University of Notre Dame college students demand action by the private Catholic campus with a new national video, sending the message loud and clear: "It Needs to Get Better."
On Tuesday, Feb. 28, campus community members of the University of Notre Dame released a video on YouTube called "It Needs to Get Better - A Message from the 4 to 5 Movement." Emboldened by the It Gets Better Project, the message is part of a campus initiative encouraging college students to speak out that is based on the notion that four out of five college-age students (18 to 30 years old) support the general civil rights package for LGBT people.
As I first wrote on The Huffington Post, the 4 to 5 Movement correctly depicts the harassment and fear that LGBT students face at Notre Dame and on campuses across the country. According to Campus Pride, nearly a quarter of LGB (and an even a greater percentage of transgender) students, faculty, and staff encounter harassment and discrimination on their campuses across the country. The percentage is even higher for religiously affiliated campuses.
The "It Needs to Get Better" video was released in the midst of the ongoing call to action for the University of Notre Dame to officially recognize its gay-straight alliance student club and to include "sexual orientation" in its nondiscrimination clause. The University has repeatedly denied recognizing a gay-straight alliance 15 times now. These denials in club recognition and campus policy date back to before 1995, when students started citing concerns of discrimination, harassment, and fear for personal safety on campus.
In addition, the 4 to 5 Movement presented a letter Tuesday along with numerous testimonials to the university president, Father John Jenkins, providing evidence of the homophobia and discrimination taking place on campus. Excerpts from the body of the letter follow:
Dear President Jenkins:
This academic year, you instituted the call for the University of Notre Dame to become "a center for learning whose intellectual and religious traditions converge to make it a healing, unifying, enlightening force for a world deeply in need." The students on campus who advocate for full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning students, faculty and staff took those words to heart and created the 4 to 5 Movement. It is one of the goals of the 4 to 5 Movement to address the lack of recognition of a gay-straight alliance student club and the lack of an inclusive nondiscrimination clause. We find this goal congruent with your call to heal, unify, and enlighten. Before we can become a healing, unifying, and enlightening force for the rest of the world, we must be able to efficiently and substantially address the lack of these measures and this injustice in our own home.
The lack of a recognized gay-straight alliance student club and the lack of an inclusive nondiscrimination clause creates a culture of fear and uncertainty among GLBTQ students, faculty, and staff in particular -- a fear that discourages some from entering the Notre Dame family, a fear that provokes some to leave the Notre Dame family, and a fear that inhibits the ability of some to live openly.
Despite this reality, it has become an all too common occurrence that certain members of the administration claim that enough is being done for members of the community who identify as GLBTQ. If this is not the claim, the one to follow is that the University is taking initiatives to fulfill our promise of full inclusion.
With all due respect, the GLBTQ members of our community and their allies cannot accept the claims that enough is being done or that the University is doing as much as it can. We cannot accept these claims because we know first hand that they are not true.
Please find numerous testimonials from brave GLBTQ members of the community that provide you with firsthand accounts of the prejudice, discrimination, and homophobia that exist rampantly on campus.
It is the firm affirmation of all those working tirelessly for an inclusive environment that it needs to get better. It needs to get better because how we currently define our Notre Dame family excludes those who identify as GLBTQ. It needs to get better because our Catholic identity suffers until it does. It needs to get better because we have an obligation as humans, Christians, and Fighting Irish to those who identify as GLBTQ to create a more welcoming environment in which truly none are strangers and all may flourish. It needs to get better because these are the formative years of our lives and no one, not one person, should be leaving Notre Dame bitter because it did not do enough to stop the harassment and discrimination that exist. It needs to get better because it is our moral obligation to make it so.
You have the opportunity to make it better. You must be the guiding light for moral fortitude at Notre Dame. Your advocacy is irreplaceable and invaluable when it comes to furthering the cause of inclusion. These changes must be instituted and they must be instituted now. We look forward to your leadership on these issues.
Again, I applaud the courage and conviction of the 4 to 5 Movement at the University of Notre Dame. You can find a list of religious-based colleges that have taken steps to become more LGBT-friendly on the Campus Pride Index online.
Listen up, Notre Dame: it needs to get better!