BY DYLAN SMITH
For many colleges, clubs and organizations make up a large part of campus morale. Saint Peter’s College even promotes the fact that they have over fifty active student organizations, but, because of the college’s Jesuit ideals and misson, some students are beginning to feel that not all may be welcomed with opened arms.
“What I’ve heard is that some Jesuits are uncomfortable with the idea [of a gay-straight alliance] as it ‘goes against The Bible’,” said Sofia De Pierola, the vice president for P.R.I.D.E, the gay-straight alliance at Saint Peter’s College founded back in 2006. “Saint Peter’s tries to be welcoming to all, in terms of race, gender, or sexual orientation, but I do feel that there are people who don’t agree with the club, both students and administration.”
In a non-scientific, informal survey, five random LGBTQ students were asked if they felt that Saint Peter’s College was accepting of all sexual orientations, while also asked to describe how they view the environment that LGBTQ students face when coming to SPC. All of the students questioned said that, though there is some acceptance on campus, they felt that the college community was not fully open to all students who fall under the LGBTQ umbrella.
Anti-LGBTQ attitudes on campus have been found to not only be dangerous to the overall well-being of students, but further contribute a negative effect on other areas of a student’s academic career, like a lack of job services for students within colleges, especially within institutions who do not want to recognize their LGBTQ student body. OUT For Work, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender college students, found in their 2012 college survey that, out of all the 109 chosen public colleges and universities reviewed, only six percent of those schools had received a a top-ranking for job services offered to people LGBTQ students.
Some students have expressed that this could be a possible trend in most colleges, especially private Jesuit institutions like Saint Peter’s, despite increasing acceptance of LGBTQ members in most public universities, as the campus still holds tightly to many of its Jesuit ideals. Other students are confused as to where the Jesuit ideals come into play, and if they overwrite the college’s motto of “education, one student at a time.” Meanwhile, others find the support, even if minimal, from faculty to be a positive contribution.
“Dr. David Surrey and his wife – even though they’re not married, they’re together, they won’t get married until everyone is allowed the right to get married,” said Charde Sanchez, a sophomore at SPC and a member of P.R.I.D.E.
Students may not be the only ones who will have to face possibly being viewed differently for their sexual orientation. According to De Pierola, there has been pressure on LGBTQ professors by Jesuits for letting it known that they are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or even transgender. An adjunct who teaches at Saint Peter’s even let P.R.I.D.E. know about some of the Jesuits’ problem with LGBTQ individuals, telling them that he was confronted and let known that his recent marriage to his partner did not sit well with some at the school.
“I personally don’t know any students who have faced discrimination, but a couple of years ago, there were some students who decided to protest [P.R.I.D.E.] even being a club,” De Pierola said.
This discrimination can be found within the classroom, as well. Back in July of 2011, The Journal of Applied Social Psychology had found that students will hold a slight discrimination towards professors who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, but the majority of the discrimination found never crossed the line into rejection of a LGBTQ professor. For most professors, it was found that students believed that there was a political agenda within a course’s syllabus if the professor was gay, but straight professors did not have the problem of students viewing a possible bias or slant in their teaching.
“Students’ early perceptions of professors are meaningful and can affect the way students approach a course and interact with the professor,” reads the report from The Journal of Applied Social Psychology. “Gender and sexuality-based preconceptions could have an impact on students’ own educational experiences, as well as experiences of professors who are lesbian and gay. That impact could be magnified when professors teach controversial, politically charged topics, such as human sexuality.”
Despite any negative criticism the club may face, LGBTQ students have said that they take comfort in the support that they do receive from the college community, like that from President Eugene Cornacchia, who, according to De Pierola, is one of the avid supporters of having a gay-straight alliance at Saint Peter’s. There is even a push for the safety of LGBTQ students, as any discriminatory mail sent to a student, or to the P.R.I.D.E. Group itself, is automatically forwarded to the Saint Peter’s College Department of Campus Safety, to deal with accordingly. They even choose to tackle the perception of P.R.I.D.E. being for only LGBTQ students to join.
“If people actually took the time to realize what P.R.I.D.E. stands for, it’s about people respecting individuality, diversity, and equality,” De Pierola said. “It’s all-inclusive. It’s our gay-straight alliance, so it’s for everybody to enjoy.”