Pepperdine University Should Accept Proposal to Start Gay-Straight Alliance Group

Pepperdine University is a private school in Malibu, California that has an affiliation with the Churches of Christ. Despite the Christian influence, there are a lot of gay students who go there and some of them are trying to start a student group.

Surprise, surprise, the school has denied a recent proposal for such a group. In fact, it’s the fourth time the school has “denied or discouraged” a gay-straight alliance group from forming.

Now, there’s a petition to overturn the university’s decision created by Alex Cooper:

For over a year, Pepperdine’s administration has been in negotiations with the students of Reach OUT, an unrecognized gay-straight alliance, in an effort to promote inclusivity toward LGBT students.

Pepperdine students often struggle to be honest about their sexual orientation because they fear rejection from their peers as well as the risk of losing their scholarships and leadership opportunities. Moreover, professors do not feel comfortable speaking on the issue, worrying that they will be denied tenure or research grants.

Until now, the university’s policies have created an atmosphere of silence and anxiety that alienates not only the LGBT student population but also anyone concerned for their well-being…

Administrators are concerned that recognition of Reach OUT would “imply to many that Pepperdine is not honoring our affiliation with the Churches of Christ,” according to a statement released by the Office of Student Affairs. Reach OUT’s mission, however, is not antithetical to the religious mission of the university. In fact, we respect and reinforce it.

This shouldn’t even be an issue. As the petition indicates, the groups isn’t endorsing anything the church would be ashamed of — unless admitting that gay students exist on campus goes against some Commandment Against Accepting Reality.

Please consider signing the petition. If you’re a Pepperdine student or a Christian, you should mention that, too.

Incidentally, last year, LGBT students at Harding University (another school with a Churches of Christ affiliation) released an online magazine where they spoke out anonymously about their sexuality.

(Thanks to Caroline for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tiffany-Jade-Brown/640358790 Tiffany Jade Brown

    I myself attend a private Christian university. Believe me, only for the fact that it’s a great academic school. We have anti-gay rules. Basically, you’re not “allowed” to be gay on campus. I’m also bisexual. More to the point, a couple of years ago, we had an “underground” LGBT group that met off campus. It was difficult to find member because we couldn’t put up posters on campus. The counseling department was great, though, because they would refer people to the group if they knew clients who were LGBT or allies. The group has since broken apart. Lack of interest, I guess. Which saddens me. I would really like to get it started again. However, it’s nearly impossible to get an official group because of the private school status.

  • Michael

    While I don’t agree with Pepperdine at all, it IS one of the drawbacks of attending a private, Christian college.  If you don’t want to honor the school’s code of conduct, don’t go to the school.

    • The Other Weirdo

      It’s like joining the military in time of peace to get one’s education paid for, and then acting all shocked and betrayed that they actually expect you to go to war when one breaks out.

    • Guest

      Not all of us had a choice in where to apply…many of our parents didn’t allow us many options other than conservative, Christian schools. The “you chose to go here” argument hardly means that we shouldn’t try to change anything.

      • Anonymous

        There are also plenty of people who don’t realize that they are gay – or who aren’t comfortable with it – until they are at college

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

      What sunburned said.  If Peppardine gets one dime of taxpayer money, tax breaks, land use privileges,  for any reason whatsoever, then they cannot discriminate against any of the children of those taxpayers.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.

    Private institutions who receive any type funding/preferential treatment should be required to adhere to civil rights conventions that public universities are required to follow. 

    If they do not then they should lose all that funding and/or tax exemptions. 

    Tax payers should not be required to subsidise inequality.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. It’s really not in society’s best interest to let them get away with things like this or arbitrary discrimination in other areas. This isn’t a freedom or religion issue at all. Freedom of religion can’t mean that people can do whatever they want.

    • Andrew Pang

       yeah if they wanna promote inequality make ‘em do so at their OWN expense and let their ideas sink into further obscurity.

  • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

    I’m going to disagree and say, instead, that students should stop pushing for having an officially recognized GSA at Pepperdine.

    What this does is confirm conservative Christian suspicions that legal, public protections for homosexuals and public appeals for acceptance aren’t enough…private religious organizations are also being specifically pressured into accepting homosexuality. Blurring the distinction between private acceptance and public tolerance is detrimental to broad public tolerance, which is what we need most.

    • Anonymous

      They aren’t pressured into accepting anything. Merely allowing other people to organize does not imply supporting or endorsing everything they do

      • http://wordsideasandthings.blogspot.com/ Garren

        At a private university, the fact that allowing such groups is optional does make it an official allowance rather than a neutral registration.

        • Anonymous

          Yeah, because acknowledging that people exist and have a right to equal treatment  is endorsement…..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    I agree IF the university receives tax payer dollars then they should allow it. It works the other way too though. I know a certain state university that is extremely antagonistic against religious groups meeting and go out of their way to make it nearly impossible. 

    The catch with Pepperdine is that they are a private institution so they can kind of do whatever they want to on this issue whether you agree with their opinions or not.


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