LGBT CENTER Gonzalez Announces LGBT Center Compromise By Amanda cGrath Hoya Staff Writer

Vice President for Student Affairs Juan C. Gonzalez met Thursday night with organizers of a proposed on-campus resource center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students and announced his decision to hire a university staff member to address the needs of LGBT students and to enhance existing on-campus programs.

In a Viewpoint published in this edition of The Hoya, Gonzalez articulated the details of his resolution and also reaffirmed his previous decision to deny the formal creation of a university-sponsored LGBT resource center based on the potential conflicts such a center could have with Georgetown’s Catholic identity.

“I could not endorse a university center due to the risk that such a center could not avoid advocating positions or practices that run counter to our Catholic identity. Further, I believe that coordinating and integrating current campus services, while also looking into ways to bolster these services, can best achieve such support for our students,” Gonzalez said in his Viewpoint.

According to Gonzalez, who has met several times with resource center organizers since last summer, “Some of [the student’s] recommendations made immediate sense to implement, and, as a result, I have begun moving forward on a number of them.” Gonzalez said he will work to enhance programs at New Student Orientation, develop training initiatives for staff members in “promoting understanding and inclusion,” and will work with a group of individuals from within the Georgetown community to examine and improve existing counseling and programming services on campus.

LGBT center supporter Anthony House (COL ’02) said Gonzalez’s decision came as a surprise to organizers. “At this point, it’s a big turn around. We had no indication this action was coming,” House said. “We are very happy Gonzalez has chosen to address our needs and concerns. I think it’s more than we expected to get done this year.”

Resource center organizer and GUPride President Joe McFadden (COL ’02) called Thursday’s meeting, “a continuation of conversations we’ve been having for a long time.” The atmosphere during the meeting between Gonzalez and organizers was, “friendlier than usual,” according to cFadden. “We had a good discussion. Dr. Gonzalez talked a lot more to us than usual and we did a lot more listening than we have at previous meetings, which we were glad to do,” he said.

McFadden, who had not seen Gonzalez’s published response as of press time, said the decision, “has the potential to be an extremely positive step.”

The creation of the LGBT resource center has raised debate on campus since last summer, when Gonzalez originally met with an advisory group to look into concerns of discrimination against sexual minorities. After meeting every week during the summer, the group drafted a report advising that the committee be made permanent and that the university assign an administrator to deal with LGBTissues. The new advisory group proposed by Gonzalez would be similar in structure and purpose to the one compiled over the summer but would be a permanent fixture rather than a temporary committee. According to resource center organizer Danielle DeCerbo (COL ’03), the permanent committee will be a more effective group. “The recommendations of the temporary committee weren’t implemented by Dr. Gonzalez. Their assessments and improvements weren’t put in place,” DeCerbo said. However, she said, “We have been told by Dr. Gonzalez that he will make sure this group acts on its research for new improvements.”

When the suggestions of the original advisory board failed to be implemented, proponents of the reseource center attempted to raise awareness for the cause through actions that have included multiple meetings with Gonzalez and the administration, petitions and a demonstration at a Mass delivered in January by Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. A unanimously-passed GUSA resolution as well as a letter from U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (SFS ’66, L ’69) to University President John J. DeGioia both voiced support for a resource center. More recently, organizers have been in contact with groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and D.C. council members including David Catania (R-D.C.) (SFS ’90) to investigate the possibility of receiving outside assistance.

“I find it hard to believe this kind of pressure didn’t in some way influence [Gonzalez] in his thinking,” McFadden said of the recent efforts to enlist outside assistance.

According to McFadden, the decision is not the end of organizer’s efforts to improve resources on campus. “resources for any group of students need to constantly be re-evaluated and improved. This is in no way an end – any good administration is always reexamining the resources for its students. If they’re weak, they investigate the appropriate steps to take,” McFadden said.

House said LGBT center organizers do, however, plan to step down their actions in light of the recent compromise. “For now we are going to hold back on actions specifically centered on getting the resource center,” House said. “We’d like to see how the hiring of the new administrator goes and how they are utilized at Georgetown in the future.”

The role of the new staff member, Gonzalez said, would be to “advise Student Affairs and assist the university on how best to support and further dialogue around the topic of sexual identity for all students within the context of Georgetown’s Catholic, Jesuit identity. This person will provide assistance to students as they attempt to clarify issues related to sexual orientation, personal growth and related psychological and developmental issues.” Gonzalez also said the staff member would help students to examine religious issues involved in the questioning of personal sexuality, as well as address issues of intolerance as they arise on campus.

According to Gonzalez, the university is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for all students.

“Georgetown University, as a Catholic, Jesuit institution, is committed to upholding the dignity and worth of each and every member of our campus community, including students who are dealing with issues of sexual identity. These issues must be faced, not skirted or ignored, in all objectivity, as part of our mission to promote the development of the whole person, which includes intellectual, personal, moral, spiritual and emotional development,” Gonzalez said.

According to House, Gonzalez’s decision is an important move in creating a tolerant atmosphere for LGBT students. “It offers a first step forward in improving the life of LGBT students,” House said. “It’s good for incoming students who are navigating the sometimes homophobic waters of Georgetown student life. It offers faculty and staff, as well as Georgetown students, the opportunity for education and serves to introduce the community to information on sexuality issues that is currently unavailable.”

According to McFadden, “Any improvement [in resources] can only have a positive impact on both current and prospective students.” McFadden said he had communicated with at least two students who said they were “extremely relieved the administration has decided to take their concerns seriously.”

House said LGBT center organizers see the decision as validation of their efforts. “We’ve increased pressure on the administration to take our needs seriously, and we were rewarded in our efforts by their decision to listen finally. It’s a great step forward.”

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