Brogan's Anti-Gay Letter Merits Apology
Published: Monday, August 26, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, August 27, 2013 12:08
As a young alumnus, I’ve been tracking the progress of the new pub in Healey Family Student Center with excitement. Having a safe, communal place to grab a drink on campus would have filled a substantial hole in student life during my years on the Hilltop, and the pub is particularly encouraging to those of us for whom tales of exploits in the Healy Hall basement and Bulldog Alley were Georgetown legends, examples of long-gone glory days.
As a former GU Pride board member, my ears especially perked up when I heard that the name Stonewall was a possibility for the pub. Whether intentional or not, the nod to the most famous gay bar in history would be fitting tribute to the strides Georgetown has made toward becoming a community that is more inclusive and welcoming to all.
By helping to gather together all types of Georgetown students, a central pub facilitates a strengthened community and is an ideal place to put these inclusive values into practice. But whether this new venue fulfills that promise will largely depend on the attitudes of its leaders. And on that front, I have several concerns about what pub manager Fritz Brogan’s (COL ’07) past comments on being gay on campus might mean for LGBTQ students who patronize his pub.
These concerns stem from an incident in 2006 when, as an undergraduate, Brogan wrote a letter to the editor in The Hoya in response to the paper’s decision to place a photo of a same-sex kiss on its front page. Outraged by what he saw as an affront to Georgetown’s Catholic identity, Brogan described the photo as inappropriately "flaunting homosexual activity" and making "a mockery of our school’s tradition."
While now, seven years later, such comments may seem easy to dismiss as an overreaction, they carried significantly more weight on campus at the time. Not only did the LGBTQ Resource Center not yet exist, but there wasn’t even a full-time university employee dedicated to gay issues yet. The Out for Change campaign that won these and other critical reforms was still a semester away, and hateful harassment and even violent attacks were a part of far too many Georgetown students’ experiences.
So Brogan’s message — that LGBTQ students were welcome only in the quiet margins of our community — unfortunately reinforced many people’s fears that the administration’s inadequate support structure meant they felt the same way. The letter was unnecessary and hurtful, and it ultimately made it more difficult for those of us trying to change both the reality and perceptions of campus culture.
Now that he is again taking a more prominent role in the Georgetown community, I believe Brogan’s letter has a renewed importance. I hope he can understand why the record of these comments might make some students nervous about how welcome they will be in his bar. Will sharing an affectionate moment with a significant other be considered objectionable? Will pub management defend students who experience harassment or slurs? Will all student groups receive equal treatment in using the space or partnering with the pub?
People change, and I don’t presume to know whether Brogan still has the same views that he held seven years ago. That’s why I hope he will take this opportunity to clarify his position. Going out of his way to publicly renounce his previous comments and make clear that the entire Georgetown community will be free to be who they are in his bar would be a powerful statement. Not only could it set minds at ease, it could be a proud symbol of just how far we’ve come as a community in this short time.
I look forward to Brogan’s reply and to stopping by the pub as soon as it’s open.
Nick Sementelli graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 2009.