Gamma Alpha Upsilon, Baylor’s unofficial LGBTQ organization, has been seeking a university charter since its original founding in 2011. It is beyond time to give it to them.
The debate at this university to accept LGBTQ students as full members of its community is not a new conversation. Up until 2015, “homosexual acts” were described within Baylor’s sexual misconduct policy alongside incest and sexual assault. While this is no longer the case, Baylor has only made baby steps in accepting the LGBTQ members of its community.
In the university’s most recent statement on the matter, sent to Baylor students, faculty and staff in August 2019, Baylor President Dr. Linda Livingstone wrote that the university is “committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students — including our LGBTQ students.” As well intentioned as the sentiment of that statement may be, to discriminate against a group of students based on their sexual orientation or gender identity directly contradicts the heart of it.
To say to our LGBTQ students that we love them and then to fail to give them an official place at our university is to tell them they do not belong here. It is to say that they are not wanted. It is to say that who they are as people is unacceptable and therefore undesirable.
In its denial of Gamma’s charter, Baylor has routinely fallen back on the university’s identity as a Christian institution, and in its statement on human sexuality, it falls back on what it calls the “biblical understanding of sexuality as a gift from God … between a man and a woman.” Surely though, as is evidenced by the list of queer-affirming churches in Waco on its website, the “biblical understanding” they cite is not universal. There are groups of Christians (and these groups are growing every day) who find no biblical basis for the exclusion of queer people from the kingdom of heaven. It is certainly the opinion of every member of this editorial board that gay and transgender people’s identities are not sinful nor immoral.
Opponents to Gamma’s charter often take the position, among others, that LGBTQ students knew before they came to Baylor that this was the university’s stance on the subject. But then, historically, how many times was that same attitude taken toward Black people who dared to challenge segregation in the 20th century, that they should expect and not fight against discrimination because they had the audacity to attend a predominately white school? How many times was that same reasoning used to deny women equal rights and access to opportunities that had previously only been spaces available to men? As was said by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who only last week our country celebrated as an exemplar of the Civil Rights Movement, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Last October, the Student Senate voted on a bill that passed with a two-thirds majority. In that bill was a call to Baylor’s administration and Board of Regents to reconsider the university’s statement on human sexuality. The student senators, by virtue of their election to the body, represent the student body as a whole. As it has so often been said, democracy belongs to those who show up. The student body has shown up, and our thoughts and opinions have been ignored or denied.
And so, to the students, faculty and staff who agree that these students who have so long been denied a place on this campus deserve safety and acceptance from their university, we ask that you use your voice and any positions of authority you may have to advocate for such a vulnerable population on our campus. In the words of Desmond Tutu, renowned theologian and human rights activist, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
And, most importantly, to the administration and Board of Regents who have denied this charter for a decade: the time to reverse your previous statements is now. You cannot continue to say that you love Baylor’s queer community and then make actions that directly contradict that statement. You either value their presence on this campus or you don’t. Stop hiding behind vague language and make a decision. We hope you’ll make the right one.