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After protest, it is time for the administration to listen

February 11th, 2010

John Carroll University has found itself on the wrong side of history.  In a day and age of growing acceptance of gays and lesbians, the University still refuses to amend its non-discrimination policies to accommodate these men and women who are subject to much prejudice in society. A group of brave individuals protested this decision at last week’s basketball game against Mount Union. I laud them for their efforts towards justice and equality; they have taken to heart what our Jesuit education has taught us.

We are constantly reminded that our Jesuit identity calls for us to be men and women for others, especially for the most downtrodden and vulnerable in society. Yet, for the University hierarchy, that message seems to stop when it comes to protecting individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. How can administrators attempt to thwart harassment against gays and lesbians while sending a message to students that there is no need for their protection? Is it intellectual dishonesty or pure ignorance?

For all the naysayers out there alleging such protections are “special rights,” I’d like to remind you that most individuals on this campus will never experience the inequities that LGBT students encounter. These men and women are constantly told of their sexual immorality from politicians, members of the media, and their own so-called “loving” Catholic faith. These “special rights” only ensure the safety of these individuals and protect them from the homophobic sentiments of others.

I would hardly call the freedom from discrimination to be a “special right.”

I doubt this decision came from  the Rev. Niehoff S.J., or any Jesuit for that matter. The order has long been an open and progressive society. In fact, many of the priests I know on campus have voiced their support for gay rights. Of course, this then leads me to wonder—who is calling the shots? There can be two explanations—money or Church officials (which are not mutually exclusive, I might add).

Money seems to have its way at this university and if a group of conservative, vocal alumni believe John Carroll is headed in the wrong direction by providing a supportive community for LGBT students, then they could easily withhold their annual gifts. 

The Rev. Niehoff S.J. and other Jesuits might feel pressure from Church hierarchy, too. Fear of retaliation may have fueled this decision. After all, certain tyrants in Rome tend to get their way with these types of things.

I’m outraged because I love John Carroll. These harsh words are a reminder to those that lead us—what you are doing is wrong and you know it.

Years from now people will look back at these debates and we will once again have cast ourselves on the wrong side of history. The world is progressing and the archaic beliefs of yesterday are being replaced with tolerance and respect. 

If John Carroll is ever to maintain its academic integrity and reputation for social consciousness, then we must protect our own from discrimination.