Originally published in Issue 14, Fifty-First Year of The Minstrel (May 4, 2017).
At the April faculty meeting, 77 percent of the faculty voted in favor of adding “sexual orientation” to the Notice of Non-discrimination found in the faculty and student handbooks. However, the final decision is up to the Board of Trustees.
This vote closely mirrors the statistic from the Public Religion Research Institute that found 76 percent of Catholics favor laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
The lack of protection for LGBT students and faculty was first brought to the Faculty Steering Committee about a year ago and the conversation continued into this academic year.
A new version of the non- discrimination policy was drafted with the only difference being the addition of the two words “sexual orientation.” A total of 97 faculty members attended the meeting and voted anonymously with a secret ballot. The results revealed 72 faculty members voted in favor of the policy change, 24 members opposed the change and one person abstained from voting.
“I was elated,” said instructor Larry Belt after he heard the results. “I could breathe deeper, I could stand taller. I felt like something had been accomplished and a weight had been lightened.”
Although the decision to include “sexual orientation” is not finalized yet, it is really about the voice of the faculty being heard. The February faculty meeting revolved around opposition to the policy, which was mostly based in the teachings of the Catholic Church. The March meeting was cancelled, and supporters of the policy change were now ready to speak at the April meeting.
“The opportunity for it to be discussed really opened the door to people willing to speak in favor of it,” said Belt.
In their hearts, Belt said, people knew which way they were going to vote and whether or not that matches with the way they live.
“If it opened up that way for the faculty, I think about if there were an open forum for students that it would be the same thing,” he said.
If an open forum about LGBT concerns is held at DeSales, students will be able to discuss their positions and needs. This could then lead to the formation of a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), which is a student-run club that offers support and a safe environment to the LGBT community.