Student Activities denies charter to group

Daniel C. Houston

The Student Activities Charter Council has informed members of the Sexual Identity Forum, a group of Baylor students promoting discussion of homosexuality and other sexual preferences, that they will not recommend granting the forum a charter.

The president of the organization, Alvarado senior Samantha Jones, has appealed the committee’s recommendation to Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life, and will likely meet with him after spring break to make her case.

“At this point, I can only say that we hope for a different decision,” Jones said. “We’re still very hopeful that the organization will get chartered, and I hope for the sake of the university’s image as a place of higher learning and real discourse that they will charter this group.”

The committee’s decision, which was e-mailed to Jones on Wednesday and forwarded to the Lariat, cited the “committee’s initial view that the organization’s intent was not consistent with University policy” as a justification for recommending that the forum not be recognized as an official student organization.

“I feel that we have addressed the fact that we will not become an advocacy group at every possible chance,” Jones said. “We are simply asking to be held to the same standard that every other student group is being held to.”

Although a student-run sexuality forum was not recommended by the committee, the university is not against addressing concerns the group had, like hate speech against openly gay students, said Dr. Elizabeth Palacios, dean for student development and member of the chartering committee

“When we look at this, we want to make sure that if we’re going to be talking about issues of oppression or inclusivity, or of student groups that are being targeted by hate groups, those are issues that we’ll address across the board,” Palacios said. “But when it’s apparent that there is a stance being taken by the language, by the spirit or by the intent of a group, then it takes on a different purpose and it takes on a different slant.”

Jackson said any forum or discussion group dealing with these sensitive issues should conform fully with Baylor policy, although he did not go into detail on how that policy would affect his decision on the appeal.

“These opportunities are done in a way that is within university mission and consistent with the policies of Baylor,” Jackson said. “They’re professionally advised and facilitated opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to come together and to have these discussions in a forum and a format that is consistent with university policy.”

Jones, who also serves as the vice president for International Justice Mission, was not pleased with the chartering process itself, saying her discussions with founding members of International Justice Mission led her to believe Student Activities was harder on the Sexual Identity Forum than it was on less controversial organizations.

“There had been so much difficulty going through the process with Student Activities up until this point,” Jones said. “I felt like — even though they are a very busy department — that they had really been purposefully stringing us along during this process, and that they had not been as willing to work with us as they had been with other student groups.”

Palacios stressed that there have been changes in Student Activities policies in the past few years that could account for the perceived difference in treatment. Palacios said this organization was treated the same as any other under current policy.

Although Baylor policy does not restrict being openly homosexual, but merely engaging in homosexual acts, Jones said she believes that many students choose not to openly identify their sexual orientation for fear of repercussions from the university, an issue that the Sexual Identity Forum intended to address in part through education.

“The policy was changed a few years ago,” Jones said, “but there’s still this lingering culture of fear that needs to be dissipated. The university obviously is not doing a good job of taking care of that culture of fear, and I think it’s up to the students — especially student leaders who are gay or who support the gay community — to step up and take that role.”