Tuesday, June 16, 2009

QNOC Digest 2009.05.31

Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2009.05.31

Brought to you by the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals. http://www.lgbtcampus.org

Archives of the QNOC Digest can be found at http://queernewsoncampus.blogspot.com

Reminder: If you come across articles that should be included in the digest, please email a link to the article to articles@lgbtcampus.org

1. University of Michigan Spectrum Center – The 15th Annual Lav Grad
2. Inside Higher Ed – One-Party State at Liberty U.
3. Seattle University Spectator - SU offers safe space for LGBTQ members
4. Inside Higher Ed - Court Upholds Law School's Denial of Funds for Christian Group
5. The Examiner – What does California gay marriage ruling mean for CSU students’ ballot battle?
6. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - College edits 2 from bias language

1. University of Michigan Spectrum Center, May 19, 2009
3200 Michigan Union, 530 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109
The 15th Annual Lav Grad

On April 30th, Lavender Graduation proved to be one of the most impactful ceremonies on campus. Originally cre- ated in 1995, Lav Grad was the first ceremony in the nation to commemorate students of the LGBTQ community and allies in conjunction with the University of Michigan’s commencement events. At this year’s event, a record forty-five students were en-dowed with their degrees, rainbow tassels and red social justice cords, which were given on behalf of the Ginsberg Center for dedication to community service. Despite the fact that this year marked the largest turnout ever for the ceremony, students were encouraged to write their own introductions, which were both introspective and humorous, and read aloud during the program.

In addition to presenting students with their respective degrees, Honorary Lavender Degrees were presented to E. Royster Harper, the Vice President for Student Affairs, and Michael Woodford, Assistant Professor in the School of Social work whose academic research is dedicated to marginalized groups. This particular degree acknowledges the commitment of individuals who are committed to their roles as mentors and trailblazers for the LGBTQ and ally communities. Additionally, Lavender Awards were given to David Posner and Sabrina Shingwani (OUTstanding Ally of the Year), AHAVA and SAGE (OUTstanding Student Group of the Year), Thomas Wesley and Cayden Mark (OUTstanding Student Leader of the Year), and Ashley Schwedt (Cornerstone Award).

The Class of 2009 really appreciated the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments in the program. Graduating senior Jim Dulin stated, “After four years of being connected with people through the LGBTQ community, [the ceremony] helps create that personalized recognition that people deserve after graduating.”

2. Inside Higher Ed, May 26, 2009
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Quick Takes: One-Party State at Liberty U.

Liberty University has withdrawn recognition from its campus Democratic club, saying that its support for candidates who favor abortion rights and other political stances in conflict with the university's religious views are inappropriate, The Lynchburg News Advance reported. The Republican student group will continue to be recognized. Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who is also chair of the Democratic National Committee, has written to the university, asking it “to reverse this attack on the liberty of its students.” Jerry Falwell Jr., chancellor and president of the university, issued a statement noting that the student Democrats can still meet on campus, but simply cannot be an official group that may use the Liberty name or receive funds for student activities. "Parents and students support the university because they believe in its distinctly Christian identity and mission," said Falwell. "Liberty University is pro-life and believes that marriage between one man and one woman provides the best environment for children. Liberty University will not lend its name or financial support to any student group that advances causes contrary to its mission." Some in the legal blogosphere, meanwhile, are considering whether the university's actions could raise questions about its tax-exempt status.

3. Seattle University Spectator, May 27, 2009
901 12th Ave., P.O. Box 222000, Seattle, WA 98122-1090
SU offers safe space for LGBTQ members
By Pauline Diaz

"When Roman Christiaens came out to one of his friends in high school, she told him-in his words-to "forget about it and put it aside."

In the hometown he describes as a "small-town, conservative, conventional" environment, Christiaens repressed his homosexuality because it wasn't well understood.

Even through his freshman year at Seattle University, Christiaens only shared his sexuality with those he considered closest. Finally sophomore year, Christiaens gave a talk at the New Student Retreat to about 60 students, many of them complete strangers, sharing his experience of facing and sharing his homosexuality.

"I would say SU is actually the reason that I was able to come out," Christiaens, sophomore creative writing major, says. "After I gave my talk, they were gushing with support for me."

By some expectations, a gay man sharing his coming-out experience on a Campus Ministry retreat at a Catholic university might be surprising. However, many LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning) students and faculty at Seattle University speak positively of the school's attitude toward queer lifestyles.

"In the community I grew up in, [homosexuality] wasn't completely normal, but it was very accepting," says Ryan Disch, freshman social work major. "Here it goes even further than that. It is normal. It's nothing anyone here hasn't seen before."

Carlos Reyes, freshman pre-major, also says integration is one thing he values about the LGBTQ community at Seattle University.

"We're in a community here, and here it's not fenced off; it's integrated," Reyes says. "My experience is everyone's experience."

Reyes credits his experience with a new student immersion through the Office of Multicultural Affairs as a resource that helped him to come out in college.

"The immersion didn't have anything to do with LGBTQ rights, but because it was with the Office of Multicultural Affairs they integrated it into the program," Reyes says. "They were so supportive and friendly, and when I first got here, I thought, 'Whoa, people actually talk about it here.'"

Rebecca Recinos, freshman liberal studies major, says she has valued the programs and community provided by the Triangle Club.

"It's made my transition a lot easier into feeling accepted and being more open about myself," Recinos says. "We all know each other and we come together for certain events, but we don't all hang out with each other. We have a connecting thing and we all come together over it, but it's not like I only feel safe around them."

Jodi O'Brien, professor and chair of the Sociology Department, sees accepting community reflected even in the upper seats of the school.

"If you look at the highest institutional levels-the president, the Jesuits," she says, "I think you have people who are not only tolerant but they're well-informed and actively engaged in promoting social justice for everybody at the university, including LGBT students and faculty and staff."

O'Brien also noted the different positions of other schools at a LGBTQ conference for Jesuit colleges and universities.

"Sometimes faculty and students [from other universities] who have been invited to attend the conference are afraid they'll get in trouble for it," O'Brien says, "where in our case, the campus pays for us to go, like any other academic conference I'd go to."

Indeed, Seattle University's attitude toward LGBTQ identity could be considered progressive among other Catholic colleges. Whereas the Triangle Club began over a decade ago, Boston College and the University of Portland did not have any sexuality-related student groups until 2003 and 2008, respectively. Two months ago, the University of Notre Dame president rejected student-led appeals to add sexual orientation to the school's non-discrimination statement.

In some cases, Seattle University has received criticism from those who see its attitude toward queer lifestyles as a contradiction to the school's Catholic identity. This past year, in particular, the university was especially criticized for its Transgender Awareness Week by other Catholic organizations such as the Cardinal Newman Society.

"I know there's history with the Catholic Church of being against it. They've become a little more open, but it's something that's new. It's something that still needs to grow," says Christiaens, adding that in his experience the Jesuits have been very open. "In fact, one Jesuit himself kind of is my hero in my coming out experience."

Still, students and faculty say that there are gaps where Seattle University could improve.

"I don't know how you'd do it in ways that would be perceived as fair ... but housing is one of the first areas of concern," says O'Brien, listing random and same-gendered roommate assignments and overnight visitor rules as policies that have been problematic in the past.

O'Brien also says that change needs to happen in the academic realm of the university.

"I think in some ways we need to make our curriculum a little more contemporary with regard to some of these issues," she says.

Reyes says his reservations mainly stem from the larger international attitude toward homosexuality.

"Even if you're on Capitol Hill, no matter where you go, the general idea right now is still that it's not acceptable ... so you're bound to run into negativity," Reyes says.

One of the reasons confronting LGBTQ issues at a Catholic school can be challenging, however, is because it is intertwined with other sensitive topics.

"Not just LGBTQ issues but condom use, prevention of HIV/AIDS and things like that that also affect the SU community as a whole; I think that's going to take awhile for those things to change," Disch says, "but those are big things."

However, this is a significant change from what the university environment used to be.

"When [I was] first here, the university was basically one big closet," says O'Brien. "Things have changed a lot."

4. Inside Higher Ed, May 28, 2009
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Quick Takes: Court Upholds Law School's Denial of Funds for Christian Group

A federal district court judge has backed the University of Montana law school's decision to deny financial support to a Christian student group that barred as members students who won't sign its statement of faith or who engage in or advocate homosexual sex. The decision last week upheld a magistrate judge's 2008 opinion that the law school did not violate the First Amendment rights of a Christian Legal Society chapter that sought funds through the school's student fee process. The law school appropriately concluded that the group's membership standards discriminated on the basis of religion and sexual orientation, the judge found.

5. The Examiner, May 28, 2009
555 17th Street, Suite 400, Denver, CO 80202
What does California gay marriage ruling mean for CSU students’ ballot battle?
By Steve Graham

Colorado residents who hope to legalize gay marriage in the state next year should closely watch California and the federal courts.

Two Colorado State University students will gather signatures for a 2010 ballot measure legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado. A separate ballot measure is also in the works taking the issue one step further and legalizing gay marriage in the state.

The momentum on the controversial issue of gay marriage seems to shift every month, and advocates on each side entrench their positions. This week, the battle was centered in California.
The California Supreme Court this week ruled Proposition 8 was constitutional. California voters narrowly passed the measure in November, but opponents challenged the measure. They now may take their fight to federal courts and possibly the Supreme Court.

Opponents also plan to take the issue to voters with another ballot measure next year. A repeat ballot battle in California is likely to affect the vote in Colorado. Issues in the nation’s most populous state tend to make national news, so the campaigns on each side will lead to free publicity for each position in Colorado.

Likewise, a federal court decision could sway voters in Colorado. The decision would narrowly focus on legal language rather than broader legal questions about the federal constitutional rights to gay marriage. Nonetheless, the decision would be hailed as a victory for either side.

The Supreme Court has previously tackled gay rights in Colorado. In 1996, the court decided the state’s controversial discrimination law was unconstitutional. The law exempted gays and lesbians from state anti-discrimination protections. It led gay-rights groups to label Colorado a “hate state” and prompted boycotts of the state.

Today, 13 years later, the gay-rights landscape is very different, after five states legalized gay marriage.

6. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 30, 2009
34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
College edits 2 from bias language
By Bill Schackner

Since 2000, Westmoreland County Community College has published notices saying the school will not discriminate against individuals based on various circumstances, including their "sexual orientation" and "union membership."

But the school now says there is another statement that does not contain those four words and that it is the only one approved as an official policy by college trustees -- in a 1998 vote.

So the college has begun the unusual task of striking references to both classes of people from its non-discrimination language, including a statement on the college's Web site.

College President Daniel Obara said yesterday that the decision to delete the words is unrelated to a grievance filed in March on behalf of a gay employee who married in Massachusetts and was denied health insurance for his spouse. However, the president said the school learned of the conflicting language from the college's attorney during an internal meeting called a month ago to discuss the employee's case.

"They have absolutely nothing to do with each other," Dr. Obara said.

The employee, Andrew Doherty, and the head of the union representing him and other professionals on campus say they aren't so sure.

Michael Hricik, an English professor and president of the WCCC Professional Association, said the union will oppose removal of either class from campus publications.

"We feel both should be included in the policy -- especially the area of sexual orientation," he said. "We checked at many of the other community colleges throughout the state of Pennsylvania and they have [sexual orientation] in there."

The Post-Gazette yesterday found references to sexual orientation in non-discrimination language on Web sites of nine of the state's 14 community colleges.

Mr. Doherty, 36, a developmental education assistant who administers standardized tests, said it doesn't make sense.

"Why now after nine years?" he asked. "How many institutions do you know that are taking people out of a non-discrimination policy?"

Dr. Obara said he believes the 1998 policy adopted by the trustees is sufficiently broad to cover all legally protected classes, and that deleting the language from various publications has no bearing on Mr. Doherty's claim.

He says the language being struck was inserted in 2000 by a now-retired employee. Every year since, it was published in the school's course catalogue and student handbook, and over time, he added, "We picked up the language and put it in other publications."

But the four words were never incorporated into collective bargaining agreements with the union, nor were they ever a part of the board's written Equal Employment Opportunity policy, the president said.

Dr. Obara said the language will be removed from the college's catalogue for the 2009-10 academic year.

The college's now-retired affirmative action officer, Mary Stubbs, whom Dr. Obara said added the words, denied knowledge of the change Thursday and said any revisions to the catalogue she proposed would have been forwarded for review to the public relations staff and others, including the vice president for academic affairs and student services, a position held by Dr. Obara when the words were first published.

"I would never take it upon myself to change a statement in the college, and anyone who told you that ought to know better," she said. "Of course not -- not without having it approved."

Asked about that, Dr. Obara yesterday said Ms. Stubbs did not deny making the change in a conversation he had with her a week ago. He said the proposed wording change may have crossed his desk without his notice, but there was no special effort made to alert him.

Mr. Doherty, a WCCC employee for nearly five years, was married last November in North Andover, Mass., where state law recognizes same-sex marriage. After his request for benefits was denied that same month, he appealed, and in March, the Professional Association filed a grievance that is now headed to arbitration.

"We feel it's a just request," said Mr. Hricik, whose union is a part of the Pennsylvania State Employees Association. "[Mr. Doherty] is legally married. It's not legal in the state of Pennsylvania, but he's legally married."

Dr. Obara declined to comment on Mr. Doherty's case, citing the grievance proceeding.

Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 regarding fair use of copyrighted work, this material is distributed without profit for information, research, and educational purposes. The Consortium has no affiliation whatsoever with the originators of these articles nor is the Consortium endorsed or sponsored by the originators.

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