Queer News On Campus [QNOC] Articles Digest
For the week ending 2010.08.29
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
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1. The News (Murray State) - Cofer elected board co-chair
2. Inside Higher Ed - Legal Loss for Anti-Gay Student
3. Inside Higher Ed - Quick Takes: Gay Kiss Roils South African University
4. The New York Times - At West Point, Hidden Gay Cadets Put in Spotlight
5. Student Life (Washington University in St. Louis) - WU ends partnership with Target
6. The Star-Ledger - Controversial Seton Hall gay marriage course will go on as scheduled
1. The News (Murray State), August 19, 2010
111 Wilson Hall, 2609 University Station, Murray, KY 42071-3301
Cofer elected board co-chair
By Nick Reside
Murray State staff member Jody Cofer has been appointed co-chairman of the Board of Directors for the Equality Federation, a national organization composed of over 55 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights groups.
Cofer works as program specialist for Undergraduate Research and Scholarly Activity at Murray State. He has worked as a staff member at the University more than 10 years.
Cofer is also co-chair of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.
While Cofer acknowledged the importance of gay rights issues on the federal level, he said most civil rights legislation is based on state and local ordinances.
“We are building a strong state-based movement for fairness,” he said.
Cofer said his current focus is passing legislation prohibiting employees from being discriminated against at work due to sexual orientation.
Lexington, Louisville and Covington all have ordinances preventing discrimination on that basis.
Cofer believes public opinion has changed significantly over time and said most Kentuckians support legislation protecting employees against discrimination on the job.
“You cannot be discriminated at your job,” he said. “We cannot have that.”
Earlier this month, for the first time, LGBT leaders, including Cofer, were invited to the White House for an official briefing.
“It was a remarkable experience,” he said. “I left there feeling that this (administration) is aware of the issues and is doing what they can.”
Cofer said he is aware that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy will not be repealed immediately.
“Why is it not already done? Call your congressman up and ask him,” he said.
Cofer said he is no stranger to discrimination himself.
While hesitant to provide details about these occurrences, Cofer said he has had threats made against him, some of which have prompted professional protection. He said he feels safe on campus regardless.
“I’m very open with who I am and that comes with a cost,” he said.
Cofer said he encourages students to talk with peers about discrimination.
“Engage friends and families about these issues,” he said. “Give real examples.”
University President Randy Dunn said he believes Cofer’s appointment provides a national perspective for the University.
“Anytime you have a member of the University community serving in a prominent national position, its beneficial for the University,” he said. “We’re glad to see Jody taking on the role and think that will certainly have benefits for the university.”
Rachel Loomis, president of the Murray State Alliance, also supports Cofer’s appointment.
“I think it’s amazing that he’s been elected to the position. He certainly deserves it. He works very hard to promote LGBT rights on campus,” she said.
Gov. Steve Beshear also commented on Cofer’s achievement.
Said Beshear via email: “Jody Cofer’s election to the leadership of a national civil rights organization is a well deserved recognition of his commitment to the principle of equality.”
2. Inside Higher Ed, August 23, 2010
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Legal Loss for Anti-Gay Student
By Scott Jaschik
For the second month in a row, a federal judge has backed the right of a public university to enforce standards of its counseling graduate programs -- even when religious students object to standards requiring them to treat gay people on an equal basis.
The latest ruling came Friday in Georgia, where Judge J. Randal Hall refused to grant an injunction that would block Augusta State University from expelling Jennifer Keeton from a master's program over her refusal to comply with a remedial program designed to deal with concerns faculty members and fellow students had about the way she would counsel gay people. Keeton has maintained that being forced to comply with the remedial program would effectively force her to change her Christian beliefs -- something that she and her legal backers maintain a public university has no right to do.
In his ruling, Judge Hall tried hard to keep the case from becoming a culture wars flash point. "[T]his is not a case pitting Christianity against homosexuality," he wrote. What the case was about, he wrote, was the right of a public university to enforce reasonable academic standards. He wrote that "matters of educational policy should be left to educators and it is not the proper role of federal judges to second guess an educator's professional judgment."
The ruling noted that the standards for Keeton winning her injunction were quite high, and that the full record of the case has not been reviewed. But the judge framed the case as one of academic rights -- and he did so in a similar way to the ruling last month by another federal judge. In a full ruling in that case, the judge upheld the right of a counseling program at Eastern Michigan University to kick out a master's student who declined to counsel gay clients in an affirming way -- as required by the university program and counseling associations.
Advocates for religious students at secular universities had hoped to use the two cases to define broadly the right of students to ignore requirements of professional associations and related degree programs that relate to equitable treatment for gay people. And after the Eastern Michigan ruling, on which an appeal is expected, many supporters of the religious students suggested that the Augusta State case may have been their stronger one.
A gag order in the case prevents officials on either side from commenting, but the judge's ruling almost certainly will be cause for concern among those advocating for Keeton and those with similar religious beliefs. (A press release issued by the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Keeton, issued when the suit was filed, offers its take on the case -- from before the latest ruling.)
Keeton's Objections and the University's Response
As detailed in court records, Keeton enrolled in the master's program in counseling at Augusta State in 2009, with the goal of becoming a school counselor. The program's curriculum -- as is common -- is based in part on teaching and abiding by the ethics code of the American Counseling Association, which requires counselors to avoid bias on any number of grounds (including sexual orientation) and to counsel individuals in ways that respect their lives and beliefs.
In classroom discussions and papers, Keeton (according to the judge's ruling) stated that she condemned homosexuality, said that sexual orientation was a matter of personal choice, and told fellow students that -- if given the opportunity to counsel gay people -- she would recommend "conversion therapy" in which gay people are counseled to become straight. (There is a scholarly consensus among psychology experts that such therapy doesn't work and can harm those who undergo it.)
Keeton's program directors placed her in "remediation status," citing their concerns that she would be unable to effectively counsel gay clients. Students who are placed in such status must complete certain requirements or they are expelled from the program. Among the tasks she was given:
-Attend three workshops on "improving cross-cultural" communication, with the idea of learning to work effectively with gay populations.
-Read at least 10 articles in peer-reviewed counseling or psychology journals on counseling gay populations.
-"Increase exposure to and interaction with gay populations" through activities such as attending the local gay pride parade, and report on those activities.
-Study the Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Counseling's Competencies for Counseling with Transgender Clients.
Keeton originally agreed to try to comply with the requirements, but then said she couldn't and sued. She charged the university with engaging in "viewpoint discrimination" by violating her freedom of speech, her right to freely practice her religion, and her right to due process, among other allegations. She also sought the injunction that was denied Friday -- asking for an immediate order that would block the university from enforcing its rules against her.
Judge Hall cited several pieces of evidence submitted by the university as showing that Keeton was sanctioned not for her religious views but for the university's belief that she was going to act in ways inconsistent with the professional standards under which it trains students. Faculty members testified that they did not care about Keeton's personal religious beliefs or require that she change them to continue in the program -- only that she agree to treat people within the nondiscriminatory standards of the profession.
The university also submitted affidavits from fellow students in which they said that Keeton told them she planned as a counselor to tell any gay clients that their conduct was "morally wrong" and to try to get them to "change" themselves, and that she would seek to work in schools without any gay people or that she would refer gay people to other counselors. (Counseling standards specifically state that it's not permitted to refer clients because of sexual orientation or other factors, and that counselors are required to be able to work with all groups.)
In his decision, Judge Hall wrote that these facts made the issue not one of religious belief, but of specific curriculum-based decisions appropriately made by a faculty. "[T]he record suggests, and the testimony at the hearing bolsters, that the plan was imposed because plaintiff exhibited an inability to counsel in a professionally ethical manner -- that is, an inability to resist imposing her moral viewpoint on counselees -- in violation of the ACA Code of Ethics, which is part of the ASU counseling program's curriculum."
From a legal perspective, he added, the issue isn't whether the curriculum requirements reflect the best possible approach -- only that they represent a legitimate one that is not "a pretext" but a genuine academic point of view.
"Whether I would have imposed the remediation plan, or what I would have included in the plan itself, is not the question, for the Supreme Court instructs that educators, not federal judges, are the ones that choose among pedagogical approaches," he wrote. "I will not, especially at this early stage of the litigation, serve as an ersatz dean. In fact, judicial restraint mandates that I not."
3. Inside Higher Ed, August 23, 2010
1320 18th Street NW, 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Gay Kiss Roils South African University
Kiss-ins involving pairs of men and women wouldn't stun many American campuses, but at Stellenbosch University, a very traditional Afrikaans institution in South Africa, a kiss by two men has set off considerable debate, The Christian Science Monitor reported. The kiss involved an attempt by a gay student group to participate in a "kiss-a-thon" on campus that had been planned only for heterosexual couples. Many at the campus were stunned when the student paper, Die Matie, ran a photo of the men on the cover -- and the debate has raged ever since.
4. The New York Times, August 24, 2010
620 Eighth Avenue, New York, NY 10018
At West Point, Hidden Gay Cadets Put in Spotlight
By Corey Kilgannon
WEST POINT, N.Y. — Code words, secret societies, covert meetings, fake identities: these are tools that a certain set of cadets learn here at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
These cadets are not spies or moles. They are gay, and they exist largely in the shadows of this granite institution known for producing presidents and generals, where staying closeted is essential to avoid discharge under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“The most important thing I’ve learned here is how to be a good actor,” said one gay male cadet, who grew up in Philadelphia and is in his fourth year at the academy.
The resignation this month of Katherine Miller, a top cadet who blogged anonymously about her lesbianism, has turned a spotlight on the hidden gay culture here and revived debate on campus about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” at a time when Washington is also focused on the issue.
Ms. Miller, who wrote under the name “Private Second Class Citizen” about enduring gay slurs and faking a heterosexual dating history, is transferring to Yale University this fall and has become something of a media celebrity, appearing on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC and on ABC News.
Interviews with three gay cadets, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because revealing their identities could result in expulsion, as well as conversations with Ms. Miller and several gay alumni, painted a portrait of a vibrant, if tiny, gay underground at West Point. The hiding begins on Day 1: new cadets must sign a document acknowledging that revealing one’s homosexuality can lead to discharge, as can demonstrating “a propensity to engage in homosexual acts.”
In 1996, three female cadets resigned after West Point officials found a diary belonging to one of them that revealed their sexual orientation. In 2002, the academy discharged a cadet after his profile was discovered on a gay Web site. Ms. Miller, whose blog began in April but apparently eluded academy officials, said she quit voluntarily by submitting a letter revealing her lesbianism.
Asked about gay culture at West Point, Lt. Col. Brian Tribus, the academy’s director of public affairs, issued a statement saying that the school “will continue to apply the law as it is obligated to do,” but also noting that cadets must take military ethics classes that include “topics about unconditional positive respect for others.”
For gay cadets, repressing their sexuality is just one part of adapting to West Point, where life is regimented and lived mostly in uniform. Romance of any kind can be difficult: the 4,400 cadets, who live in one complex of large barracks and eat together at huge weekday breakfasts and lunches in Washington Hall, are allowed to date but not to kiss or hold hands while in uniform. “It’s like living in a snow globe,” said one lesbian cadet, who is in her third year.
But she and others said the lack of social freedom only primed the active social grapevine at the academy. They said that they knew at least 20 lesbian cadets (West Point is about 15 percent female), and that when a friend recently drew a diagram showing who had had relationships with whom, it revealed a tight web.
Trying to divine other lesbians takes “really finely tuned gaydar,” said another lesbian cadet, who is a senior, or “firstie.” There are code words and test phrases: “Are you family?” refers to inclusion in the lesbian sisterhood. Or cadets might throw out references to the television show “The L Word” to gauge the response.
An encounter during military maneuvers might result in flirtatious Facebook messaging back in the barracks. Those who earn weekend passes might make late-night runs to gay bars in Manhattan, about 50 miles away, or to gay parties on nearby college campuses, often with students they met through intercollegiate sports.
The two lesbian cadets described all this at 9 o’clock one night last week at Jefferson Library, amid dozens of classmates dressed in immaculately pressed gray uniforms, sitting up straight and studying textbooks. Both said they had been openly gay in high school but found gay socializing nearly impossible during the strict first year at West Point, then began to confide in a tight group of loyal friends as liberties increased.
“Anyone you meet here,” the senior female cadet said, “you have to assess their personality very closely, and see if you can trust them.”
She said she wore baggy clothing when going to a gay club in the city, but tighter garments — to “dress straight,” as she put it — when heading to the Firstie Club on campus. She and others also mask their orientation by using nonchalant greetings with other lesbians and feigning attraction for men. And, inevitably, they stay silent amid slurs and slights.
“I had a roommate who told me, ‘Whenever I see two gay people walking down the street, it makes me want to throw up,’ ” the senior female cadet said. “I was like, ‘Little do you know, I’m gay.’ ”
Even fending off advances from male cadets can create problems. “You can’t say, ‘Sorry guys, I’m gay,’ ” the senior said. “And if I say, ‘I have a boyfriend,’ I’m breaking the honor code.” Breaching the Cadet Honor Code — “a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do” — can result in serious discipline.
The male cadet in his fourth year said he had had sexual relationships with several other men at the academy. Last year, he fell for a guy at a gay bar in Manhattan who, to the surprise of both of them, turned out to be a classmate.
Back on campus, they enjoyed and suffered through a seven-month relationship on the “down low,” he said. They might share a meal at Grant Hall, but if they passed each other in company, they would simply nod hello or offer a casual back-slap. They did not attend the year-end formal dance together.
“I went alone and told the other guys my girlfriend from home had flight delays,” said the senior, who goes nightly to a deserted parking lot to make personal phone calls, for fear of tipping off his straight roommates.
Ms. Miller, 20, a sociology major from Findlay, Ohio, said she decided to leave West Point after two years because she grew tired of hiding.
“It was a whirlpool of lies — I was violating the honor code every time I socialized,” she said in an interview.
Ms. Miller, who ranked 17th in her West Point class, wrote in her Aug. 9 resignation letter: “I have lied to my classmates and compromised my integrity and my identity by adhering to existing military policy. I am unwilling to suppress an entire portion of my identity any longer.”
Becky Kanis, a 1991 West Point graduate and chairwoman of the group Knights Out, which offers guidance to gay West Point cadets, said Ms. Miller’s resignation provided a morale boost to gay cadets by alerting the public to the “shared adversity” they endured in having to mask their sexual orientation.
Ms. Kanis, a former Army captain who now lives in Los Angeles and works with a social services organization, Common Ground, said that her own sexual orientation was investigated twice during her years at West Point — friends interrogated, lockbox searched — and that gay cadets often spoke in code, using genderless pronouns, for example, when talking about significant others. “You have to operate in a ‘shush network,’ ” she said.
But it all “came in handy,” Ms. Kanis said, when she began doing intelligence work in the Army. “I was used to having a cover for my personal life,” she said. “Living closeted is excellent training for intelligence jobs. You’re always fine-tuning who you can talk to about what.”
5. Student Life (Washington University in St. Louis), August 25, 2010
WU ends partnership with Target
By Perry Stein
Wash. U. backed out of a partnered event with Target Corp. after the retail powerhouse received heat for a donation it made to an organization backing a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate with a history of staunch opposition to gay rights.
University administrators opted to cancel the Target After Hours Shopping Event—a nationwide program in which Target keeps various stores open after hours and provides transportation for college freshmen to shop and receive prizes. This was to be part of the First 40 Days series of events at Wash. U. for the incoming freshmen class.
Target donated $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, a political action committee focused on creating private-sector jobs and economic growth. The PAC then purchased TV ads for Tom Emmer, a candidate who, according to his campaign website, believes that ‘marriage is the union between one man and one woman’ and has consistently supported legislation that aims to protect this union.
In statement to various news outlets, representatives from Target have said that their support for the LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender—community is ‘unwavering’ and that they back Mr. Emmer’s economic stance, not his social values.
Best Buy also contributed money to Minnesota Forward.
Target’s donation rankled LGBT activist groups and garnered attention in media outlets throughout the nation. Jill Carnaghi, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, said that news of the controversial donation prompted her to look into the policies of Emmer and, after discussion with other administrators, ultimately led to the decision to cancel the event.
Campus Pride, a non-profit LGBT advocate organization that works with college campus nationwide, recently announced that Wash. U. was one of 19 campuses to receive five stars, the highest honors, for LGBT friendliness on campus. The ranking is based on a questionnaire fill-out by university administrators and takes into account LGBT- friendly policies and programs and practices on campus.
“We need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk,” Carnaghi said.
The Target controversy has become the poster-case for the potential backlash of the January Supreme Court decision known as Citizens United—a decision that enables corporations and unions to donate money to political campaigns. Prior to this decision, Target would not have been able to make the $150,000 donation to Minnesota Forward.
Minnesota Forward was established after the Citizens United decision to collect donations from corporations.
Despite the urging of activist groups, Target has decided not to make a political contribution of equal or greater value to a political campaign with liberal social views, according to a statement issued by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest civil rights group in the country working for LGBT equality.
The HRC subsequently dropped Target and Best Buy from their list of LGBT friendly companies and donated $150,000 to elect pro-LGBT equality candidates in Minnesota.
A Facebook group urging people to boycott Target currently has over 70,000 fans.
This is not the first time that a company Wash. U. has conducted business with has come under fire for its LGBT policies.
Last year The Laclede Group, a major gas and energy provider on campus, was ranked dead last in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Corporate Equality Index of companies’ LGBT employment policies.
Though their policies did not protect LGBT employees, the University did not cut ties with the Laclede Group.
According to Carnaghi, who had no authority over the Laclede Group situation, the Target shopping event logistically was easy to cancel because it was an optional event set to occur on a Thursday night.
“We are hopeful that Target will get it together and that we will work together with them in the future,” Carnaghi said.
Correction: The original published version of this article reported that Wash. U. participated in the Target After Hours Shopping Event since 2007. The University has never participated in the Target After Hours Shopping Event. Student Life regrets the error.
6. The Star-Ledger, August 25, 2010
1 Star Ledger Plaza, Newark, NJ 07102-1291
Controversial Seton Hall gay marriage course will go on as scheduled
By Jeff Diamant and Kelly Heyboer
SOUTH ORANGE — It appears Seton Hall University will offer a controversial course on gay marriage over the objections of Newark Archbishop John J. Myers, according to the professor scheduled to teach the class.
The undergraduate seminar course — called "The Politics of Gay Marriage" — is to begin Tuesday with about two dozen students, said W. King Mott, an associate professor of political science.
"The class is happening. I've never heard that it wasn't," said Mott, who has sent the syllabus to the enrolled students.
Last spring, Myers said he was troubled the Catholic university was offering a class that "seeks to promote as legitimate a train of thought that is contrary to what the church teaches." Myers, who serves as a member of the Seton Hall Board of Regents, called on the South Orange university to reconsider offering the class.
In June, a dozen members of the board of regents' Mission and Identity Committee began meeting behind closed doors to evaluate the course and make a recommendation. The showdown between the university’s academic and religious sides drew national attention from gay rights, education and Catholic groups.
Tuesday, Seton Hall officials declined to discuss the dispute. University spokesman Thomas White refused to confirm or deny the class will go on as scheduled.
However, the course appears in Seton Hall’s online schedule of classes and has been assigned a meeting time and a room in Jubilee Hall in the center of campus. The website also lists several texts students are required to purchase for the class, including "What’s Love Got To Do With It?: The Case for Same-Sex Marriage," a book by state Sens. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen).
James Goodness, a spokesman for the Newark archbishop, said he had not heard of any final decision on the class. But Myers continues to believe the gay marriage course is "not in sync with Catholic teaching," Goodness said.
The syllabus for the class says the course will focus on gay marriage as a contemporary political idea and may bring guest speakers to campus to share their personal stories.
"This point of view does not dismiss those that hold a religious belief; all perspectives are welcome in this discussion," the syllabus says.
Mott, one of the few openly gay professors at Seton Hall, came up with the idea for the elective class for upperclassmen. He said students will explore the social and political issues surrounding the gay marriage debate without advocating for either side.
"This is a considerable public policy question and there’s opposition," Mott said. "But I would hope that at a university there would be understanding that there’s always going to be some opposition."
Mott has clashed with Seton Hall officials over gay rights issues in the past. In 2005, he was demoted from his post as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences after The Star-Ledger printed his letter challenging the church’s view on homosexuality.
But Mott said he was never pressured by his academic colleagues to cancel the gay marriage class after the archbishop raised objections.
"This has never been a problem for the academy," Mott said. "It’s been a problem for, it seems, some people outside of it."
Seton Hall, founded in 1856 by a Catholic bishop, has had several internal clashes over religious and political issues in recent years. The university was forced to move a 1998 awards ceremony honoring Gov. Christie Whitman off campus after some complained her support of abortion rights was against Catholic teaching. Seton Hall’s law school also feuded with church officials in 2004 when it gave awards to two judges who had ruled in favor of abortion rights.
The current controversy comes as Seton Hall is searching for a new leader to replace Monsignor Robert Sheeran, who stepped down this summer. The school abandoned its year-long hunt for a new president in June after two priest finalists dropped out of the running. Former Seton Hall Provost A. Gabriel Esteban will serve as interim president for the next year as the university restarts its presidential search.
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