Rejection of Gay Rights Group Detrimental to Campus

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From St. Edward’s University Hilltop Views Editorial

Approximately 35 non-profit organizations are scheduled to participate in the upcoming St. Edward’s University non-profit internship fair, but each group is in danger of being overshadowed by the one that will not be there.

The university recently rejected a request from Equality Texas to participate in the Sept. 15 fair. The group’s stated goal is to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by lobbying the Texas legislature on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender issues. In an e-mail, St. Edward’s notified the group that they were at odds with the university’s Catholic principles, and therefore not allowed to be at the fair.

The university claims that allowing Equality Texas to be on campus to recruit student interns would be an endorsement of the group’s beliefs. Meanwhile, the career planning website Hilltop Careers features internships with the offices of pro-choice state politicians, like state Rep. Valinda Bolton, D-Austin, and Harris Media LLC, a political consulting firm that works for candidates who support the death penalty like Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. Advertising these jobs is not an endorsement of pro-choice or pro-death penalty beliefs, but an avenue for students to become politically engaged.

A critical goal that St. Edward’s sets for students is that they “learn to think.”  This motto does not refer to base indoctrination. Rather, it means that St. Edward’s seeks to equip students with the necessary mental tools to solve problems—social, occupational, moral or otherwise—on their own. Having provided students with the ability to think critically and reasonably, the university should trust that they can make their own decisions.

Thus, students should be allowed to freely choose whether they agree with practices like gay marriage, and also to freely choose whether or not they want to intern for an organization that advocates for it.

The remainder of the university’s explanation was equally troubling. When the university incorrectly identified Equality Texas as a for-profit organization, it appeared to be having a knee-jerk reaction rather than a fact-based response. The university’s lack of knowledge about Equality Texas suggests that it did not take the necessary time to evaluate the organization’s purpose and value.

Moreover, the university’s decision to turn away Equality Texas is at odds with the very mission statement that St. Edward’s claims to be defending. The university has long prided itself on being a welcoming place for students, faculty, staff and guests of all beliefs, backgrounds, faiths and ethnicities. This commitment is a central part of the university’s mission statement, and sexual orientation is just as much an element of diversity as economic or ethnic background.

The university seemed to agree with this interpretation of diversity when it took the initiative of sponsoring a LGBT student organization called Pride. However, St. Edward’s now appears to be back-tracking regarding which types of diversity it considers acceptable.

Throughout the years, the university has endeavored to give the concepts of inter-faith dialogue and global understanding their due attention in curriculum and on-campus events. This practice has not required the university to sacrifice the Catholic character central to the campus. Instead, the university embraces the opportunity to learn about other cultures as part of the overriding Catholic belief in the dignity and value of all human life.

If the university is open to discussions of topics that have traditionally been at odds with the stance of the Catholic Church, it should be willing to take on the issue of sexuality in the same manner. Issues of sexual orientation deserve the same respect with which the university has treated issues of diversity in culture and faith.

Ultimately, shutting out groups like Equality Texas is akin to trying to win an argument by refusing to have one. A university should be a place where debate and differences are encouraged, not stifled.

 

DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of The Texas Observer. The author is solely responsible for its content.