By Timothy Metzler
Online News Editor
Editor’s note: In the print version of this article, the ending of this article was cut off. Here is the article in its entirety to read.
Viterbo’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) Club would like to hold an on-campus gender-related dance but cannot do so because of the university’s adherence to Catholic teaching, GSA President Anna Parks told Lumen.
“Basically, we’ve been told there are activities that we cannot do on campus or put Viterbo’s name on, but we haven’t been told what those activities are exactly,” said Parks, a junior vocal performance major from De Pere, Wis. “The area is gray on what GSA can and can’t do as a club.”
Last year was the inaugural year for Viterbo’s GSA club. The first meeting for the 2012-2013 school year was attended by 24 students, Parks said.
Last year, GSA held two small programs, but what Parks considered to be the group’s most successful event was a showing of “Milk,” a movie about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California.
Parks wants GSA to expand in its second year on Viterbo’s campus.
“We have high hopes for this year,” Parks said. “Our big project is to set up support committees. These committees will be for all students, both gay and straight.”
“The committees are mainly to provide a safe place for students who are being bullied,” Parks said. “We’re all about human dignity, so we want to provide a way to help students to feel safe. However, we also want the committees to focus on dealing with sexual feelings.”
GSA also wants to put on a gender non-specific dance-mixer or a drag show, which would be done as a fundraiser. However, GSA cannot consider either activity as an option for a program this year because the club has to be conscious and respectful of catholic teachings, she added.
“We’re trying to become more active this year,” Parks said. “As a result, some controversy has arisen.”
Vice-President for Student Development Diane Brimmer told Lumen in an email that GSA has to follow the same set of rules and restrictions that all other clubs on campus have to follow.
“The university does not permit any student organization to advocate a position that is in opposition with Catholic teaching,” Brimmer said. “This restriction applies to all Viterbo student organizations.”
Brimmer shared what she said are the guidelines for what GSA can and cannot do in an email to Lumen. Those guidelines are as follows:
“Activities that are acceptable include those that promote a safe, healthy and supportive environment for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and trans-sexual (GLBT) students; those that educate on sexuality, social attitudes and stereotyping; programs that assist students in developing a mature sexual identity; and forums to discuss sexuality and religious traditions especially the Catholic tradition. Programs that do not adhere to Catholic Church teachings or university policy are not permitted.”
Also in her email to Lumen, Brimmer provided the names of over 100 Catholic colleges and universities that are home to some type of GLBT organization, support group or ally.
“GSA has made and will continue to make a very positive difference at Viterbo by being supportive of GLBT students, challenging stereotypes and helping to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation,” Brimmer said.
“We really just want all students to feel safe on this campus,” said Jeremiah Gile, a junior music education major from Madison, Wis., and the vice-president of GSA. “Originally, I was hesitant to come to Viterbo because of my sexuality.”
“I think that having a GSA-type club makes Viterbo look better,” Gile said. “The mere presence of the club lets gay people know that they won’t be judged.”
“To my knowledge, the GSA is the only Viterbo student group that has made it a part of its mission to reflect on what the virtue of hospitality entails on a campus whose student population includes students of diverse sexual orientations,” said Matthew Bersagel Braley, assistant professor of religious studies and philosophy, and the faculty advisor for GSA, in an email to Lumen.
“In the near future, I hope that the GSA will be immediately recognizable by students and the wider Viterbo community as a group that lives into and out of its commitment to cultivating hospitality for all persons on campus,” Bersagl Braley said.