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Op-Ed: DeSales More Interested in "Antiquated Church Doctrine" than Equality

Equality PA president Adrian Shanker says DeSales "is more interested in preserving an antiquated Church doctrine than they are in creating an inclusive campus"

I read, with great interest, Elizabeth Rich's University, clarified DeSales' long-standing commitment to creating a campus culture of unwelcome for their LGBT community. In the article, Joyce stated that the Catholic-ness of the institution would render it "hypocritical" to allow an LGBT student organization on campus. 

Their decision was neither surprising nor was it earth shattering. In fact, it was the most predictable response possible. It's no secret that , and it is certainly widely accepted that the Roman Catholic Church opposes all forms of basic equality for LGBT people. But as an academic institution, one would hope that the university  with all the same privileges provided to other student organizations at DeSales.

I am not interested in debating theology, or even student rights -- I am well aware that Catholic institutions have the right to discriminate against LGBT students, they are exempt from non-discrimination laws (when they exist in the relevant state or municipality), they certainly don't have to recognize same-sex relationships of their employees, and Dr. Joyce is correct in that they are not legally required to allow a gay straight alliance. The question is, why would they want to publicly state their opposition to creating an inclusive campus environment for their LGBT students? Why would they, so arrogantly, state that they are doing enough to foster an inclusive campus when both students and alumni are telling stories to demonstrate the opposite? And, why micromanage the extracurricular interests of their student body?

The only realistic answer is that DeSales University is more interested in preserving an antiquated Church doctrine than they are in creating an inclusive campus community for the people they are hired to serve, their students -- and what a message to send to current and prospective students.

But the presence of a Gay Straight Alliance is only one indicator of an inclusive campus community. Muhlenberg College, an Evangelical Lutheran Church of America affiliated institution, has a robust non-discrimination policy (inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity,) provides Domestic Partner Benefits to same-sex partners of their employees (which, in turn, has brought numerous out-LGBT faculty and staff to the college), employs an LGBT campus coordinator, offers Gender Neutral housing options for their students, and includes sexuality and gender studies into and across their curriculum. They have an LGBT student organization on campus as well - but it is the full package that makes Muhlenberg an inclusive campus community, and the lack of all those indicators that prevents DeSales from being one. In other words, a GSA would be great for LGBT students at DeSales, but it's not enough to make the community an inclusive space.

My guess is that DeSales is okay with this. They are okay telling their LGBT student's, some of whom may be Catholic, that the faith tradition of the university is opposed to "their lifestyle." They are okay telling their students that  when the former is a hateful epithet and the latter is not. They are okay telling prospective employees that 'LGBT need not apply'  --- and that is why DeSales pales in comparison to other Lehigh Valley institutions - Muhlenberg, along with other Lehigh Valley institutions including Lehigh, Lafayette, and Cedar Crest, are all light-years ahead of DeSales in their creation of an inclusive campus community for their LGBT students.

In some ways, DeSales' continued decision not to recognize a Gay Straight Alliance is a good thing -- it means they can't hide behind a student organization to pretend they are an inclusive space, when all other indicators demonstrate so clearly that they are not. It means that their current students won't have a false sense of being included as an equal on campus. It means that prospective students won't be fooled into attending the university by an assumption that it's a safe place to be open about ones' sexual orientation or gender identity.

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Adrian Shanker is President of Equality Pennsylvania, the Commonwealth's political voice for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community. He is a resident of Bethlehem, PA.


You can follow him on Twitter at @AdrianShanker

Jennifer Moyer August 09, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Why not respect the freedom provided by private institutions to create a diversity of choices? If every educational institution must be the same where is all the diversity that really is desirable. Certainly DeSales leaders respect individuals that are gay as individuals, they just are not fanatical and biased toward the practices of homosexuals and they don't feel obligated to use the latest liberal catchwords and jargon as Adrian Shanker does in his mostly illogical and unbalanced article.
Peter August 09, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Why are people still talking about this? Desales is a catholic institution. they're entitled to their opinion and policy. if you don't like it, DON'T GO TO SCHOOL THERE! this kind of stuff drives me crazy. it's called a free market. are these kids forced to go there? Someone please explain to me all this outrage. wouldn't it be common sense that a catholic school wouldn't take kindly to lgbt student organizations? Look...to make parallels to the whole chic-fil-a thing, the guy made dumb comments. it's his right to have an opinion, but it was obviously dumb from a business standpoint. You know how things like this are taken care of? the free market. People who don't like what the guy said can choose not to spend money there. there are plenty of other food establishments. Same thing goes here. You don't like Desales stand on lgbt student organizations? don't go to school there. You can't force people to think or act a certain way.
Thomson Jaffe August 09, 2012 at 12:26 PM
I'm still talking about it because I'm a DeSales student and I bought into the school, not the religion. They told me that they would help me become the best person I could become, not just academically but in all aspects of my life, but I can't do that if I have to hide part of who I am. I love my school, but that doesn't mean there aren't things I wouldn't change.
Jackie E August 09, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Like many of us have said before, we go to the school because IT IS A GOOD SCHOOL, education wise anyway. I am a straight female that IS catholic that HAS attended here but I think desales is being so close-minded. Those of you who are also close-minded, you're welcome to your own opinion, as am I. And YES we are still talking about it because to us it is an important subject. Why not let us have a gay straight alliance or a LGBT club? Because not everyone will be able to join? I know for a fact that there are established clubs on campus that not everyone is allowed to join.
Mary Anne Looby August 09, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Well said Mr. Jaffe
Kevin Smith August 09, 2012 at 12:52 PM
People are still talking about it because they want prospective students and employees to know about DeSales' issues. Yes, they have the "right" to discriminate against the LGBT community as a private institution, but that doesn't make it right.
Kevin Smith August 09, 2012 at 12:53 PM
To be clear, it's an op-ed. So of course he's going to show how DeSales' stance, while it may be legal, is becoming very antiquated.
P Sullivan August 09, 2012 at 01:22 PM
I have to agree with the comment that says if you don't like their policy then don't go there. If you are a student or a prospective student or an alumni, and you don't support intolerance, discrimination or unfairness, and you have tried to encourage positive change, but the college firmly refuses even the tiniest concession to intellectually consider fair treatment by just letting LGBT students paying for their education meet in a room on campus after they have respectfully asked to do so...Then by all means see that as indicative of a much larger problem of intolerance, and don't go there, transfer, and don't support the college with contributions. There are many Catholic Universities that support equality and fairness for all people including LGBT people. DeSales has made its choice to hold firmly to a divisive policy. If you go there, you have made the choice to support intolerance. It's up to you.
Eddy F August 09, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Well, perhaps articles like this will serve as a warning: if you don't want to go to a bigoted institution, dont go to DeSales. Perhaps they should be made to warn prospective students that they will be discriminated against if they are gay.
Lynn Mariano August 09, 2012 at 03:02 PM
First of all, Eddy, no one is saying they are being discriminated against. IT IS A STUPID CLUB. It is not like they are crucifying anyone because they are gay. They are denying a CLUB...A MEASLY CLUB. A club...like the one kids have. FOR GOD'S SAKE, if you can't have a club...it is not saying you CAN'T be gay. They are saying you CAN'T HAVE A CLUB! Everyone breathe and relax...and for those students who are so upset about not having a CLUB that celebrates their diversity, TRANSFER. All I am hearing is a bunch of people whining on here about how suppressed they are. IF YOU DON'T LIKE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES CHANGE IT...get out of the school that you feel is discriminating against you. If someone was beating you up, you wouldn't sit there and let them persist punching you in the face, you would walk away. MOVE ON.
Kyle August 09, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Lets all go to Lynn's house and spraypaint things on her door. If she doesn't like it, she can move
George August 09, 2012 at 10:51 PM
That's funny, Kyle. So long as you don't actually do it, of course.
Lynn Mariano August 09, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Good one Kyle...Very Mature...the difference between you spray painting my door on a house that I pay the mortgage on is that would be ILLEGAL. DeSales has NO obligation to allow for a club like this...if a student is that determined to have a club like this...then they need to go else where. Rather than smack talk on the form...maybe do your research. kthanks.
Kyle August 09, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Illegal and Immoral are two separate things. You choose to live in a neighborhood with crime, so its your own fault when your property is destroyed. You also make arrogant posts on the internet. If you don't like what I have to say, why don't you just take your own advice and LEAVE. kthanks.
Lynn Mariano August 10, 2012 at 01:44 AM
So because I live in a neighborhood that may or may not have a lot of crime is my own fault? So if someone is robbed in Beverly hills, whose fault is that then? And if someone is robbed in a bad neighborhood, we need to hold the property holder responsible? Does that go with someone who is raped too, the victim is to be held responsible? I think the only arrogant person here is you...and more than likely immoral. Nothing is immoral with a college denying a student a club. That is the school's right...as it is a student's right to choose a school or not choose a school. No one is saying these students can or can not be Gay...they are just saying a they can't have a SCHOOL FUNDED club. Have an unofficial club...have a club that is just not recognized by the school. What is the big deal? And speaking of arrogant...I am pretty sure threatening to vandalize a person's home isn't really all that "loving"...
Kyle August 10, 2012 at 02:00 AM
You're right! The school doesn't need to fund it. It only needs to acknowledge it exists! Then, when it's a club, they can deny them funding because they don't want to fund something against their religious beliefs. The issue is they're denying the right to form a club on campus. I apologize if you felt threatened, but if you don't like it, you can LEAVE. kthanks
Grace August 10, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Thomson, I understand you bought into the school. But do you really think it's fair to expect them to change centuries of religious beliefs? The LGBT community doesn't change their views to match those of a catholic person, they should be allowed to be who they are and embrace it, but why should the catholic's change their beliefs to match yours? What makes your belief superior? Why can't people just respect everyone's beliefs? One could argue that the school was a place for a strict catholic to go and learn, and why should that person who went to the school for what it was advertised for have to have that taken away because someone else failed to recognize the school's beliefs?
Lynn Mariano August 10, 2012 at 04:39 AM
Oooo...good one. Very Classy. Nice platform you stand on too...threatening people over the internet. real nice. The school is acknowledging it...they aren't turning a blind eye...in previous articles (if you did your research) the director of student affairs did say: "The way [the group] was presenting themselves was as an exclusive club, and we don't do exclusive groups at DeSales. We use student activity fees to fund [student organizations], which would mean students wouldn't be able to get into a club they were paying for...I remember the conversation being positive, and reminding [the group] that there is an office within student affairs committed to community justice they could work with." The students have options...they just can't get funding for their club.
Kyle August 10, 2012 at 04:46 AM
And, if you did your research, you'd know that the club was NOT pitched as an exclusive club, unlike say, Esto Vir, the Catholic Mens club on campus, or Philotheas, the Catholic Womens club on campus. Please, tell me how those are inclusive clubs?
Lynn Mariano August 10, 2012 at 03:25 PM
The school is a CATHOLIC school...the clubs are supposed to be there because it is a CATHOLIC school. If you went to a school that had one of the best equestrian programs in the country and they would have an equestrian club even though not everyone has a horse. Some students go to DeSales who are Catholic seeking out a Catholic school because, believe it or not, DeSales is Catholic. Since DeSales is marketed as a Catholic school...they need to offer programs that are Catholic based. DeSales is also marketed as university with opportunity for growth under Catholic Doctrine. If something doesn't fall under Catholic Doctrine, the school will not be able to support it. Not saying it can't happen, it just will not be funded by the School. For example, straying away from the LGBT club for a second, if a film student at DeSales wanted to create a film promoting abortion use using the school's equipment...the student would more than likely be either denied use of the equipment or would not be allowed to site DeSales in their film. Doesn't this student have the right to free speech? Sure. But the product you are creating conflicts with the belief of the sole supplier of your resources, so they will not support it. The student can rent their own equipment and make their own film, without any help from DeSales. There are other places this student can go. And similar to the club, film students pay a lab fee to be able to use the equipment.
kyle August 10, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Funny you should say that, because as a film student at DeSales University, I was given the privilege of making films about anything that I wanted, as did many others, who were successful in having a film about a homosexual couple entered into the film festival. So now the school is hypocritical for not sticking with their guns, since a homosexual relationship in a school sponsored film festival CLEARLY means they are pro-homosexual unions in their church and school, much like the measly LGBT club would mean the school is pro-gay marriage. Know how this wouldn't even be an issue, if the school didn't fire all their dorm security guards. Or better yet, if they used those security cameras around campus to find and prosecute the person who committed the hate crime.
Joe M August 10, 2012 at 06:24 PM
It is pretty hateful and extremely insulting on the part of the author of the article. Using the word antiquated means obsolete. Who is he to criticize and mock religion? Clearly mocking Church doctrine which is part of a person's religion. This behavior can't stem from anywhere from the fact that Catholicism is despised. To despise means you have malice. Malice = Hate. Vitriolic speech is no way to begin a conversation.
Lynn Mariano August 10, 2012 at 07:45 PM
I saw that film festival, Kyle. Although their were undertones, it was not straight out saying we endorse homosexual unions. I too was a film major at DeSales...and I know for a fact that students, although they have free reign to do as they please, can not produce films that are against Catholic beliefs. I can promise you that. But that is neither here nor there. Also, the Catholic Church is not condemning anyone who is homosexual...the Catholic Church is stating that the do not condone or endorse same sex marriage. Whether you believe that is right or wrong is irrelevant...it is what the church believes. Another irrelevant fact is how you believe dorm security guards would be able to correct a situation of a hate crime....if a security guard is on the first floor, how is he/she supposed to know what is happening on the third floor? I really have no idea why this was even brought up.
Travis August 11, 2012 at 05:55 AM
Hey Lynn, If you really attended this years film festival, there were over 3 films that directly dealt with homosexuality... Students weren't naive to the fact the administration was fouling up...
Lynn Mariano August 11, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Travis...as i stated below..."the Catholic Church is not condemning anyone who is homosexual...the Catholic Church is stating that the do not condone or endorse same sex marriage. Whether you believe that is right or wrong is irrelevant...it is what the church believes."
CivicRepublican August 21, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Perhaps if Pat Toomey were still on the DeSales board things would be different.

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