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Statement Regarding Formation of Gay Straight Alliance

After intensive review, Duquesne University will allow the formation of a gay straight alliance on its campus with certain conditions including, first and foremost, adherence to Catholic teachings on homosexuality. The University’s core principles include treating all members of its community with dignity, compassion and respect. Duquesne fosters a supportive environment where the needs of all students—including those historically marginalized by society—are served.  Read the Committee Report Summary.

Why did the University consider a gay straight alliance?
In September, President Charles Dougherty, Provost Ralph Pearson, and Executive Director of Mission and Identity the Rev. Tim Hickey, C.S.Sp., received a proposal for the creation of a gay straight alliance on Duquesne’s campus. Due to the clear implication on the University’s Catholic identity and mission, President Dougherty convened a special committee to examine the issue.

Who was on the committee?
Fr. Tim Hickey led the committee of students, faculty, staff, Spiritans and administrators.

What was the committee charged with?
The committee was charged with examining the issue in light of the University’s Spiritan mission and Catholic identity. The committee was asked to forward recommendations to President Dougherty.

What information did the committee consider during its deliberation?
The committee reviewed the relevant portions of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the statement of the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops entitled “Always Our Children” and the letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith entitled “The Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.” The committee also reviewed the constitutions of similar organizations at a variety of other Catholic universities. Finally, the committee reviewed the Duquesne University Student Handbook and Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct.

Was the proposal approved?
The committee determined that the formation of a gay straight alliance on campus could be approved with certain conditions. President Dougherty has accepted the committee’s recommendations.

What happens next?
If the interested students agree to abide by the terms recommended by the committee and approved by the president, a gay straight alliance would be formally recognized.

What is the purpose of the group?
To provide the Duquesne community with:

  • a forum for support and discussion regarding issues related to sexual orientation within the Catholic tradition
  • educational foundation and resources to foster a community understanding regarding issues related to sexual orientation
  • a forum to monitor and promote social equality on campus
  • a positive and educated Catholic student voice regarding issues related to sexuality and gender
  • a safe and supportive environment for interested members

Who will oversee the group?
The Executive Director of the Office of Mission and Identity will oversee the group. In addition, a university staff member, selected by the executive director in consultation with the group, will serve as the organization’s advisor. Both individuals are charged with ensuring that the group’s activities adhere to the approved constitution and Catholic Church teachings.

Will the president of the University play a role?
Yes. The president of the University will review the organization’s activities formally every two years. He retains authority to revoke official recognition of the group at any time if the group violates the terms and principles articulated in the approved constitution.

How will the group be structured?
Membership is open only to Duquesne University students, and will be structured in a way that is similar to other Duquesne student organizations, with the election of officers, the establishment and amending of bylaws, and other appropriate procedures and policies.

How will the group be funded?
Funding will be comparable to funding available to other student organizations at Duquesne University. Funding will be distributed through the Office of Mission and Identity.

Which conditions must the group adhere to?
Activities and programs sponsored by the group must respect the Spiritan mission and Catholic identity of Duquesne University and adhere to Church teachings on sexuality.

What activities are permissible?
Activities could include the following examples:

  • Educational programs that deepen knowledge and understanding about issues concerning sexuality, social attitudes and stereotyping among students at Duquesne University
  • Programs and activities that will provide a healthy and conflict-free environment for gay, lesbian and bisexual students and for students who are questioning their sexual orientation
  • Forums to discuss sexuality and religious traditions, particularly Catholic moral teachings
  • Programs and networks aimed at supporting students in developing a responsible and mature sexual identity
  • Service projects that advance the well-being of the community and reach out to the gay and lesbian population of Pittsburgh

What would not be permissible?
Activities that do not adhere to Catholic Church teachings will not be permitted. Sponsorship or support of programs that involve public protests, petitions or activities and events that conflict with University policy or that which the Executive Director for Mission and Identity determines to be positions or behavior that are inconsistent with the Spiritan mission and Catholic identity of Duquesne University are prohibited.

Is the approval of this group an endorsement of sexual activity?
The University follows Catholic teachings on human sexuality. The approval is not an endorsement of sexual activity, but rather, an effort to help prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Was the bishop involved in the decision-making process?
While the bishop was not involved in the decision-making, the University informed him of the issue throughout the process and notified him of the decision.

Does the bishop approve?
The bishop has indicated his support for the general direction of the proposal, emphasizing adherence to Catholic teachings on sexuality.

Did the University board of directors play a role?
The Board was informed of the request, the process and the decision.

Does the Duquesne University Corporation (Congregation of the Holy Spirit) approve of the decision?
Yes. The Corporation approves of the decision.

Doesn’t a gay straight alliance go against Catholic teachings?
While the Catholic Church teaches that homosexual activity is wrong, Catholic teaching also places utmost importance on the inherent dignity of all human beings. Opposing another’s actions or viewpoints does not negate the responsibility to treat each other with respect and dignity. Paragraph #2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that homosexuals “must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Doesn’t a gay straight alliance go against Duquesne’s mission?
No. Duquesne University’s policies and philosophy are founded on the Spiritan tradition and are consistent with Catholic teachings, which command respect, compassion and sensitivity towards all human beings, including homosexuals.

Is this group just like any other student group?
No. The nature of the group has clear implications on Duquesne’s Spiritan mission and Catholic identity, dictating oversight by the Office of Mission and Identity.

Do other Catholic colleges and universities have gay student or university organizations?
Approximately 50 Catholic colleges and universities have similar organizations. A sampling includes:

Georgetown
Boston College
Creighton
Loyola of Chicago
NY Medical College
Villanova Law School
LaSalle University
Mercyhurst College
Xavier University (OH)
John Carroll University
Fordham University
Canisius College
Gonzaga University
Iona College
Wheeling Jesuit University
Marquette University
Notre Dame
Alverno College
Assumption College
Barry University
Cardinal Stritch University
College of the Holy Cross
DePaul University
Edgewood College
Fairfield University
Loyola College of Maryland
Loyola Marymount University
Loyola University New Orleans
Marywood University
Merrimack College
Saint Joseph College (Connecticut)
Saint Martin’s College
Saint Michael’s College
Salve Regina University
Santa Clara University
Seattle University
St. Edward’s University
Stonehill College
Avila University
St. Louis University
Albertus Magnus College
University of Dayton
University of San Diego
University of San Francisco
University of St. Thomas

Duquesne University

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