Student seeks to form gay awareness group on campus

Sophomore Kyle Collins is in the process of organizing a student-led initiative to create an official lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) group on the Queens campus by petitioning students and co-sponsoring events on campus to increase awareness.

Collins said that he plans to file paperwork for the organization during the Fall 2009 semester.

He said he feels a LGBTQ awareness group on campus would enhance the St. John’s community “by enabling people of different sexual orientations to learn more about discrimination and social justice.”

Collins said he and the other students working to create this organization “are trying to address the issue that the administration ignores the fact that there are LGBTQ students on campus.”

He also mentioned that the organization would not be an advocacy group, but an “opportunity for the St. John’s community to learn and discuss what it means to be a part of a minority.”

One of the upcoming events being held to help introduce the prospective LGBTQ group to students is a mixer, co-sponsored by the Students for Gender Equality. The event is set to take place tomorrow during Common Hour at the SGI Pavillion, located near the steps leading to the Residence Village.

According to Patrick McBurney, SGI president-elect, the Organization Committee and Student Activities Committee discuss the creation of any new organizations or groups that wish to re-form after being inactive during the fall semester.

They then make recommendations to Student Government, which holds floor meetings and then votes on the organizations. If voted in favor of, the organization would then become active for the spring semester.

Other Catholic institutions like Fordham University and DePaul University have awareness organizations that offer support for gay students.

University officials said they are working to address the formation of a LGBTQ organization on campus.

“The University is in the process of putting together a statement that addresses the best way to serve the LGBTQ community,” said Reggie Barnes, director of Multicultural Affairs.

“There are many institutions with different types of programs,” Barnes said. “We are looking to see what is best for our school and our students.”

Jose Rodriquez, dean of Student Life, took a similar stance to Barnes.

“I think it is important we have an honest dialogue of what works best at St. John’s University,” he said. “We need to be true to our school.”

Rodriguez also said that in his more than 23 years working at St. John’s, there have been several student-led attempts to establish gay support groups and to start dialogues that have not panned out.

“A possible reason some of the dialogues did not continue,” he said, “may be due to the dwindling interest from the students.”
Collins said he wants administrators to accept the creation of the organization.

“The best plan is to lobby administrators and work with them, not against them,” he said.

“I think [the administration] has good intentions. They just need to look at this [group] in a different light, with a more open mind.”

St. John’s students had varying opinions on the formation of a LGBTQ group on campus.

“I think it is a good cause, but there is going to be scrutiny about it,” said James Moore, a sophomore.

Another sophomore, Shareeff Burke, said he is not in favor of the organization.
“By having a group like that on campus it is condoning homosexual behavior,” he said.

Contrastingly, junior Andrew Culy said he is supportive of the movement.

“Supporting homosexuality is not a bad thing. We should stand for acceptance and tolerance,” he said.

Clare Elmgren, another student said, “It would be a great idea because it gives more people a chance to be represented equally on campus.”

Regarding student concerns and University policy, Rodriguez said, “We will always be willing to talk to students about issues and concerns they may have.”