Issue an apology regarding Bozell's anti-gay tirade at commencement and establish a GSA at UD, or simply admit to the fact that UD does not care about their LGBT students and make that clear to prospective students.

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One Year Later

Hello supporters, It has been about a year since my commencement was ruined by Bozell, and as the class of 2016 graduates today I felt it was a good time to provide a bit of an update. While I have definitely moved on and am doing well in life, I vividly remember what it felt like on that day and the consequences it had. I do feel cheated out of my own graduation. It was supposed to be a happy day and we were all supposed to be wishing each other well, taking pictures, and saying goodbyes to beloved classmates and professors as we went our separate ways in life. I missed out on that because I was so angry that I just wanted to get out. Sure, one could argue that it is my own fault. They could be right. But I was at my commencement expecting to hear a lot of reassurance, encouragement, affirmation and instead I got a tirade. Instead I listened to someone tell all of my classmates how important it is for them to make sure I face discrimination, to fight tooth and nail to deny me my rights. And I saw the speech received with a standing ovation from most of the student body and their families. So you may call it a personal weakness, but after all of that I was simply not in the mood to fake smile after smile and take pictures. When I first launched the petition I was so eager to get a response from UD, and I knew it would be important to you all to see that response as well, but when it came it was so evasive and patronizing that I didn’t feel it was worth sharing until now. I’ve nested the most important two sentences within asterisks. “The University of Dallas is an academically rigorous Catholic institution focused on providing a supportive environment to all of our students. We believe and strive to live out the teaching of the Catholic Church, reiterated by Pope Francis, that all human persons are made in the image and likeness of God and deserve love, respect and compassion. As a Catholic university for independent thinkers, the University of Dallas supports the academic and religious freedom of its faculty, students and alumni. *As such, we support the right of all the university's constituents to free speech. We recognize that acknowledging opinions different from one’s own is at times difficult.* The University of Dallas cares for and treats each and every individual with respect and dignity, while recognizing that these individuals hold passionate and sometimes divergent opinions.” Let’s talk about those sentences. As many of you are probably aware, universities across the nation are in a bit of a crisis in regards to free speech. You may have heard of safe spaces where students must check their privilege and speak with only the utmost political correctness as they tiptoe around accidentally making any sort of microaggression in fear of being labelled a bigot. You may have seen the videos of a student disrupting a republican event at their university; before any of the speakers have had a chance to speak she begins screaming that they need to get their hate speech off of her campus, and she refuses to leave or stop for the longest time. That’s not free speech. Free speech isn’t about making it so contrary opinions don’t have a voice - it’s about every opinion having a voice. A safe space shouldn’t be a place where nobody ever hears an opinion that offends them - it should be quite the opposite. A safe space should be a place where you are able to respectfully share whatever your opinion is without being ostracized for it. I feel like a lot of people at UD would detest the idea of safe spaces as they exist today, but what I don’t think they realize is that UD itself is a giant, campus-wide safe space. The idea that “we support the right of all the university’s constituents to free speech” is entirely laughable. The Crusaders for Life, a pro-life club of sorts, were given free reign of the school. They could go so far as to slide fliers under the doors of people’s dorm rooms, something that no other organization would be allowed to do. And the pro-choice club? It has never existed and will never be allowed to exist. Around the 2012 election, students were allowed to hand out fliers instructing people to vote for Romney because it was their duty to as Christians. No similar privileges were allowed for supporters of Obama. They had speaker after speaker come to talk about “preserving the sanctity of marriage” and “defending the family,” and not a single one to talk about an alternative perspective. No, free speech is only extended to those who subscribe to UD’s brand of conservative Catholic ideology. Any club or organization with a divergent view is denied the right to exist on campus. As far as whether it’s a problem with the administration/staff or the student body itself, that’s really a chicken-egg paradox. I’d like to share an experience from my philosophy class during the Rome semester, and I hope the professor involved will forgive me for it. As part of the curriculum for the course, we were scheduled to read the Phaedrus, a piece that addresses platonic love and lust. The context is that a young man named Phaedrus is being seduced and wooed by a philosopher, and Socrates is dismantling the deceptive arguments of that philosopher while encouraging Phaedrus to aim for a higher philosophical love rather than succumbing to physical affections/temptations. In the weeks prior to our discussion of the Phaedrus, our professor would preface every reminder of the assignment with a volley of “yea I’m sorry guys I know it’s disgusting, I know the idea of homosexuality is just outright gross, it really is terrible” and so on with clear disdain in his voice. When it came to the discussion of the Phaedrus in class, most of the students did not read the piece, but instead tried to cherry pick for textual evidence that Plato condemns homosexuality. They missed everything Plato had to say about the human person and sexuality in that piece. To end the discussion our professor felt the need to wrap it up by thanking the students for reading the piece and apologizing once more because gay people are so disgusting and reading about them is so terrible. I confronted the professor after class and asked him if he could not do that. He apologized and explained that it wasn’t at all his beliefs or feelings on the subject, but that he would not stop talking like that. I was taken aback and thought this man was a coward at first, but he explained that it wasn’t about getting fired or getting nasty emails from parents or students or alumni. He couldn’t care less about any of that. He simply knew the student body, and knew that if he didn’t surround the discussion with all the “yea it’s gross and terrible I’m sorry to subject you to reading this” that’s all the discussion would be. His goal was to teach the students Plato, and while he knew either way he wouldn’t get them to get very much out of the Phaedrus, pandering to them like this was the only way he could get them to read or talk about it at all. He was quite surprised that there would even be gay students in a student body like ours, and apologized for how difficult that must be. So is it the administration’s fault for sheltering the students, or is it the student body’s fault for being so fragile that they need to be sheltered? I really can’t say, but one thing is certain: the student body cannot do anything to help itself if the administration won’t allow/encourage it. If “we recognize that acknowledging opinions different from one’s own is at times difficult,” how about we level the playing field a bit? Let us not call ourselves a university for independent thinkers if we don’t give our students the occasion to think independently. Let’s not give a voice to only one side of every issue. Let’s have our Catholic intellectuals confront the consequences and repercussions of their beliefs. Let’s have them actually wrestle a bit with their beliefs as they encounter others in earnest. Let’s not take cheap shot after cheap shot on captive audiences. If a Catholic priest spoke at our graduation about how we shouldn’t be attached to our wealth as Christians, and extrapolated that we should all be socialists to truly be Christ’s light in our world, would we really be defending it the same way we defended Bozell? Or is acknowledging different opinions just too difficult?

Maxwell Frazier
6 years ago