A student group at Loyola Marymount University on Thursday staged the Jesuit school's first lesbian and gay awareness day--a major test for university policy toward the group, the Alliance of Gays and Lesbians.
The awareness day came two months after the alliance failed to win official university recognition. The events included readings by gay and lesbian poets, a panel discussion on homophobia and an information fair on Alumni Mall.
The administration refused in February to give the alliance formal club status, but pledged to allow the group to use the university's "facilities, services and staff." University authorities gave their consent to the awareness day and played a role in its planning.
Student reaction ranged from praise to disapproval. Passing the information tables on Alumni Mall Thursday, students displayed a variety of opinions on how far the university should go in accommodating gays and lesbians.
Tim White, a junior majoring in marketing, said the student organizers have a right to hold campus events--but should not be granted their request for official university recognition.
"I don't believe it's morally right," White said as he strode along the mall. "It's a Catholic university, and that's a big reason people have chosen this school. . . . There are certain things the school shouldn't allow."
William Brown, a senior majoring in history, had a different view. Stopping at the information tables on his way across campus, Brown said: "There are a lot of gays on campus. I think the awareness and recognition that they contribute something should be here."
Some had no opinion. Said a chemistry major who declined to be quoted by name: "It sounds apathetic, but I really don't think about it. I'm concerned about trying to survive my courses, get myself through college, and hopefully pay for it all in the end."
The most visible of Thursday's scheduled events was the information fair, which featured literature-laden tables sponsored by 11 groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the Orange County Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
The presence of off-campus groups at the information fair sparked disagreement between alliance president James Munselle and school authorities. Lane Bove, the university's vice president for student affairs, said the school consented to the awareness day on that condition that outside groups be barred from setting up information tables on the mall.
"I'm always looking at how to achieve a goal with the least amount of disruption possible," Bove said in an interview.
Munselle said Bove told him the condition was necessary to avoid "stepping on conservative toes." He said he decided to call the groups onto campus anyway because school authorities failed to write him a letter he requested explaining their position.
Bove said the university would continue cooperating with the alliance, but she appeared annoyed by the move: "James and I will certainly have a conversation about today and how we go about planning things."
Tensions between the alliance and the administration have been high since Feb. 15, when university President James Loughran turned down the group's request for official school recognition.
Loughran issued an unsigned statement saying the university "cannot endorse or condone . . . a sexually active homosexual lifestyle." He agreed to allow the alliance to meet on campus and use the school's "facilities, services and staff," however, and he urged the university community to "support those among us who happen to be homosexual."
But the conciliatory moves did not satisfy the alliance. A week after Loughran's announcement, 50 students picketed his office, chanting: "Two, four, six, eight, God does not discriminate!"
Visiting the information fair Thursday, Jeanne Curry, a Loyola Marymount philosophy professor, said events such as awareness day will not compensate for the alliance's lack of official recognition.
"I don't think the university is going far enough to help these kids. I wish they would recognize them," Curry said. "The university is keeping a distance from these students, and that contributes to the isolation that they experience everywhere in society, including on campus."