SGI Prez says LGBTQ Org ‘Possible,’ then Recants

The president of Student Government, Inc. Tuesday opened the door, albeit temporarily, to a student-run gay-straight alliance on campus, telling the Torch that “anything’s possible” when it comes to an LGBTQ organization being approved by SGI.

“As long as they have a clear mission and plan – and they have to have some ideas, and not just for this year but for the next five or so years – then it’s possible,” SGI president Christian Williams said.

But just three hours later, Williams backtracked.

After speaking with his adviser, Williams said that because of the sensitive nature of the issue as it relates to the University’s mission statement, any potential LGBTQ organization would have to be cleared first by the university before SGI could even consider it.

Last week, in response to complaints by students about the current restraints for gay students on campus, the university restated its long-held stance on LGBTQ issues, saying “we would not recognize a gay alliance.”

Dominic Scianna, director of external relations, said that any group or club trying to gain SGI approval must be deemed by University administrators to be consistent with its Catholic mission before going through the SGI approval process.
Administrators in charge of clearing student groups include Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, vice president for student affairs, and Fr. James Maher, executive vice president for mission and student services, Scianna said.

Meanwhile, on the heels of the Torch’s front-page coverage of the dissatisfaction of gay students with St. John’s LGBTQ policies, two student groups have planned action.

College Democrats on Thursday are set to hold a meeting to rally support for a gay-straight alliance on campus, calling the establishment of one “long overdue” in an internal email obtained by the Torch.

“It seems that Dr. Hutchinson is talking about, ‘well we don’t really see anything going on and we think students want to speak out, they should,’” Quiñones said. “So we figured, well, let’s [speak out].”

Quiñones told the Torch last week that College Democrats wanted to promote gay-rights issues on campus, but were afraid to for fear of retribution from University administrators.

However, Quiñones said those fears were allayed after Hutchinson was quoted in the Torch saying her door “is always open.”

“If anyone tries to come to us and tell us that we are going to get in trouble, say, look here’s what Dr. Hutchinson said,” Quiñones said. “Here’s what we’re doing, we don’t think we’re doing anything out of the ordinary.”In addition, members of the executive board of the anti-abortion group Students for Life wrote a letter to the editor to the Torch offered a space in its organization to LGBTQ students. [The full text of the letter can be found on page 7.]

“After reading of your concern, we, the Executive Board of Students for Life, would like to offer our pastoral support to students questioning their sexual identity,” the letter read, in part. “The intrinsic dignity of each person, as a brother or sister of Christ, is fundamental to our existence as the children of God. In the next few months, we will commit ourselves to working with the university community to foster dialogue conducive to addressing the needs of our LGBT community.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Valente, Managing Editor