March 17, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 13

Fr. Leahy Writes Open Letter to University Community

Dear Members of the Boston College Community:

Much discussion has taken place in recent weeks on campus concerning Boston College's non-discrimination statement, particularly the absence of the words "sexual orientation." I write to describe context that I hope will help guide conversations about the topic.

First, a university should be a place characterized by dialogue and mutual respect, despite differences.

Second, as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, Boston College insists that all people, no matter their background, beliefs, or actions are made in the image and likeness of God. Our religious and intellectual heritage requires that we be an inclusive, welcoming community. Certainly no one should be harassed or abused because of his or her sexual orientation. Our discriminatory harassment policy states explicitly that behavior targeting individuals because of their sexual orientation will not be tolerated, and our institutional actions reflect that policy.

I realize that some in our community believe that Boston College should include "sexual orientation" in its non-discrimination clause. However, adding the words "sexual orientation" could result in outside authorities interpreting the non-discrimination clause in ways that would require Boston College to approve and fund initiatives or activities that conflict with its institutional commitments. As president of Boston College, I have the obligation to safeguard the University from such intrusion.

I know that some do not agree with the University's position regarding the non-discrimination clause, and I regret that. But I hope we can continue to engage in dialogue about ways in which we can underscore our basic commitment to the dignity of every member of the Boston College community.

To that end, I have asked Joseph Herlihy, our general counsel, to meet with a group of UGBC leaders to discuss how our policy of non-discrimination can be made more welcoming and affirming, while safeguarding the University's freedom to remain faithful to its religious identity and mission. I hope that these discussions will advance the dialogue on this important issue and reassert that Boston College is a community that holds tolerance and mutual respect for all people as a guiding principle.

William P. Leahy, SJ
President, Boston College

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