I recently found out about a group, CUAllies, made up of Catholic University of America (CUA) students and supporters, who are working to make university life at CUA more welcoming for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning (LGBTQ) students. We recently caught up with Bob Shine, a 2012 alum from CUA, who is handling media relations for CUAllies, and asked him the following questions.
Tell me a little bit about your organization and your purpose.
CUAllies is an unrecognized student organization aimed at fostering a safe, welcoming, and affirming campus at The Catholic University of America, particularly for those students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning.
Working within the particular Catholic nature of the University, CUAllies affirms the harmony of spirituality and sexuality as each person is created in the image of God regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
CUAllies sustains a marginalized community of LGBTQ students and allies through peer support and on-campus programming. Previous events have included speakers, service projects, prayer vigils, and weekly support meetings.
CUA administrators recently declined to recognize CUAllies as a student organization. Because of this, what rights and privileges is CUAllies denied that other groups have?
A successful CUAllies application in 2012 to become a student organization would have meant that leaders could reserve campus rooms for events, access student activities staff and funding, post announcements around campus. Presently, students are required to find empty rooms impromptu and struggle to promote events, while paying out of pocket.
Yet, the real right CUAllies is denied is a recognized place in the Catholic University community. Continued denial by the administration states, in effect, that LGBTQ students and their allies cannot positively contribute to the campus well-being, or at least contribute as who God create each of us to be. This message is spreading to the student body and it is in direct contradiction to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ request that all those with a homosexual orientation be welcomed into the community.
From what I understand, CUA administrators fear CUAllies will engage in LGBTQ “advocacy” if recognized. What does that mean, and is advocacy part of your activities?
In President Garvey’s denial based upon these fallacious “advocacy” claims, he demonstrated an unwillingness to truly listen to and respect all students at CUA. Nearly a year of dialogue on the present application with countless meetings and written exchanges was disregarded for the very reason of advocacy given as early as 2012.
In the ten months leading up to this December, CUAllies endeavored towards a compromise with supportive staff helping us navigate. We envisioned a student organization that openly addressed the administration’s advocacy concerns, while remaining true to the peer support mission we believed deeply in.
CUAllies has not engaged in advocacy of the “homosexual lifestyle” as the University so crassly described it. In accordance with the Catholic Church’s understanding that sexual orientation is morally neutral, we have only advocated on campus for the promotion of students’ safety and flourishing, without engaging any broader cultural issues surrounding the LGBTQ community.
What would you say to people who question why LGBTQ students would attend, or ask acceptance from, a University whose bedrock is a religion that by and large is opposed to the full expression of gay and lesbian lives and gay rights?
Contrary to popular opinion, the Catholic Church most truly defined as the People of God, all of us, is not opposed to supporting the LGBTQ community. I currently minster at an LGBT-positive Catholic organization and daily witness Catholics affirming every person’s dignity, foundational teachings on social justice and non-discrimination, and living out the love stemming from Christ in and amongst every one of us.
LGBTQ students at Catholic University inspire me by their sacrificial love in service of others and their integration of faith and sexuality. The University’s persistent denial that these students offer anything falls gravely short of Christ’s witness of abundant love of all doctrine.
In short, LGBTQ students attend Catholic University because they empower the school and Catholic Church with far more love than University administrators or bishops have ever shown them. Every student attends CUA for personal reasons, but all acknowledge the true Catholic identity of the University, which is love, dignity, and justice that the present administration has strayed far from.
Tell me a little bit about the CUAllies petition. Can anyone, even those of us not affiliated with CUA sign it? (Note: Petition link below)
Shortly after President John Garvey’s denial of CUAllies, student leaders began the petition with twofold purpose. LGBTQ students, allies, and those deeply invested in CUAllies were deeply rejected. All signs, like the months-long dialogue with administrators and a decision the day before at the University of Notre Dame to positively address LGBTQ issues, had us hopeful that Catholic University would step forward. The petition foremost became an expression by fellow students, alumni, family members, faculty and staff, local community members, Catholics, and those worldwide that you are loved and welcomed in our hearts. All are welcome to sign! Second, we aimed to show the administration that people understood CUAllies as peer support and not advocacy – and should be supported at a Catholic campus. Over 700 signatures so far gives us hope to keep struggling and, perhaps, caused President Garvey to rethink his decision.
Aside from the petition, how can those who want to support LGBTQ students at CUA help?
The rejection in December has caused a period of reflection among student leadership and supporters about the most positive way to proceed. We are looking at how we can fulfill our mission to keep students safe and welcomed, even if just in our CUAllies community, in the face of an administration refusing to budge.
A campus culture of suppression, sometimes enacted personally against CUAllies leadership, has created a fear-based atmosphere, amplified so greatly by this rejection.
As we rebuild, supporters can aid in three ways. First, connect with us – on Facebook, Twitter, our mailing list and other social media – to get updates when we launch our next steps. Second, consider making your voice heard as community members in Brookland, by writing to President John Garvey. Third, spread the word to your family, friends, and networks, who can then inspire students by connecting and pressure the administration.
What are the various ways our readers can keep up with your group?
CUA Allies Facebook Page
CUA Allies Twitter Feed
Email this address to join their mailing list: cuallies(at)gmail(dot)com
CUA Allies Petition is located here
All photos courtesy of CUAllies Facebook page