Equal rights is a value that is often associated with modern American society. During the 1960s and ’70s, demonstrations, protests and rallies were staged to uphold these rights that was supposed to be respected by every individual.
On April 15, Boston College was the site of an event reminiscent of this turbulent time in our history. As reported in the April 16 issue of The Boston Globe, an estimated 1,000 students, faculty and staff came together to voice their opinions and discontent over the struggle that the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender community at Boston College is facing today.
The rally was the pinnacle of a three-year, ongoing anti-discrimination movement.
According to its Web site, bcequality.org, this is “[A] movement to add ‘sexual orientation’ to Boston College’s official notice of non-discrimination. … Our goal is to get full and equal legal protection from discrimination for members of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community. Our movement is based on equality, justice and inclusiveness.”
The protest began with an all-day strike from classes (some professors even cancelled their classes) and a rally where students voiced their concerns about the absence of sexual orientation in the university’s non-discrimination clause.
The rally included several speakers discussing the issue at hand to a sea of students adorned in blue T-shirts. The T-shirts had been distributed a few weeks prior to the rally by the Undergraduate Government of Boston College as a separate activity that said, “Gay? Fine by me.” According to Boston College sophomore Kathryn Held, the students wore the shirts in support of GLBT issues.
The rally was followed by a march around campus which began at the college’s campus green, nicknamed the “Dustbowl,” and finished in front of the university president’s office.
According to Nick Salter of the undergraduate government of Boston College, members of the movement began discussions with the administration about changing the policy in October of 2004. It wasn’t until later in the year that students were directly affected.
“In March, students involved in the movement got a referendum question on the student ballot asking for the inclusion of sexual orientation in equal standing with the other protected categories [race, sex, age, etc.],” Salter said.
According to Salter, in order to have the referendum on the ballot, those involved in the movement had to collect 1,200 student signatures in a week. The group was able to get 2,100 students to sign the petition and over 250 faculty and staff members’ support including department chairs and members of the Jesuit community.
According to Salter, the referendum passed with 84 percent support along with the largest voter turnout in BC’s history; more than 4,000 undergraduates voted in the election of the student goverment president as well as other UGBC positions.
“The referendum was non-binding, but it clearly demonstrated the broad support in the BC community for the policy change- – a policy that better reflected the welcoming and accepting attitudes of the community,” Salter said.
According to a press release sent out April 14 by organizers of the event, student representatives and administrators have been negotiating but no agreement has been reached yet.
“We hope to reach an agreement on a revised policy soon,” Salter said. “But I also feel it is necessary for us to come together today in display of the welcoming and accepting environment that exists at BC.”
Other students not directly involved in negotiations felt that the rally was a way to voice their support for equality.
“Unfortunately not all of us can be at the table,” BC junior Sasha Westerman said in the press release. “This movement numbers in the hundreds, and the rally and strike are a way for all of us to give expression to our discontent with the current policy.”
Held also signed the petition to include the referendum. She said she noticed the movement gaining momentum.
“It has been growing in the past couple of months since the undergraduate government of Boston College … elections took place,” Held said. “The referendum to include sexual orientation was an issue then. I can say that over the last couple weeks the movement has been highly visible and I know was talked about in all of my classes and among my peers. “
Although Held supports both the movement and the strike, she was forced to attend classes on Friday.
“The professors I had that day e-mailed the classes saying that there was a ‘no excuse policy’ for absence and they were not recognizing the strike,” Held said. “Many other professors I heard, however, were either canceling classes that day or making attendance optional.”
On the Web site, a list is available of all Jesuit universities’, (with the exception of the University of Scranton) non-discrimination policies. Loyola was on the list.
The Loyola student handbook includes a notice of a nondiscriminatory policy to students: “Loyola University Chicago admits students without regard to their race, religion, color, sex, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability or any other characteristic protected by applicable law to all the rights, privileges, programs and other activities.”
“I would say that while some people might think that a clause like that shouldn’t be in the handbook of a Jesuit university because it seems too liberal, I would argue that it actually shows Jesuit morals by being accepting of all people,” LU junior Anna Hinterschied said. “The clause is not condoning these kinds of relationships, but having a Jesuit ideal of acceptance of all people.”
President of the Rainbow Connection junior Adam Cebulski is not satisfied with LU’s position on this issue either.
“Loyola does not offer domestic partnership benefits to anybody working for them,” Cebulski said. “Most Jesuit universities do not because they claim it promotes a lifestyle incongruent with [the Catholic] Church[‘s] teachings.”]]>