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May 12, 2005 • Volume 13 Number 17

New Statement Endorsed

After several months of discussions, the Boston College administration and student leaders from the Undergraduate Government of Boston College and the Movement for Equality last week reached agreement on a new non-discrimination statement that all parties say is more welcoming and affirming for gay and lesbian members of the BC community, while preserving the University's right to make decisions in support of its religious beliefs and values.

The student leaders, who have met since January with University President William P. Leahy, SJ, and of late on a weekly basis with Vice President for Student Affairs Cheryl Presley, Dean for Student Development Robert Sherwood and University Counsel Joseph Herlihy, approved the new statement on May 5. It will undergo an internal review by administrators before officially becoming University policy.

In a letter published in The Heights from outgoing UGBC President Grace Simmons and Vice President Burnell Holland, the student leaders said they had "worked collectively to fashion a new statement that that would appropriately reflect the wishes of students, faculty and staff while respecting the demands upon the University as a Jesuit, Catholic institution." As a result, they said, their discussions had culminated in "a vastly improved statement that is more welcoming and affirming to all communities," but one that is "not perfect in that it does not equally include sexual orientation in every facet of the clause."

The revised statement underscores the University's commitment to "maintaining a welcoming environment for all people and extends its welcome in particular to those who may be vulnerable to discrimination on the basis of their race, ethnic or national origin, religion, color, age, gender, marital or parental status, veteran status, disabilities or sexual orientation." It also states that the University will comply with all state laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. There is no requirement for including sexual orientation in a policy of non-discrimination under federal law.

"The recent change in our non-discrimination policy is a positive step for the entire Boston College community, and demonstrates students' and administrators' ability to work together to create change," said BC senior Michael Yaksich, director of GLBT Issues for UGBC. "Boston College is a welcoming place for all members of its community, and this is a step forward in matching policy with the reality of student life at the university. While the policy is not perfect, students are committed to continue to work towards the equal standing of 'sexual orientation' in the entire policy."

BC Director of Public Affairs Jack Dunn praised the students for working with administrators to craft an improved statement. "Grace Simmons, Burnell Holland, Mike Yaksich, Nick Salter and Joe Halli demonstrated great leadership in working with the administration to improve this document," said Dunn. "We think this new statement will help to project an image of inclusiveness that better reflects the reality of this campus, while enabling the University to maintain its rights under state law to uphold its religious convictions."

-Public Affairs staff

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