by Robin Moody & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & G & lt;/span & onzaga's heartbreaking loss to UCLA last month isn't half as depressing as the raw deal gay students get at Gonzaga. For a proud alum, two recent scandals -- both of which made national headlines -- underscore the pervasive presence of homophobia at the university.
First, Rev. Robert Spitzer approved the choice of Dr. John Diggs, to deliver a lecture titled "The Medical Effects of Homo-Sex." Among Diggs' teachings is the outmoded notion that being gay is the result of a failed relationship with one's same-sex parent. Gonzaga's hard-partying Kennel Club was also caught on tape earlier this year taunting a player on an opposing basketball team with chants of "Brokeback Mountain."
Gonzaga has long harbored a disturbing tension between the vaunted Christian ideals of love and acceptance, and the bigotry that runs deep on campus.
During my years at Gonzaga, my off-campus roommate, a thoughtful and caring man, had the courage to come out to the community in a Gonzaga Bulletin article. Threats started soon after. Male students screamed and chased him across campus at night, threatening his life. He found hate messages written in his dorm room. Later, when he moved off campus, four scrawled missives hand-delivered through the mail slot of our Sinto Avenue home. The letters were addressed, "To the fag."
"Take the hint: We're coming and when we get done with you your mother won't recognize your fudge-packing ass," one read.
Gonzaga's administration first made no effort to reach out to my roommate. The notes were met with unceremonious visits by campus security. It was only when the larger community, including the Spokesman-Review and local television stations, learned of the incidents that the administration was roused to make superficial gestures to make him feel supported.
An analysis of Gonzaga Bulletin articles, published between September 1992 and April 2003, compiled by 1998 Gonzaga grad Jason Bausher, recap other shameful events that will never be found on the pages of the alumni magazine.
A collection of about 100 quotes and excerpts from the student newspaper, the document lays bare the violent and frightening experience that gays, women and people of color too often experience behind Gonzaga's cloistered walls.
Appropriately titled "Perennial Patterns of Prejudice at Gonzaga," the paper's quotes reveal systemic and pervasive prejudice at Gonzaga, fueled by the actions Gonzaga's administration as well as its students.
In the early 1990s, there are several accounts of hate messages written on "The Wall" outside the Admin Building.
"This semester gives us two more incidents to add to a sorry chain of events," lamented a student columnist. "The most recent incident was the annual defacing of the National Coming Out Day display on 'the wall.'" (It was the third annual defacing of the wall with a homophobic message.)
Horrifying first-person accounts of hate crimes, including my roommate's, also pepper its pages.
"A Gonzaga sophomore heard a loud banging on his door in DeSmet Hall," a 1992 news story read. "'This is where the faggot lives' said a male voice. The banging continued, and he heard other voices echo 'fag.'"
In 1998, a student columnist wrote, "Gays and lesbians have kept a rather low profile at G.U. We have accepted the campus' numerous injustices, while watching our 'out' friends live with almost daily harassment."
News stories also tell how the administration cooperated in creating a hostile environment for gays. Most shocking are the ways it has badgered and obstructed gay-identified student organizations over the years.
A 1995 Bulletin article details the launch of the student group H.E.R.O., or Helping Educate Regarding Orientation. The group originally chose the name PFLAG, but was asked by a university spokesman to change the name. Two years later, the administration forced the inclusive support group for gays, LGBTQ, to drop the "BTQ," (bisexual, transgender and questioning) from its name.
Campus leadership's support for this marginalized group is underwhelming, even in light of tokenistic gestures like the university's official acknowledgment that senior Ryan Olson was honored by the Matthew Shepard Foundation for his work to fight hate. (Olson, one of the few, brave "out" students at Gonzaga, has spoken openly about hostility toward gays on campus, and truly deserved the award.)
A protest against hate and discrimination was recently staged at the university by a coalition of student groups. This gave me hope. But the truth is, students come and go from the university; it's the school's permanent leaders who must set the tone of zero tolerance for hate.
Despite my frustration with the university, I got a top-notch education at Gonzaga and I am grateful that it gave me the tools to do a job I love. I'm also a die-hard Bulldog fan was crushed by their recent Sweet 16 defeat.
But it's time for administration to cease its own acts of discrimination and take a stand against the unhealthy culture that pervades the university.
Robin Moody, a former editor of the Gonzaga Bulletin, is a journalist living in Portland, Ore. She graduated from Gonzaga in 1999.
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