Straight talk: The challenge for true diversity and acceptance

On Jan. 25, schools across the nation celebrated the first ever Gay-Straight-Alliance Day. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight students honored the work of more than 4000 Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs, which “work to educate their peers to stop homophobia and transphobia in schools and colleges,” according to an official press release.

The same week, Siloam Springs High School made headlines with its own emerging GSA. Instead of celebration, the local story highlighted the school’s decision to keep the GSA as a “noncurriculum-related” club and have the students meet only after school.
There seemed to be a small discrepancy on how the GSA was treated. The club could not use the words “High School” in their name like other noncurriculum-realated clubs.

We see how the conservatism of the town might have contributed to the taboo status of this club. Even Assistant Superintendent Kent Raymick admits in an interview with 4029 News that, “It’s a conservative community and of course here in the school district we’re supported by their taxpayer dollars and we try to reflect that.”

The high school is an uncomfortable position as they try to comply with federal laws, embracing diversity and serving their conservative taxpayers.

Pepperdine University, a private Christian school in California, is dealing with a similar situation, as the school administration opted not to recognize a GSA as an official university club. In this case Pepperdine holds the right, as controversial as it is, to deny the club’s approval. Still, faculty and students continue their meetings to find common ground, and almost 7,000 people have signed an online petition urging the school to change its position.

John Brown University’s known philosophy on the LGBT issue makes it unlikely for a full-blown GSA chapter to open as a university-approved club. How might JBU deal with a similar situation?

We see such initiative to embrace another element of diversity on campus, but our university lacks specific policies on the issues. We have long written about the need for the issue of homosexuality to be addressed and not pretend it’s non-existent on campus.

Consider this: an LGBT club is formed. It is a place where students can find acceptance, know that they can be loved, be free to talk and discuss their situation. Would that scenario destroy the university’s reputation, its ever-growing ranking and its long-term future? Would it be the end of the world? We think not.

Times are changing, and we believe a petition like this could happen soon. The university must clarify and clearly articulate its positions to ensure they will not have to deal with ambiguous, uncomfortable situations like the one of the local high school.