[Our Lady's namesake university to legitimate pro-sodomite support group?]
Notre Dame’s Fr. Jenkins Promises “A Fresh Look” at LGBT Issues
In an interview with the student newspaper, the president of the University of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, spoke at length of the university’s decision to not add sexual discrimination to its nondiscrimination clause. But he cryptically added that it’s time for the university to take “a fresh look” at issues relating to LGBT students.
The decision to not alter the university’s nondiscrimination clause was announced at the end of the last semester and sparked a number of protests including a student led vigil, a number of professors speaking out, and over 100 faculty on campus signing a public letter urging the administration to change its mind.
Fr. Jenkins told The Observer that Notre Dame doesn’t discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation but said that if Notre Dame were to alter its nondiscrimination clause it could “undermine our ability to live in accordance with the Catholic teaching because we distinguish between orientation and action.”
“At Notre Dame, we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation,” Jenkins said. “That’s a fundamental thing, but that’s not the only thing. The Spirit of Inclusion, which was approved by the Board of Fellows, higher than me, the highest level of the University, says that not only don’t we discriminate, but we want to be a place, an environment, where people feel — of same-sex orientation, anything else — feel respected, supported, fully involved in this community.”
The clause primarily addresses discrimination against prospective students and employees in areas such as admissions, employment, scholarships and athletics. The current clause states the University “does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, sex, disability, veteran status or age.”
What the University includes in the non-discrimination clause are “all and only” those categories required by federal law, Jenkins said. Other schools that include sexual orientation in a similar policy usually do so because they are required by state or local ordinance.
“If Notre Dame voluntarily took this on, our fear is that it would be seen as a broader and stronger commitment with regard to same-sex orientation that may undermine our ability to live in accordance with the Catholic teaching because we distinguish between orientation and action,” Jenkins said.
As a prominent Catholic university, Notre Dame could also become the target of high-publicity lawsuits related to the clause, Jenkins said.
Jenkins told The Observer that he didn’t believe changing the non-discrimination clause would achieve the goal of a welcoming environment for LGBT students at Notre Dame. “I am absolutely committed to try to create that environment, but I think there are other ways to do that.”
And then this:
“I think so much of this is about climate, and it’s not what I’m, what the president, is doing in his office,” Jenkins said. “It’s about what all of us are doing on campus. I think that’s extremely important, and that’s something we work on with hall staff, that’s something we work on with our Student Affairs personnel. … We just have to keep working on it.”
The Office of Student Affairs and its newly-appointed Vice President Erin Hoffman Harding are currently reviewing a proposal to create an official gay-straight alliance (GSA) at Notre Dame. AllianceND, currently campus’s unofficial GSA, applied for official club status in February.
“Are there better structures to achieve our ends?” Jenkins said. “I think it’s time for a fresh look.”
Let’s hope “better structures” will not include ending the university’s 25 year resistance to pleas for recognition of an on campus Gay-Straight Alliance.
The University announced earlier this year that it would delay until the fall a decision about whether to recognize a gay-straight alliance. In February, the Notre Dame Student Senate even passed a nearly unanimous resolution requesting that the University approve the application. This approval has reportedly been sought for more than 25 years and the University has so far always refused. So far.