When Tim Gallagher was a resident adviser at his sophomore year, he says a freshman found the word "fag" carved into his front door.
That action started a series of events that led the alumnus to this week.
On Monday, Gallagher posted the petition on Change.org in response to repeated denials by university officials to allow an LGBT student group to form on campus.
The controversy comes during the same week that same-sex marriage is sparking both demonstrations of support and protests at Chick-fil-A restaurants nationwide.
Gallagher told Patch, "The administrative director told me that we could fix [the student's] door, but that was about it. They said [the incident] would be treated as it someone carved the word 'Blue' on his door."
Gallagher, winner of the 2010 McShea Leadership Award, claims the DeSales administration told him no action could be taken because the school lacks a non-discrimination clause that protects sexual orientation.
That's when Gallagher and fellow students tried to act, requesting permission to start a gay-straight alliance on campus.
"This was around the time [several gay students nationwide] were committing suicide. We felt the campus needed a group to address the issue," said Gallagher.
The university denied the request, citing the club's potential exclusivity as a reason. The Rev. Bernard O’Connor, president of DeSales, expanded on the university's position in a 2010 article in The Minstrel, DeSales' student-run newspaper.
"...a focus on diversity tends to emphasize our differences rather than show our commonalities and our belonging to a larger group … the human family,” O’Connor said.
Gallagher isn't buying it. "On campus we have students, faculty, and staff that are gay or gay-friendly who can't be open because they fear being fired. They have to have conversations in offices with the door closed or fear consequences."
Gallagher is in touch with current students and faculty about creating the club on campus. There's been discussion to start a Gay/Straight Alumni Alliance.
"I love most of DeSales," said Gallagher. "It's a great education, and we have one of the largest comprehensive theater programs in the area. We have nursing majors and other [majors] you can't get anywhere else. The Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival is on campus. To say that there are no students or faculty who feel they have to hide on campus is not true."
Gallagher is realistic about the possibility of a sea change at DeSales.
"I'm not calling for two guys or girls to go to the formal together. [Rev. O'Connor] doesn't have to have a pride week. But I am asking for the administration to stop shutting down the conversation and to have an open discussion about creating safe zone [for students] to come and talk."
Wednesday, DeSales publications department spokeswoman Laura Zielinski told Patch that no one was available to comment at this time.