Baylor’s student Senate removes ‘homosexual acts’ from conduct code

UniversityprofilesBaylorBearsMembers of Baylor University’s student Senate voted Thursday night to change discriminatory language in the university’s Sexual Misconduct Code.

The current code states that sexuality is a gift from God and “misuses of God’s gift will be understood to include but not limit to, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, sexual assault, incest, adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts.”

The Sexual Misconduct Code Non-Discrimination Act removed “homosexual acts” from the code and replaced it with the phrase “non-marital consensual deviate sexual intercourse.” Further action is required by the Baylor University Board of Regents before the change can be made.

While the code also states that sexuality is  “achieved through heterosexual relationships within marriage,” students who supported the act said it was intended to remove discriminatory language and make gays feel more welcome on campus, the university’s student paper, Baylor Lariat, reports.

As a Christian university, Baylor’s doctrine has always and still states that homosexuality is wrong for Biblical reasons, and the bill wouldn’t change the formal views of the administration. Baylor has made Princeton Review’s “most gay-unfriendly” list for years.

But senior Kimani Mitchell told the student paper that the change in wording wouldn’t target gays anymore.

“We are simply clarifying language here,” Mitchell said. “In our world we don’t always take words semantically. They are taken with a pragmatic view, which is the connotation associated with the view. This word is discriminating. Discrimination contextually and culturally is a bad thing.”

Senior Grant Senter said the change would show acceptance by the school’s student body, even if mindsets haven’t changed.

“This is not just about a technical change,” Senter said. “This is about the entire picture of the university and what it means to be a homosexual on campus. Are you protected? Do we care for you? Do we reach out to you with Christ’s love? At this point no. What I think this bill does is take a step towards a more caring, Jesus loving community.”

Earlier this year, Baylor senior Susan Duty helped the city of Waco, where Baylor is located, add sexual orientation and gender identity to its Equal Employment Opportunity policy for city employees.

—  Dallasvoice

RG3 says ‘now is the window’ for an NFL player to come out

rgiiigq813aIt’s ironic that athletes from the Southern Baptist Church-affiliated Baylor University seem to be leading the way on LGBT inclusion in professional sports.

Earlier this year, of course, former Baylor center Brittney Griner came out publicly as a lesbian after the Phoenix Mercury made her the the No. 1  overall pick in the WNBA draft.

Now, former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III is speaking out in support of Griner — his friend — and other LGBT athletes. Griffin, who now plays for the Washington Redskins and is known as “RG3,” is on the cover of the September issue of GQ, which asked him about the likelihood of an NFL player coming out:

“I think there are [gay players] right now, and if they’re looking for a window to just come out, I mean, now is the window,” Griffin said. “My view on it is, yes, I am a Christian, but to each his own. You do what you want to do. If some Christians want to look at being gay as a sin, then thinking about other women, committing adultery — or any of those other sins that are in the Bible—those are sins, too. And God looks at all of us the same way.”

—  John Wright

Waco city committee to vote on LGBT protections proposed by Baylor student

Susan Duty

After Susan Duty realized LGBT workers in Texas could legally be discriminated against in employment because of who they are, she started looking into what she could do locally in Waco.

“It means something to me,” she said, adding that she has a gay brother and gay friends. “I wanted to do something about it.”

Duty, a straight ally, attended an Equality Texas event a few months ago, learning that the state doesn’t offer protections against anti-LGBT job discrimination. Legislation has been filed for the current legislative session to add the statewide protections.

“When I found out that it was legal to discriminate against LGBT people in employment, I was like, that’s ridiculous,” Duty said. “We can’t change it in the state, but we can change it in our city. We can change it in our community.”

Duty then began her research on how to add the employment protections to the city of Waco’s nondiscrimination policy. She and a friend drafted a letter requesting that the city’s Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee recommend the addition of sexual orientation and gender identity to City Council. The policy currently protects employees based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin, age and disability.

The letter will be read to the six-member committee Thursday, Jan. 24, and members will vote whether or not to recommend it to the City Council, which is comprised of five members and the mayor.

—  Dallasvoice

Baylor student to study ‘Homosexuality as a gateway drug’

The Baylor Lariat, the student newspaper at Baylor University, is criticizing reports of a course listing offered in the school’s sociology department called “Homosexuality as a gateway drug,” decrying the reports as “inaccurate reporting” and “cheap shots.”

The Lariat defends the course as a legitimate field of study and notes that the course is an independent study that is not open to the student body.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues do exist in society,” Lariat news editor Ashley Ohriner wrote. “A sociology thesis exploring the topic is appropriate by any account.”

Studying LGBT issues in a conservative environment is indeed an appropriate topic of study. Titling the study “Homosexuality as a gateway drug” tells us what the conclusions will be.

Patti Fink, a Baylor alum and prominent LGBT activist in Dallas, asked, “Gateway to what? Polygamy? Bestiality? Cocaine?”

Karen Click, director of the Southern Methodist University Women’s Center, said, “I am not aware of a similar course being offered at SMU.”

Noting SMU’s place on the Princeton Review‘s list of the country’s most homophobic schools and the fact that Baylor dropped off the most recent survey, Click said, “Does that fit with Baylor’s ranking?”

As outraged as Baylor Lariat staffers and school officials may be at the “blatant disregard for accurate reporting” that they have seen relating to this independent study, they seem to have no problem with the original thesis comparing sexual orientation to drug use. The article notes that the class name has been changed. But the fact that a faculty member and the sociology department chair approved the title and it got into the course catalog, speaks volumes about the school’s attitude toward its LGBT students, faculty, staff and alumni.

—  David Taffet

TCU LGBT alumni group forms

Organizer says school has been helpful, supportive in forming group for gay graduates

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

There are some schools that are — or have been — affiliated with religious institutions that  not only wouldn’t welcome an LGBT alumni group, they would block such a group outright.

But when Doug Thompson, a graduate of Fort Worth’s Texas Christian University, associated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), approached his alma mater’s alumni association about forming an LGBT affiliate, he said, the response was, “Absolutely. No problem.”

TCU’s new LGBT alumni group will hold its first large meeting on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the TCU homecoming game. Thompson acknowledged that sports isn’t the main concern of many LGBT alumni, but homecoming is still a time when many alumni return to visit the campus.

Thompson said when he asked the alumni association whether the LGBT group would need approval by the school’s administration, he was told the administration would back it. The group was approved in April.

Unlike Baylor University, which sued to keep its LGBT alumni from using the school name to organize a group, Thompson said there has been no objection from the TCU campus.

“We just want to get people involved however they want to be involved,” Kristi Hoban, associate vice chancellor alumni of relations, said. “We just reach out, whether it’s a class or the business school or a special interest group.”

She said that black alumni were not participating until the Black Alumni Alliance formed about 11 years ago. Now, she said, they’re active leaders in class reunions, homecoming and department alumni events, adding that she hopes to see the same thing happen with the LGBT network.

Finding LGBT alumni hasn’t been easy, Thompson said, as students aren’t asked about their sexual orientation before they graduate.

But Thompson said about 120 alumni have already responded, mostly to calls on social media sites. And now that the school has a Gay Straight Alliance, he said, finding future alumni will be easier.

“Our goal will be to support gay and lesbian students and start a scholarship,” Thompson said. “And we’ll form activities around things gay alumni have an interest in.”

He mentioned support for the Trinity Shakespeare Festival on campus as a direction for the group.

Thompson said that having an LGBT alumni group will help the school provide a better environment for its LGBT students.

Two years ago, TCU proposed setting aside dorm space for LGBT students. A week after the announcement, when only eight students had signed up for the housing, the school scrapped those plans.

“That got totally blown out of proportion,” Hoban said.

She said the intention was never segregated housing but really just an LGBT campus group.
Thompson said the school would have avoided the bad publicity if it had the alumni group to guide them.

The LGBT alumni group will get together after the homecoming game against New Mexico on Saturday, Oct. 22. They will meet at Tommy’s Hamburgers’ Camp Bowie Boulevard location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.




Victor Pryor

Perhaps one of the best known Texas Christian University grads that will be attending the new LGBT alumni group’s meeting this weekend is Vincent Pryor, a TCU Horned Frogs football star from 1994.

That year, before the final game of the season against the Texas Tech Red Raiders, Pryor came out to his teammates. Rather than shunning him, Pryor’s coach told him he was proud of his honesty

“My teammates and my coaches overwhelmingly supported and accepted me,” Pryor writes on his website, “All of the fears and concerns I had about being kicked off the team, or losing my scholarship, or embarrassing my school — none of that happened.  And the best part of it was that I became a better athlete after I came out.”

That day, Pryor had the biggest game of his college career, tallying a record 4.5 sacks — a record that still stands today. His performance helped TCU win the conference title and a berth in a post-season bowl game.

Today, Pryor works in sales and lives in Chicago with his partner of 12 years, who was a classmate at TCU. To watch his just-
released an “It Gets Better” video, below.

—  Kevin Thomas

An awakening of their own

How Baylor classmates Josh Gonzales and Matt Tolbert teamed up onstage — and in real life — for WaterTower’s ‘Spring Awakening’

UP AGAINST THE WALL | Gonzales and Tolbert will share their first scene — and first onstage kiss — as the gay couple in WaterTower’s sexually frank musical ‘Spring Awakening.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

Matt Tolbert may be just barely old enough to drink legally (he’ll turn 23 in October), but he’s already an experienced theater hand.

Four months ago, he was finishing up his last semester at Baylor University before a May graduation, but he’d already made his professional debut earlier this year, hanging upside down as a torture victim in WaterTower Theatre’s production of The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Soon after that, he co-established a theater company and produced a show for the Out of the

Loop Fringe Festival; as of last week, his day job is assistant to WTT’s producing artistic director, Terry Martin.

“I guess you could say I’m aggressive about my career,” Tolbert concedes, “though I say I’m just highly motivated.”

And one thing he was motivated about was getting cast in WaterTower’s upcoming production of Spring Awakening. Ever since Tolbert learned of the show, he’d wanted to be in it, so when WTT put it on their 2011-12 schedule, he knew he’d audition. But even more, he wanted to be in it with his partner Josh Gonzales.

The two met several years ago while both were studying at Baylor (Gonzales is still there, with plans to graduate next spring); for the past two years, they have been a couple. But while they have been in shows at the same time, they have never shared a scene. Spring Awakening seemed like a good chance for them to do a musical together.

“I was in love with the show and when I heard WaterTower was doing it, I jumped at the chance,” says Gonzales, 21. “[Matt and I] have been in five shows together before — this will be our sixth — but we very rarely interact onstage. This is our first time to get to act.”

The plan was for Tolbert to play Hanschen, the slightly predatory gay teen, and Gonzalez to play Ernst, the object of his lustful urges in the explicit, sexually charged musical about the yearning of 19th century youth (which oddly echoes the same feelings of youth in the 21st century). Still, getting cast was hardly a sure thing, even with Tolbert’s connections at the theater.

So this summer, Tolbert studied voice with Mark Mullino, who was about to start work as the music director on Spring Awakening. Tolbert planted seeds with Mullino that he and Gonzalez would be interested in doing the show.

Alas, it seemed destined not to happen.

“Matt went to the audition but I couldn’t go because I was in New York,” sighs Gonzales. Not only that, but once the call-back list was released, Tolbert was asked to re-audition… for the role of Ernst.

“I thought, ‘Darn! I missed my chance,’” says Gonzalez.

But, despite the downbeat message of Spring Awakening, true love was determined to find a way.

Martin, who is directing the show, decided to do a second round of call-backs. Gonzales thought maybe he could try out for Hanschen, “even though Matt would be a better Hanschen than me. Or I could just be in the ensemble — I would do anything,” he says.

Tolbert and Gonzales auditioned together; Martin asked them to sing one of the show’s signature songs, “The Bitch of Living,” with each other. They did it once. Audition over.

It wasn’t until the next day they were both cast as they’d hoped: Tolbert as Hanschen, Gonzales as Ernst. It’s a dynamic that has been fed by their own relationship.

“It was a lot easier to do once we started rehearsals,” Tolbert says. “We didn’t need to choreograph the kiss. But we like [recreating] the awkwardness of the seduction — even though Hanschen is the seducer, it’s his first time, too.”

Still, art does not imitate life — at least not in this instance.

“Ernst is a little confused throughout most of the show, because he’s not exactly sure what he wants, but ultimately he just wants someone to be intimate with,” Gonzales says. “The tragedy is that Hanschen just wants someone to have fun with.”

In real life, the couple is truly committed. Gonzales is still in school in Waco, meaning he has to commute several times a week to attend rehearsals. When he’s able, he stays in town with Tolbert. Well, sort of — they both stay at Tolbert’s parents’ house, though in separate rooms.

“It’s interesting because our families don’t know we’re gay — we just came out to our close friends this summer,” Tolbert explains.

That’s likely to change soon. Especially after opening night.

“Obviously there’s a little chemistry — how could there not be?” Gonzales admits. Tolbert agrees the friends and family they are not out to yet will probably figure it out. But until they do, it’s enough to combine work and romance.

“It’s great we can share [the kiss]. I trust him completely… and I don’t want him to kiss another guy. Our goal is never to have our understudies go on,” Gonzales says.
Ah, young love… .

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

SMU makes Princeton Review’s ‘homophobic’ list again

DISCRIMINATION? | Joe Hoselton, aka Jenna Skyy, director of graduate admissions at Meadows School, sits in his office at SMU with his Miss Texas FFI crown on his desk. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Despite the Dallas university’s broad range of programs and outreach to the LGBT community, students still rank it worse than even Baylor when it comes to ‘LGBT friendly’

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

Southern Methodist University in Dallas is the 12th most LGBT-unfriendly school in the country, according to the annual ranking compiled and issued by the Princeton Review.

But LGBT faculty, staff and alumni and straight allies say that Princeton Review doesn’t look at the whole picture and their school simply doesn’t belong in the same category as other schools whose policies are clearly discriminatory.

And rather than acknowledge strides the school has made in recent years, the list moved SMU to No. 12 this year, up from the 16th
position the Dallas university occupied last year.

The conservative Baptist school Baylor University in Waco, in the No. 11 spot last year, didn’t make the list at all this time around.

Dallas has the distinction of being the only city with two schools on the list — SMU and, at No. 9, the University of Dallas. And Texas is the only state with three schools on the list. In addition to the two in Dallas, Texas A&M comes in at No. 10.

SMU, which has been on the list for several years, is the only school in the group whose non-discrimination policies specifically include protections for the LGBT community.

Karen Click, director of the Women’s Center at SMU that includes LGBT programs, said she was hoping her school was moving off the list. She was disappointed that it moved up instead.

“As the staff member charged with improving the climate, it’s frustrating,” she said.

Click said that Campus Pride also surveys schools about the climate on campus and provides useful input. A new LGBT faculty and staff group was organized at the school this year as a result of recommendations from the group.

In June, a new LGBT alumni organization met for the first time. Openly gay Dean David Chard hosted the first reception for the group in the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas reception lounge in the new Simmons School of Education building.

In contrast, Baylor alumnus Patti Fink said, several years ago when a group of alumni tried to organize an LGBT alumni group, rather than welcome their donations, Baylor sent them a cease and desist order.

Chard said he was probably the only openly gay dean among any of the schools that made the bottom 20.

Fink joked that she didn’t have a list of Baylor’s gay deans handy.

“Even if I looked for a month, I probably wouldn’t find them,” she said.

Chard echoed Click’s frustration. He said that among other things, the school was about to present an anti-bullying conference and has hosted the Gayla Prom on campus for at least a decade.

Fink said there’s never been an LGBT dance on the Baylor campus nor any sanctioned LGBT organizations.

“SMU has been a sponsor of Black Tie Dinner, supported by almost all of the deans on campus, for three years,” Chard said.

And the Simmons School counseling program internship with the longest waiting list partners with Resource Center Dallas.

“We’re doing good work for members of our community,” Chard said.

Fink said she knew of no programs at Baylor that were tied to Waco’s LGBT community. The school has made no donations to fundraising events that support the community. She said her alma mater doesn’t hold an LGBT job fair, which SMU does annually, nor do any Baylor departments partner with any LGBT community groups.

Click said that a Baylor student read an article in Dallas Voice last year about the LGBT-unfriendly rankings. That student contacted her from Waco to help find any resources on the Baylor campus. Click connected her with faculty who are unable to be out on the Waco campus.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m working for two schools,” Click said.

She said that SMU has four LGBT groups and a fifth is forming. And, she said, support for the LGBT community is not new.

“Spectrum [the undergraduate group] has been operating since the 1980s,” she said.

An LGBT group at Perkins School of Theology is active and has the support of that school’s dean. Two other graduate schools with LGBT groups are the law school and business school.

Not only is SMU the only school on the Princeton Review list with a non-discrimination policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, it has also offered domestic partner benefits for faculty and staff members’ partners since 2001.

To top it off, Fink said she doesn’t think any of her school has any staff members that perform on film or at a nightclub — or anywhere else for that matter — in drag.

But SMU does.

Joe Hoselton is graduate admissions coordinator at SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts, but in the LGBT community, he’s better known as Jenna Skyy.

Click said she is pretty sure that no graduate admissions counselor at any of the other schools on the list have ever taught classes on makeup or appeared at a president’s dinner in drag. And Fink confirmed that Baylor President Kenneth Starr is certainly unlikely to host a drag dinner.

Hoselton has done both those things at SMU.

Hoselton said that he thinks the Princeton Review ranking plays into SMU’s stereotypes, something he said he deals with all the time when he’s talking to prospective students.

Hoselton said that while the school has a reputation for its Greek culture, fraternity and sorority membership is capped at a third of undergraduates. When grad students are added, that’s only a sixth of the student body.

Hoselton said he thinks many of the respondents to the survey came from SMU’s business and law schools. Both schools have their own LGBT student organizations but are more conservative than the student population in general.

Hoselton said he thinks students from those schools are more likely to answer lengthy surveys and more likely to answer that there is discrimination, reflecting the stereotype rather than the reality.

Hoselton said that a theology student at Baylor spoke to him before applying to Perkins. That student told Hoselton he came out to a Baylor dean who told him he could continue to study at Baylor but would not graduate and would not find placement help.

The student transferred to Perkins at SMU, where the dean supports him.

Justin Nichols graduated from SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. He said that a regular financial aid application that included parent’s income indicated that he could afford the tuition. However, because he is gay, his father cut him off, so he filed a “special circumstances” form.

“They made it affordable for me to attend,” he said.

Fink said that she doubts being lesbian would have qualified her for special financial aid consideration at Baylor.

Despite the official policies and variety of programs, the ranking is based solely on how students view their own campus. Students from at least 20 other colleges think their schools are more homophobic than Baylor. And students at SMU think gays and lesbians are not treated very well.

“The message that remains from an undergraduate student body is they feel it’s a homophobic campus,” Chard said.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Leaders of gay student group at Baylor react to school’s decision to deny their charter

As we noted the other day, Baylor University has denied a charter for an LGBT student group called the Sexual Identity Forum. The university apparently doesn’t think college students are mature enough to talk about sexuality issues unless the discussion is “professionally facilitated,” whatever that means. Baylor has a policy prohibiting students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” The Sexual Identity Forum, which insists it isn’t an advocacy group, plans to appeal the denial of its charter and will continue to meet informally in the meantime — at least until the administration tries to shut it down completely. Openly gay and extremely brave Baylor senior Samantha Jones, the president of the Sexual Identity Forum, tells News Channel 25 that she decided to launch the group after the school’s administration failed to respond to the suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, whose death was a wake-up call to gay students around the country: “We didn’t get an e-mail saying, ‘This is someone who you can approach if you’re struggling with this,’ …nothing,” Jones says.

—  John Wright

UPDATE: Baylor U. denies charter for gay group, says forums should be ‘professionally facilitated’

Earlier today we told you about the new LGBT student group at Baylor University, called the Sexual Identity Forum. Shortly after our post went up, the group reported on its website that its charter has been denied by the school:

As of 1:53pm on March 2nd, 2011, we have been denied a charter. Student activities thinks that open forum discussion on sensitive topics such as those involving gender and sexuality are better handled by “professionally facilitated” organizations.

They don’t seem to realize that the frequency with which ”professionally facilitated” organizations host open forums is far less than the frequency with which students come up with questions about gender and sexuality or with which relevant politics develop. We are in the process of appealing this decision to Dr. Kevin Jackson.

Thank you for sticking with us through all of this–we won’t give up without a fight (and even then we won’t give up)! Remember, we are still meeting unofficially in the SUB Den on Thursday evenings, 8:30pm, without a charter.


—  John Wright

Students launch gay group at Baylor University

More than 50 students reportedly met last week to discuss forming an LGBT student group at Baylor University. (Baylor Lariat)

Patti Fink, a Baylor University alum who serves as president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance, alerted us to this story from the Baylor Lariat newspaper about a new group for LGBT students at the Baptist school in Waco:

The group, named the Sexual Identity Forum, is in the process of applying to be an officially chartered student organization at Baylor, and its founding members expect a final decision on the chartering to be made before the end of the month.

Alvarado senior Samantha Jones, the organization’s president who affirmed during the meeting that she is openly gay, said she was motivated to start a discussion group because she believes the administration has not always been accepting of students with alternative sexual identities.

“I feel as though the student body in and of itself is very welcoming,” Jones said. “Everyone I’ve come out to or approached has been very welcoming and very compassionate and tolerant. I feel as though the high administration … refuses to recognize that there are gay students on campus, and they refuse to allow a group like this to exist.”

The story goes on to say that Baylor prohibits students from participating “in advocacy groups which promote understandings of sexuality that are contrary to biblical teaching.” However, the university’s director of students services wouldn’t comment on whether the Sexual Identity Forum is likely to receive a charter.

This is a remarkable development at a school where Kenneth Starr is president and where, in the past, students have been expelled for being gay.

UPDATE: The group’s charter has been denied. Read more here.

—  John Wright