Second try for denied charter

Students meet to discuss forming a Gay-Straight Alliance Feb. 24, 2011, in the Bill Daniel Student Center, eventually settling on a discussion-centered organization called the Sexual Identity Forum. The group, previously denied a charter by the student activities charter council, will again seek recognition.
Makenzie Mason | Round Up Photo Editor

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

The Sexual Identity Forum, an unofficial group of Baylor students, will re-apply this semester for a charter as an official student organization, according to one of its officers.

While the prospects for the forum’s official recognition are uncertain, a Baylor spokesperson announced Wednesday the university is preparing a professionally facilitated program for discussing similar issues.

Following the university’s denial of a charter for the group last semester, SIF president and Fort Collins sophomore Adam Short said it is unlikely Baylor will change its mind, but said the more times an application is submitted and considered, the more likely he thinks the administration will be to grant a charter in the future.

“We just finished revising our constitution completely,” Short said. “We went through and basically rewrote our entire organization’s constitution to make it more clear that it’s just a discussion group and that we discuss sexual identity issues.”

The Student Activities Charter Council denied the organization a charter last semester because it was concerned “the organization’s intent was not consistent with University policy,” according to an e-mail provided to its officers. Dr. Kevin Jackson, vice president for student life, upheld the council’s decision when it was appealed by SIF officers.

The university’s statement on human sexuality holds that “both heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual behavior” are deviations from a biblical understanding of proper sexual behavior, and that “it’s thus expected that Baylor students will not participate in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.”

Although it is not clear how the university’s statement on sexuality would apply to a discussion group that does not engage in advocacy, last semester the university did release a statement ruling out the possibility of allowing students to moderate a discussion group of this nature.

“Having healthy and responsible dialogue is best established through established and professionally facilitated programs,” Lori Fogleman, director of media relations, told the Lariat in March. “It’s the university’s opinion that a chartered student organization is not the most viable medium through which to pursue such dialogue.”

Fogleman affirmed Wednesday that the university’s stance on this issue remains unchanged, but said Jackson is moving forward to provide such a forum based on a model that would allow 10 to 15 professionally trained students to moderate discussion on a wide array of difficult issues, including human sexuality.

“The model that they’re working on is called the ‘discerning dialogue’ model,” Fogleman said. “It’s a model that supports the ability to engage in civil dialogue with one another over complex issues to help educate ourselves about these issues and their multiple perspectives.”

The university-organized forum could hold its first session before the end of the fall semester, Fogleman said, although the subject matter of the first session has not yet been selected.

Short expressed optimism that this type of forum could be a positive thing, but only if students of all perspectives on sexuality are given the opportunity to participate and be heard.

“If they are actually going to be a group that would foster discussion in an open and accepting environment then I support it wholeheartedly,” Short said. “I’d really like to see how they go about it before I make any more statements beyond that.”