Some students and faculty are questioning Berry College's decision to nix a gay-issues discussion group at the Christian school in Rome, Ga. The group, Listen, was approved by the Student Life Council after the school staged the play The Laramie Project last year about the 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. The play sparked widespread discussion on campus--the basis for Listen--but the school's board of trustees was concerned that the group advocated homosexuality. "Listen is not an alliance of gay/lesbian people. In fact, all of the founders are heterosexual," said sophomore Chris Duke, one of the group's
Several students believe the trustees' rejection of Listen indicates a larger problem with homophobia at the independent, interdenominational college in northwest Georgia. Jeff Gibb, 20, an openly gay Berry student, was the victim of vandalism in January when someone scrawled epithets on his dorm room door. He said he was once even asked to leave the student union because he is gay. "They're big into Christian values," Gibb said. "They say I've chosen this lifestyle, but who would choose to be the most hated, socially rejected person on campus?" Religion professor Harvey Hill said he has been forced to tell students to stop being "so closed-minded, dogmatic, and stupid" when it comes to homosexuality. He further said the campus is "intensely homophobic" in some ways but liberal in others. Campus newspaper columnist Andy Johns supports the board's decision. He said homosexuality is a "perverse deviation." "The day that someone can prove to me to my satisfaction that people are born gay is the day that I will reconsider my views," Johns said.
Berry president Scott Colley said the college doesn't want to outlaw discussion about homosexuality; it just doesn't want to use funds to support a "group like this." Some students and professors say the school's conservative philosophy has driven away some students. Gibb said he believes the trustees are biased in approving the charters of campus groups. "How can you deny a group like Listen and approve clubs like the Young Republicans, the Episcopal Youth Group, and the Baptists?" Gibb asked.