights because of his history of antagonism toward the LGBTQ community.  In addition to opposing nondiscrimination protections for transgender people, he called for “trench warfare” with the LGBTQ community.

This post is part of our “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.

Kevin Molloy, New Ways Ministry, November 9, 2019

2 replies
  1. Don E Siegal
    Don E Siegal says:

    Edgewood College Opens Queer Student Center

    I need help in understanding the need for this measure of exclusivity. I do not want to live within a community that is comprised primarily with queer people. Perhaps the times are such that demand such “safe places” for persons of the queer community. If so, then the goal should be to eliminate the need for such places.

    I want to be part of the entire human community, and that includes people of different sexual and gender orientations, people of color, and different nationalities. I live in the rural/agricultural part of the central San Joaquin Valley. I live openly gay with no difficulties socializing with my straight, Latinx, and other ethnic persons. I am fully accepted—including in my Mission Catholic Church.

    For that reason, I would hope that the mission of the center would be to prepare the queer community for living comfortably within their skin, and ultimately join the entire human community.

    • Kaylen Flower
      Kaylen Flower says:

      Don Siegal,
      You are quite right. The need for an exclusive area meant to serve as a place of refuge, welcome, and acceptance for people on the margins of their community, their home, is not exactly the world I want to help create either. And it is wonderful to hear how you are able to find support and love in your own home and place of faith.

      But I do hope you recognize that you are in the minority in enjoying that privilege. Queer folx die (sic are killed) daily simply for their attempt to live comfortably in their skin. Maybe these “safe places” are as much a beacon of hope for those who identify with the LQBTQIA community as they are invitations to find God in all things for those who see Queer skin as something unworthy of dignity, respect, and love.

      Exclusive safe places are hardly a new concept. Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples—should we do away with all of them? All are welcome inside, just as they are in Queer Centers. All are invited to participate in the celebration and remembrance of traditions and customs that are central to the identity of those who practice inside a given safe place.

      Society has long depended on these physical structures (and the community that has been built around them) to aid in the formation of its citizens. I’d say it is about damn time that Queer folx are given a space (and therefore a voice) of their own at Catholic institutions.


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