DePaul U. Students Seek Anti-LGBTQ+ Group Removal from Campus; Other Updates

With another academic semester concluding, today’s post highlights several stories about LGBTQ+ issues in Catholic education.

DePaul University Students Seek Removal of Anti-LGBTQ+ Group

A student at DePaul University in Chicago, Brigid O’Brien, launched a petition asking administrators to withhold recognition of the group Vessel on campus. The petition, with nearly 800 signatures, explained that Vessel is a non-affirming Christian group that identifies being LGBTQ+ as “sinful,” continuing:

“With a large majority of DePaul students who identify as members of the LGBTQIA+ community, this is an abhorrent and a clear violation of DePaul’s Anti-Discrimination policy. There’s nothing ‘sinful’ about people who identify as LGBTQIA+. As a student who identifies as bisexual myself, it makes me sad to see hatred spread around campus like this. Do better, DePaul.”

Administrators confirmed that Vessel was not an approved student organization, nor had Vessel’s members sought to become one, according to the campus newspaper, The DePaulia. For its part, Vessel claimed “disagreement is not harassment,” but apologized for “any hurt we may have caused.” Students like O’Brien, however, are still seeking changes at the university after this incident. The DePaulia reported:

“Secondly, the episode illustrates what Murphy and O’Brien believe is a lax anti-discrimination policy in place at DePaul. In the wake of Wednesday’s events and the attention their petition received, the two said they met with Associate Dean of Students, Leslie Watland, on Friday. In the meeting, they soon found out DePaul’s discrimination policy does not prohibit the [anti-LGBTQ+] messaging used in [Vessel’s] Instagram post.

“‘Technically speaking, a group at DePaul can be non-affirming to the queer community as long as they don’t openly disclose it and [say] like, “okay, if you’re a certain sexual orientation, you can’t meet with our group,”‘ O’Brien said.”

Spectrum DePaul, a student organization for LGBTQ+ students, issued its own statement on the incident, highlighting the fact that a Catholic institution so adamantly opposed non-affirming groups:

“DePaul University has always shown that tolerance of the LGBTQ+ community can coexist with religious beliefs- not in spite of those beliefs, but because of them. We are proud of the action the DePaul community took against this organization and heartened to know how supportive the DePaul community is in the face of homophobia.”

Xavier University Defends LGBTQ+ Community Against Insult

Colleen Hanycz, the president of Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, issued two statements about LGBTQ+ inclusion after the coach of the West Virginia University men’s basketball team, Bob Huggins, used an anti-gay slur towards Xavier students. Huggins made his comments during a radio interview, referring to a recent game between the schools.

In response, Hancyz initially sought to affirm “what Xavier University — and I — stand for,” which is in part, “to provide an inclusive environment.” The president added in a second statement, reported by OutKick:

“‘The deplorable mischaracterizations and homophobic slurs directed towards our LGBTQ+ and our Catholic communities were repulsive and offensive. To those in our Xavier family who were directly targeted and harmed by these hateful words, be assured that you are invaluable members of our Xavier family and you belong here. Your presence makes us better.'”

For its part, West Virginia University fined Huggins a million dollars in salary with an accompanying three-game suspension. The coach later apologized.

Students Continue Push for LGBTQ+ Resource Center at Boston College

Boston College’s undergraduate student government passed a resolution again supporting the establishment of an LGBTQ+ center on campus, which students and alumni have sought since at least the 2000’s. The dispute has been ongoing with the latest development coming last spring. The campus newspaper, The Heights, reported:

“[The] University announced ​​it would rebrand the Thea Bowman AHANA [African, Hispanic, Asian, Native American] Intercultural Center as the Thea Bowman Intercultural Center starting the summer of 2022, dropping the AHANA acronym from the center’s name and incorporating resources for LGBTQ+ students under its umbrella.

“Cooper Whitehead later paused the plan after hearing feedback from students, alumni, and members of color on BC’s Board of Trustees, according to a University release.

“In an email to The Heights earlier this month, Dean of Students Corey Kelly and Cooper Whitehead shared that the integration of queer resources into the BAIC was ongoing and that the changes would bring more resources to campus.”

Wells Arkins, chair of GLBTQ+ Leadership Council, was positive that the move could benefit LGBTQ+ students despite not having a dedicated space. However, like others, Arkins worried the merger would negatively impact students of color. A separate LGBTQ+ center “will always be the end goal,” said Arkins, who was not optimistic that it would ever happen under the current president, Fr. William Leahy, SJ, who is quite conservative.

This post is part of Bondings 2.0’s series on LGBTQ+ issues in Catholic higher education. You can read other stories in this series by clicking here.

Robert Shine (he/him), New Ways Ministry, June 10, 2023

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