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Statement Regarding Judicial Affairs Process Related to Proposed Gay Straight Alliance

Recent news coverage regarding a Duquesne University judicial affairs case and the proposed creation of a Gay Straight Alliance has resulted in misleading information about the case itself, the judicial affairs process and code of conduct, and the proposed alliance. The following information is designed to provide basic clarity on these issues.

The Judicial Affairs Process and Code of Conduct
All Duquesne students are bound by the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct. If a student’s behavior on or off-campus violates the code of conduct while he or she is associated with the University, the behavior could be brought to the attention of the Judicial Affairs office. A hearing may result, and a student may be sanctioned as a result of code violations.

Duquesne’s code of conduct indicates that students have the responsibility to respect the rights, dignity and worth of other individuals.

Judicial Affairs Case
The judicial affairs case recently reported in the media was initiated by several students who brought a complaint to the Office of Judicial Affairs. The students alleged that another student’s references to homosexuals in an online “Facebook” entry appeared to be a violation of the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities, and Conduct.

As is the normal protocol when an allegation is made, the Judicial Affairs Office investigated the issue, which resulted in a hearing and sanctions against a student.

This particular case was the result not of opposing the proposed Gay Straight Alliance or opposing homosexuality, but rather the use of the term “subhuman” and inflammatory language in a “Facebook” entry. Had the language used not been undermining to human dignity, the issue most likely would not have been brought to the attention of Judicial Affairs.

The student referred to homosexuals as subhuman, which is against the following tenet and article of Duquesne’s code:

  Basic Responsibilities, section D-5
The responsibility for acting in a manner which promotes an atmosphere of learning, free expression and respect for the rights, dignity and worth of every individual in the University community.
  Article IV, University Standards C-6
Harassment or discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin or citizenship status, age, disability, or veterans status.

The sanctions for the code violations included taking the offensive material off the site and writing an essay regarding the Catholic Church’s official teaching related to the dignity and respect to be shown for all human beings.

The University has not implied or discussed expulsion as a consequence in this case.

Free Expression
As a private, Catholic institution, Duquesne University supports opposing viewpoints and expression, as long as those viewpoints are not communicated in a way that is degrading and/or demeaning to the dignity and worth of others and reflects the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct.

A basic tenet of Catholic teaching is 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.”

Background on the proposed Gay Straight Alliance:
In September, President Charles Dougherty, Provost Ralph Pearson, and Executive Director of Mission and Identity Fr. Tim Hickey 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. Fr. Tim Hickey is leading the committee of students, faculty, staff and administrators, which is examining the issue in light of our Catholic identity and mission. This is a complex, sensitive issue that must be considered carefully.

Contact Information: 412-396-6050.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.