University of Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff supportive of full inclusion for the LGBTQ community have demanded action from the university’s administration in a newly-released video, “It Needs to Get Better.”
The 4 to 5 Movement, the coalition that produced the video, was launched in October 2011 to demand changes to institutional policies that foster the marginalization of the LGBTQ community. The name of the movement stems from the fact that 4 out of 5 college students or college-educated individuals support full civil rights for gays and lesbians. The 4 to 5 Movement seeks to raise awareness that supporting LGBTQ rights places you squarely in the majority, despite the position of the university or the Catholic Church.
Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning community and their allies at Notre Dame are explicitly calling for two specific institutional changes: the approval of a gay-straight alliance student club (GSA) and the adoption of “sexual orientation” into the university’s non-discrimination clause.
Since the 1980s, LGBTQ students and their allies at Notre Dame have sought recognition through an official student club and have been denied somewhere near 15 times. The university, through minor institutional reforms, has provided a degree of voice to the LGBTQ community and its allies, but the composition of the group is wholly different than that provided other student groups. The council created by the university to address the needs of the LGBTQ community is not an independent student group, but serves in an advisory capacity to the Vice President of Student Affairs.
The university has also refused the adoption of “sexual orientation” into the non-discrimination clause citing that “adding the clause may not allow us to distinguish between sexual orientation and behavior.”
In the days surrounding the release of “It Needs to Get Better” the Notre Dame Student Senate and Faculty Senate each passed two resolutions, one calling for the University to officially recognize a gay-straight alliance and another calling on the University to add “sexual orientation” to the nondiscrimination clause. While these pronouncements, in and of themselves, do not mandate institutional reform, they come at an opportune time as the newly-released video has spotlighted LGBTQ issues on campus. The 4 to 5 Movement and its supporters will wait to see if the administration responds to the latest efforts to push for full inclusion and protection for LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff. If the administration fails to respond, the 4 to 5 Movement plans to increase media attention on the issue as well as mobilize public displays of support on the Notre Dame campus.
Along with the release of “It Needs to Get Better,” the 4 to 5 Movement presented an open letter to the university president, Father Jenkins, making a plea for full inclusion:
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 it is our moral obligation to make it so.
Banners all around the Notre Dame campus proudly display part of the vision statement of the university, taken from a 2005 address by President Jenkins: “heal, unify, enlighten.” Healing, unifying, and enlightening are noble pursuits for an institution of higher learning, but the refusal to grant full inclusion to LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff sharply diverges from the goal of healing, unifying, and enlightening.
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