College Dems to Talk GSA with Admin

Members of the University chapter of the College Democrats are preparing to meet with administrators in hopes of convincing them to create a student-run gay-straight alliance on campus.

The upcoming meeting comes on the heels of the group circulating a petition on campus over the last two weeks in favor of a gay-straight alliance. The petition has attracted nearly 500 signatures online and many others on paper, according to Maria Bernadzikowski, the group’s vice president.

Bernadzikowski said the meeting – scheduled to take place with Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, vice president of student affairs – was sparked initially by the group bringing the idea to their faculty advisor, Brian Browne. Bernadzikowski said the group then was contacted by Dominic Scianna, associate vice-president of external relations, to inform them that the administration would gladly sit down with them to discuss this topic.

Last month, some students expressed dissatisfaction to The Torch with current on-campus options for gay and lesbian students, which include a “Safe Zone” program – on-call “allies” to provide support – along with monthly support meetings.

In a statement then, the University said, in part, “we would not recognize a gay alliance.”

The Democrats responded by launching a petition on Feb. 21 – both online and on paper – that they plan to bring to the meeting with Hutchinson. At the time the Torch went to print, the online petition had 472 signatures.

A total tally of the paper signatures could not be verified by the time the Torch went to print because the paper petition is in the hands of several students and will not be collected until later today, Bernadzikowski said.

One of the petition’s signees, junior Dylan Jenkins, said he attached his name to it because he feels the University not allowing a GSA on campus goes against their mission statement.

“Banning a GSA goes against loving your neighbor,” he said. “I think it’s ridiculous to be opposed to a group whose core values are in line with the school’s mission statement.”

Senior Jordan Dolan said he was disappointed in the University in not supporting a GSA, and feels it hurts their image when compared to other major universities.

“Does St. John’s really want to be the one making a final stand for what the rest of the nation is fast realizing is not only a moral inevitability, but a moral imperative?” Dolan said.

Bernadzikowski said the group plans to address why St. John’s doesn’t recognize a GSA when other Catholic schools do.

Jenkins said at first he was worried about his signature being public, but decided it was important for him to be public about his support.

“I was slightly worried at first,” he said. “But you need to put your moral values ahead of your own fears.”

But anonymity is still a problem.

“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from professors and administrators who said we’re doing a great job,” Bernadzikowski said. “At the same time they’ve told us they haven’t been allowed to publicly come out and support it.”

Bernadzikowski said the petition and the attempts to create a GSA should not be seen as an attack on the University, but, rather, a collaborative attempt to improve it.