As the new year gets underway, college campuses will soon be in full swing. Here are stories from three Catholic schools that are working for greater LGBT equality for their students.
USD Students’ Demand LGBTQ Justice
University of San Diego (USD) students have released a list of equality demands for marginalized students–including LGBTQ students–to kick off the spring semester. Uniting under “Concerned Students @ USD” and led by the Black Student Union, student groups and activists at the school are seeking a number of critic al campus reforms.
The 22 demands ask “that the university stand by its professed values now” to critically examine and change those aspects of campus life which are “exclusionary, alienating, and invalidating to its marginalized students.”
Though primarily focused on matters of racial justice, the intersectional approach means Concerned Students @ USD forcefully includes queer and transgender communities in their efforts. Related demands include:
- Gender-neutral restrooms in every campus building;
- Greater representation in administration and student leadership of “people of color, queer-identified people and women”;
- Creation of a new Gender and Queer Studies department with a minimum of 12 full-time faculty;
- A mandatory orientation program comprehensive of race, gender, and sexual identity;
- Intentional inclusion of “cultural, LGBT and feminist student organizations” in campus programming;
- A ban on Yik Yak, an anonymous social media application, where hate speech, including homophobic and transphobic remarks, are quite prominent.
USD President James Harris responded to the students’ demands in the campus newspaper The Vista at last semester’s end, calling upon all students to become involved with a newly begun strategic planning process where matters of justice and equality could be taken up.
University spokesperson Peter Marlow confirmed that Harris had met with involved students to help them participate in the planning process, though he added that “any fringe ideas that may be contrary to our Catholic identity would be vetted by a broad audience and even broader perspectives and priorities.”
DePaul University Considering Preferred Name Policy
Officials at Chicago’s DePaul University, the U.S.’ largest Catholic college, are considering a Student Preferred Name and Gender Policy. This proposed policy would allow students to identify their “preferred name” rather than legal name in university systems, as well as leave their gender “unspecified.” Katy Weseman, who coordinates LGBTQA Student Services, told campus newspaper The DePaulia this change is:
“Very much in line with DePaul’s mission, part of honoring a person’s human dignity is honoring and respecting how they identify and how they refer to themselves. . .this is very much a social justice issue.”
Marquette University Implements Gender-Neutral Restrooms
Students returning to Marquette University in Milwaukee this semester will have access to gender-neutral restrooms on the ground floor of all residence halls, reported campus newspaper Marquette Wire. The restrooms, labeled “All Gender,” are being welcomed by students. Marquette becomes the eighth Jesuit college in the U.S. to offer more transgender-inclusive restrooms.
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What is particularly impressive in all three stories is that it is both students and staff have been working, independently and in collaboration, for LGBT justice. Radical efforts from the grassroots, like Concerned Students @ USD, continue pushing already inclusive schools even further. Institutionalized reforms, like at DePaul and Marquette, ensure that students’ efforts become protected and permanent.
As another semester begins, Catholic higher education in the U.S. continues to lead the broader church in how we can improve LGBT acceptance and inclusion in our communities.
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.
–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry