This week the Torch received two anonymous letters to the editor concerning the debate over recognizing the homosexual community on campus. While one of these letters addressed the writer’s opinion in a respectful and professional manner, the other letter was offensive in nature and disturbing to every staff member who read it.
“It is so disgusting how you and your trashy newspaper are promoting homosexuality,” reads the letter, “The sad part is that young people today believe that homosexuality is just a life style. Well, it is… an abnormal lifestyle.”
The letter goes on – in poorly written English — to belittle the Torch’s endorsement of an official LGBTQ organization at St. John’s and the “joke that is in the White House.”
But for many of us, the most disturbing part of this unsigned, typed letter was not the discriminatory tone or hateful intentions – it was the fact that this letter arrived in our mailbox via another St. John’s department. The letter came in an official St. John’s envelope, without postage.
Recent events at Rutgers University have shaken the nation, especially the LGBTQ community. This letter is proof that similar events could easily occur on the St. John’s campuses and that the feelings behind the hateful acts that drove Tyler Clementi to suicide are present in our own community.
The letter claims that there is no place at a Catholic institution for a homosexual organization. In addition, St. John’s has restricted their recognition of the LGBTQ community to their Safe Zone program, which is extremely limited in scope.
However, there is no reason a Catholic institution cannot also be an institution that recognizes, protects and works with their gay community.
DePaul University, the largest Catholic institution in America and St. John’s Vincentian sister school, has a flourishing Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies (LGBTQA) Student Services.
According to their website, the office provides their community with various programs, services and events that are reflective of the needs of the students who come to them. The university also offers a minor in LGBTQ studies, introduced only five years ago.
We urge the University, now more than ever before, to seriously reconsider their official stance on an LGBTQ organization. They need to wake from their slumber and confront the issues that are staring them in the face. Doing so will only enhance the experience of all St. John’s students.
The University can no longer afford to hide behind the veil of Catholicism. The letter we received makes it all the more clear that not addressing the issue does as much damage as encouraging such ideals.
While we understand the tough position St. John’s administrators are in, we urge them to think of the students who make up the LGBTQ community. The University should have the same courage they do in coming to school each day by defending the safety and peace of mind of all.
We fear that letters like the one we received this week are a scary reminder of a specific and serious social mindset that exists today. The University needs to do its part to keep these beliefs from permeating its intellectual community.
By taking precautions now, St. John’s can prevent serious issues from arising in the future.