Administration shows bigotry and fear in ads ban
Letter to the Editor
When we learned of the policy implemented by the administration of systematic discrimination against any advertisements from GALA, our hearts were deeply saddened and angered.
One year ago, in an open letter to the Notre Dame community, the officers of the University rejected the addition of sexual orientation to the non-discrimination clause in response to certain legal implications of such a statement. There would be great difficulty they claimed, in differentiating between sexual orientation and sexual activity. Instead, the officers decided to adopt a document — the Spirit of Inclusion — which would embody a new spirit by the administration regarding homosexuals. This verbose and vague document, while well-intended, has no legal standing. The lack of legal protection made us nervous.
However, the administration promised that we would not encounter discrimination on any basic level. "We don't believe there is discrimination here," said University spokesman Dennis Moore.
The Spirit of Inclusion states that the University strives "to create an environment of mutual respect, hospitality, and warmth." However, in such an environment, surely a group of Notre Dame alumni united by their experience as a sexual minority during their years at Notre Dame would be invited to participate in the campus community just as any other alumni group might. The administration has presented the argument that the agenda of GALA is contrary to the agenda of the Catholic Church. As a group compromised of many conscientious Catholics, we have thus far failed to see how GALA or OUTreach ND is contrary to the teachings of the Church. Many members of the group espouse personal beliefs in complete harmony with the teachings of the Church. In fact, we see GALA as a beneficial and supportive fellowship between people who have experienced similar trials in their lives. These Domers are just like any other random sampling — wonderful, successful people, who are largely active Roman Catholics.
What is clear is that the Spirit of Inclusion's promise of a supportive, loving atmosphere is just empty words on paper. In reality, the administration sends letters forbidding us to advertise our scholarships, invite people to our meetings or hold meetings autonomously, as any other student group would. Instead of support, we feel quieted, hidden and oppressed.
Of course, this act is also a blatant act of censorship. Obviously, because the University owns the student paper [Editor's note: The University holds approximately 15 percent equity in The Observer], the administration clearly has the right to control its advertisements. Legality is not the question — justice is. Where is the justice in censoring an ad that congratulated gay and lesbian students upon their graduation? What is it that makes this university scared to allow free inquiry of ideas? And why can a group of gay students not assemble while non-Catholic religious groups are invited to gather? We beg to know what differentiates us from any other student group on campus.
Moreover, what about corporations that advertise in our Catholic student newspaper? Do they have policies which might be interpreted to be contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church?
Besides being a censorious act of questionable nature, this is a concrete example of why the administration refused to guarantee the legal protection of the rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people here at Notre Dame. It is clear that this university is not one which is prepared to stand up for the rights of its gay people.
We, yet again, feel out of place and awkward being active in an institution which proscribes ads from the alumni club which will one day likely be our own. This is a clear violation of the Spirit of Inclusion's promises. We are excluded.
L. Matthew Blancett
September 10, 1999
All Viewpoint Stories for Monday, September 13, 1999