The John Carroll University Student Union voted to pass a resolution to support the inclusion of sexual orientation in the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy on Feb. 16. The resolution passed with 11 in favor, five opposed and four abstentions.
Senators were divided in their views on whether to pass the resolution.
At the SU meeting, sophomore Sean Cahill said, “It [protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation] should be written down like any law should be written down.”
Others, including Freshman Greg Petsche, who moved to table the resolution for the week, felt that passing the resolution was not representative of students.
“We’re supposed to represent students and this has to do with faculty, not students,” said Petsche.
The resolution came almost three weeks after a group of students protested the exclusion at the men’s basketball game on Feb. 3.
Since the protest, the group has had a presence in the Lombardo Student Center atrium, while the building is open. Sexual orientation information and pamphlets are available for students to read at their table. The group has also set up a space in the Administration building outside of Einstein Bros. Bagels, in order to reach more students.
The group was originally set up in the walk-through area of the atrium, where student organizations often set up tables during lunch hours, but have since moved to the area in front of Campus Ministry.
According to Dean of Students Sherri Crahen, the group was asked to relocate to accommodate student organizations that had already reserved a space in the atrium.
“We need to honor other student groups that had already reserved a space a while ago,” said Crahen.
The continuation of the protest, according to the protesters, is in order to achieve their short-term and long-term goals.
The group’s short-term goals include meeting with the Student Affairs Committee and Academic Affairs and Planning Committee of the Board of Directors.
Senior protester Andy Trares said that members of the group are working with administrators to allow a group of students to present to the committee meetings. A group of students is currently working on gathering information together to present.
“We’re looking at how to educate the members on what we’re doing,” said senior protester Elizabeth Zunica.
Part of the continuation of their protest, and something the group wants to present to the committees, is the petition they have circulated. More than 700 students have signed the petition so far.
Along with the petition, protesters have their letter of intent for students to read. According to Trares, signing the petition is in support of the letter of intent, which highlights their goals.
Sophomore Lydia Munnell signed the petition in support of the group.
“I think our first concern for all people should be to see that they are being treated with love. Leaving sexual orientation out of an anti-discrimination policy that has legal weight isn’t showing love, no matter what friendly statements the Rev. Robert Niehoff, S.J. writes in an e-mail,” said Munnell.
Other students have not signed the petition.
One student, who wished to remain anonymous because of contention over the issue, said that he had not decided whether to sign the petition. He was asked by protesters to sign and although he declined at the time, he felt pressured to sign.
“The way I was approached is one reason I haven’t signed it yet,” he said.
In addition to the petition, the student protesters are participating in a rolling fast, in which groups of students fast for 24 hours each.
Protesters are talking with faculty to continue the fast over spring break, while students are away, but there is no definite plan for this yet.
Students also extended the protest to the 10 p.m. Mass on Feb. 14, where they stood during the entire Mass. They intend to continue standing at the 10 p.m. Mass each week while the protest continues.
Senior protester Natalie Terry said, “This was not to protest Mass or the Catholic Church. We were standing in solidarity with the community.”
Additionally, there was an incident in which a protester approached a potential student, who was taking a tour with sophomore SU senator Jack Kirwin.
Kirwin said, “The student came up to us and lectured the girl on why she shouldn’t come here because of what is happening on campus.”
Although he feels the student was not swayed away from JCU because of the incident, he contends it should not have happened.
“I thought it was a very inappropriate way to go about it,” said Kirwin.
He added that the actions of some student protesters should be separated from the cause itself.
“It’s a really good cause to keep from discriminating against people,” Kirwin said.
Protesters have also said that in the long-term they hope to change the campus climate to become more inclusive for all students.
Trares said, “Homophobia, and intolerance in general, are becoming more apparent.”
While Trares and Zunica said that the protesters had not experienced direct personal harassment since the protest, there have been comments posted on the Internet against the group. Also, furniture went missing from the group’s area while no one was there.
However, Trares and Zunica said that there has been a lot of faculty, student and alumni support.
“There’s a lot of hope because there’s been so much support. I don’t think there would be hope without the support,” said Zunica.
Students can contact the protesters with questions, concerns or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.