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Prez of College Dems: LGBTQ organization still in the works

The president of College Democrats says that strides have been made toward forming a LGBTQ organization in the year since student dissatisfaction with current programs came to light.

Multiple meetings have taken place since the beginning of the fall semester between administrators and members of the College Democrats to find a solution about forming a group, College Democrats President Luis Quiñones said.

Dean of students Dr. Daniel Trujillo confirmed that the meetings included students along with Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, vice president of the division of students affairs, and the late Pamela Shea-Byrnes, vice president for University ministry and events.

The students at the meetings were from College Democrats and the “How You Doin’?” monthly support program.

“This is a topic that touches our University community in many ways,” Trujillo said in a statement. “I greatly value the commitment and compassion of our students. We will continue our partnership on this matter to discuss ideas to improve upon resources and opportunities for students here at St. John’s University.”

The meetings have helped those involved move closer to forming a group under Trujillo’s department – a big step for students who had originally hoped to form an organization under Student Government, Inc., Quiñones said.

“I think our conversations helped,” Quiñones said. “I think after we had a couple of the conversations they realized, ‘Look this is a problem.’ We just needed to find a way of finding out how we’re going to deal with it.”

Talks between the sides have involved the formation of the “Spectrum Initiative,” according to Quiñones; which would have three goals: serving students, conducting Vincentian service and educating the St. John’s community on LBGTQ people and its issues.

“It would work closely with administration, but it would also be student run,” Quiñones said. “Something that really isn’t being done right now.”

The “How You Doin’?” program, which is held about once a month, has had more regular meetings over the past year and has been opened up to more student involvement, according to Quiñones. He cited a barbecue last fall and advertising around campus for meetings as a sign of progress.

Quiñones said “How You Doin’?” has long been run by administrators, but students have become more involved in planning this school year.

In addition to “How You Doin’?” the University also currently provides a Safe Zone program for students. It gives LGBTQ students an opportunity to speak to trained administrators in a private environment. Students who spoke to the Torch about the program last year took issue with it, saying it perpetrates an idea that LGBTQ students should accept being ostracized by the University and should handle their issues behind closed doors, away from the community.

The Torch first reported on student dissatisfaction with the University’s stance toward a gay-straight alliance in mid-February 2013. At the time, the University said in a statement that it “…would not recognize a gay alliance,” while Hutchinson said her door “is always open” to discuss issues with students.

Since then, a Torch update at the end of the Spring 2013 semester cited Quiñones saying he thought administrators were warming up to the idea of an alliance.

St. John’s is one of two universities in the 10-school Big East Conference that does not recognize a gay-straight alliance. It is also the only instiution among Vincentian Universities (DePaul and Niagara being the others) that does not recognize an alliance.

 

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