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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Macalester student: Working together for LGBTQ+ rights

<ir="ltr">This past year has been marked by a lot of low points for the LGBTQ+ community in the United States, such as the Orlando massacre, North Carolina’s HB2 law, the Republican Party’s adaptation of conversion therapy to their national platform, and the election of what aims to be the most anti-LGBTQ+ administration in American history. While it is easy to take pride in Minnesota’s “liberalness,” some of our own institutions are guilty of discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community.” The purpose of this piece is to highlight a practice of exclusion and discrimination in higher education in Minnesota, and to discuss how we can provide hope for LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty in the wake of this tumultuous year.

I’m a student-athlete on the men’s cross country team at Macalester College, one of your fellow Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) institutions, and am writing to the Carleton community to raise concern about the treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in our fellow higher education institutions here in Minnesota. For a state that prides itself on being progressive, inclusive, and forward-thinking, Minnesota often ignores the discriminatory realities facing the LGBTQ+ community. The presence of severe homophobia and transphobia at some institutions of higher education in Minnesota became apparent to me when I decided to learn further about Crown College, the hosting institution of one of my team’s scheduled cross country meets. In Crown College’s staff and faculty handbook, they detail that “homosexual conduct is incompatible with Christian teaching and cannot be condoned. Therefore persons who engage in homosexual conduct and/or relationships may not be accepted for employment or continued employment.” Moreover, in the application process, prospective students must select that they agree with the college’s Covenant which notes that ““the College does not tolerate involvement in, participation in, or promotion of sexually immoral behavior such as premarital sex, cohabitation, adultery, homosexual behavior, or the use or display of pornographic, obscene, or suggestive materials of any kind (including materials found on the Internet).” After discussing with my team, coach, and the administration, we worked to withdraw our participation in this meet. In my article for the Macalester newspaper title “Macalester, the MIAC, and anti-LGBTQ colleges in Minnesota,” I write much more in-depth on the nuances of discriminatory institutions in Minnesota, our complicitness with them, and how we need to work to create a safer and more inclusive environment in higher education. In this, I highlight the role of a fellow MIAC institution, Bethel University, that has very similar policies to those of Crown, and that there are at least eight colleges in Minnesota that have these hiring and admittance practices. The safety and visibility of LGBTQ+ students across Minnesota hinge upon Macalester, Carleton, and other institutions standing up for equality. While it is important to respect the religious beliefs of others, it is just as important to stand up to bigotry and discrimination. The majority of MIAC institutions are quite religious, yet all except Bethel have codified non-discrimination policies for sexual orientation (including Carleton). Carleton, at a minimum, has the obligation to stand up for its own non-straight community to condemn these policies for the safety of their own athletes and coaches as they compete at institutions that explicitly do not want them there and think that they are fundamentally sinful. In an article published by Yes Magazine titled, “What It’s Like to Be Gay at a Christian College — Where It’s a Reportable Offense,” multiple students and staff provide testimony about the institutionalized homophobia and transphobia they have faced, such as forced abstinence, being denied sexual education and being prohibited to form an LGBTQ+ student group. This is all in addition to the constant degradation that these students face from peers and staff alike.

There is a precedent for condemning this type of discriminatory behavior, as the NCAA (Bethel and Carleton’s head governing body) itself has a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy, and it, along with the NCAA and various colleges’ have decided to withdraw from championship events in North Carolina because of its HB2 law. Imagine if a state had a policy such as Crown or Bethel’s, or if they discriminated on the basis of race? We probably wouldn’t even be having to have this conversation. It is integral that Carleton and other institutions that value diversity and their LGBTQ+ communities have an obligation to condemn, confront and engage in dialogue with these discriminatory colleges. While these efforts are disruptive and difficult, they are a requisite to equality in higher education institutions. Since addressing these issues requires a diverse approach from different members of the Carleton community and beyond, I leave you with some concluding thoughts to move forward with on this issue.

Carleton LGBTQ+ community: Let your administration and colleagues (students or staff/faculty) know your thoughts on Carleton’s participation in events at Bethel and other discriminatory colleges in Minnesota, and push for these conversations to take place with other colleges to encourage institutional change at Carleton, the MIAC, and Bethel.

Carleton allies: Support the LGBTQ+ community of your own campus, and in campuses across the state that do not have the visibility or safety to fight for acceptance at their own institutions. Let the administration know your thoughts on these policies, and the framework that they have to protect their LGBTQ+ community.

Carleton administration: Don’t let this issue go unaddressed; it’s pressing and these policies are unwelcoming (at best) to your own LGBTQ+ community, and dangerous to those at these discriminatory institutions. It’s 2016- fight for human rights and the safety of students in higher education.

Use the fear and anger of this election to mobilize your community and be an agent of positive change in these dark times.

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