A fledgling group of gay students at Notre Dame University is seeking recognition as a student organization, despite the failure of similar campaigns over the past two decades. The group Unity in Diversity is intended to create a welcoming atmosphere for gay, lesbian, and bisexual students and employees at the Roman Catholic school, said Joe Dickmann, a gay Notre Dame senior from St. Louis.
The group on Friday will file a request with the Office of Student Activities for recognition as a student organization, Dickmann said. The university has not received the request and had no comment, spokesman Dennis Brown said Wednesday. He said administrators would tell the group of the decision before any comment was made in public. Dickmann said the group's membership would be open to any student--gay, bisexual, or heterosexual--interested in promoting awareness on campus about what it means to be gay. The group also will urge that sexual orientation be added to Notre Dame's nondiscrimination clause, Dickmann said.
In the past two decades, Notre Dame has turned down requests for recognition of student groups to represent or support homosexuals. OutreachND, an unrecognized gay student club formed in about 1986, continues to operate on campus. The group hosts monthly social gatherings but is not permitted to share in student activities funds or advertise on campus. The university also sponsors a Standing Committee for Gay and Lesbian Student Needs. The committee hosts monthly coffee get-togethers and support group meetings and provides training about issues of sexual orientation for resident assistants and incoming freshmen.
The campus climate seems to be slowly changing, said Liam Dacey, a senior from Cape Cod, Mass., who is a student member of the committee and participates in OutreachND. "It's time to recognize these groups as student clubs," Dacey said. "If they can have a Texas Club, they can have a club for gays. It's time for the university to change with the times."
In the 2004 edition of "The Princeton Review's Best 351 Colleges," Notre Dame ranked number 1 in the category of colleges where gay people are not readily accepted in the campus community.
Dickmann, though, said he has not experienced any outward discrimination on campus. "Notre Dame, as far as students, is not as unaccepting a community as it seems," he said.
In the mid 1990s, some students, faculty, and graduates urged the addition of sexual orientation to Notre Dame's nondiscrimination policy. Notre Dame instead adopted a statement describing the university's regard for all people, with no specific reference to lesbians and gays. The faculty senate passed a proposal that sexual orientation be added to the nondiscrimination clause, and the academic council backed the idea. Notre Dame's Board of Fellows, the highest tier of the Board of Trustees, decided in 1998, however, not to extend the nondiscrimination clause.