Under the guise of “enhancing support,” administrators at the University of Notre Dame made it clear last week that they are not making any serious changes to support gay, lesbian, bisexual, and questioning members of its campus community. Students, faculty, and staff have spent the spring demanding that “It needs to get better,” but according to a news release, the university is not adding sexual orientation to its non-discrimination policy, nor is it taking steps to allow a student gay-straight alliance to form on campus — which it has previously rejected 15 times.
Instead, administrators merely committed to more “ongoing dialogue,” falling back on the university’s 15-year-old “Statement of Inclusion,” which recognizes gays and lesbians as members of the community but offers them no legal protections. Vice President for Student Affairs Rev. Thomas P. Doyle tried to make it sound like the campus environment had dramatically changed in the interim:
DOYLE: The University has made significant progress over the past 15 years in its support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and questioning students, but we’ve always emphasized the desire to continuously improve and to be responsive to student concerns. The conversations between students and the administration both recently and over the past several years have been very important.
This is unhelpful pandering. Conversations only lead to change if the invested parties listen to each other, and Doyle’s remarks demonstrate that administrators are clearly not listening to the community’s concerns. Notre Dame trustees last voted against adding sexual orientation protections fifteen years ago, and in those fifteen years, nothing has changed. In fact, the status quo dates back to 1977, when trustees expressed concern that non-discrimination protections could inhibit the university’s ability to “make decisions that are necessary to support Catholic Church teaching.”
Administrators claim they are committed to “improving awareness.” Perhaps they had best begin with their own.