When members of a proposed gay-straight alliance at Lindenwood University in St. Louis met to discuss their group’s application, university administration told them it was unacceptable because they were only thinking of themselves:
“It was too narrow in scope,” [Vice President of Human Relations Richard] Boyle says in a video recording of the meeting. Groups “have to serve an educational purpose with a breadth and scope that everyone within the university can be a part of.”
Two weeks ago, Kerry Cox, director of student activities, had rejected the group’s application:
“The rationale for organizing the club does not meet either our educational or our social service criterion for approval,” Cox said in his letter. “Rather, its principal purpose appears to be the support and promotion of a particular lifestyle.” Cox also said the GSA “does not coincide with the traditional values of Lindenwood University.”
Uh-oh. It’s never a good sign when you hear the L-word. You know… “lifestyle.” “Traditional values” is icing on the cake of prejudice.
He went on to say that the GSA application is “rather parochial and self-serving. It doesn’t offer a benefit to the campus community. Lindenwood University would like the members of the organization to consider a social justice alliance that could deal with race, religion, sexual orientation and other issues that face frequent scrutiny.”
The university wants to tell a group of marginalized students how to advocate for themselves? Am I the only one who sees the irony here?
And since when are an improved campus climate and increased awareness about identity development not benefits to a campus community?
If that weren’t disappointing enough, check out the “solution”:
» The group’s title cannot include “sexual orientation.”
» The group’s mission must be expanded to include “other students in need of understanding and support.”
» This means the group must also represent students with disabilities and whoever else falls into that vague category.
Essentially, Lindenwood said that LGBT students weren’t marginalized enough on their own, so their only choice was to represent all marginalized students. Except students of color, I guess? They aren’t even mentioned in the article. But hey, there are seven different Christian groups on campus. Double standard much, Lindenwood?
I think this approach is offensive on many levels. First and foremost, it highlights the very need for an organization just for LGBT concerns. Second, it adds to the marginalization of students with disabilities! Check out this quote!
Boyle said he added the disabled as one of the groups because “we don’t have that many disabled students on our campus. Why not bring them into the group so they can feel they are a part?”
Aside from not knowing the most appropriate language to address students with disabilities, he just wants to throw them in there? How patronizing. I have to agree with my friend and colleague, Shane Windmeyer:
“They’re being told they can have a club, but they have to be in it with all the other marginalized groups,” said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, a nonprofit that helps with programs and services for gay college groups across the country. “It basically says you’re not important enough to have your own club.”
This is all absurd. And in this case, the university isn’t even (explicitly) affiliated with a religious organization. It sure seems to act like one. This is a blatant application of prejudice with little appreciation for social justice values or identity development.
To the queer students and allies at Lindenwood: Congratulations on getting your organization! Despite the bizarre compromises you had to make to get recognized, do everything you can now to fulfill your original intent. Your university needs all the support it can get to improve awareness and campus climate around LGBT issues. Don’t hold back. The work has just begun.