Baylor University’s Student Senate made a powerful move toward equality on Oct. 22.
The “No Crying on Sundays” Senate Resolution that we passed was written with the intention of signaling to the LGBTQIA+ community that they are recognized and loved at Baylor.
Discriminatory practices and an oppressive interpretation of the university’s Statement on Human Sexuality have barred the chartering of an official support organization for LGBTQIA+ students, and our resolution sought to put an end to this.
The passage of this legislation was a powerful statement to the university that our LGBTQIA+ students deserve equal treatment and a loving home on this campus.
The Student Senate acted rightly in representing all of our constituents and calling on Baylor to end its discriminatory practices.
A major inspiration for writing this bill was Gamma Alpha Upsilon, which has been denied a charter every year for 10 years. Gamma serves as an unofficial safe place of support and community for LGBTQIA+ students and their allies, a group that has been marginalized and suppressed on Baylor’s campus for far too long.
It is to the detriment of the student body that Gamma Alpha Upsilon has not been allowed a charter, as chartering would allow this organization to support far more LGBTQIA+ students.
Logistical benefits of chartering include access to the Student Government Allocation Fund, a page on Connect where students can learn about student organizations and events, ease in reserving spaces on campus to gather and host events, and access to a faculty advisor.
These benefits would all serve to decrease the amount of LGBTQIA+ students who feel alienated and unvalued at a university that claims to love them.
It is well documented that LGBTQIA+ individuals face much higher rates of mental distress and suicide. Places of support and acceptance like Gamma can save lives.
For example, a 2009 study found that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their lesbian, gay and bisexual peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection.
The “Baylor Family” can no longer reject its LGBTQIA+ children. Baylor is risking the mental and physical health of its students by its continued unwillingness to charter Gamma. This is not love.
This issue is personal to us.
I, Addison Knight, am a multi-generational legacy of Baylor. My grandmother came from Lebanon to join the Baylor family, my parents fell in love here, and my brother recently graduated.
Baylor has been a second home to me for as long as I can remember, and I have always felt pride in wearing green and gold. Becoming a student at Baylor made me realize that much of this pride has not been earned by the university.
In 2019, Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president of media and public relations, stated, “Baylor is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students, including those who identify as LGBTQ.”
Refusing to formally recognize the rights of a group of students is not providing a loving and caring community. It is deeply offensive and harmful and proliferates the suppression and harassment experienced by LGBTQIA+ students.
By its inaction and hollow words, Baylor has continued a history of oppression and trauma.
I, Veronica Penales, am a Filipino-American queer woman on Baylor’s campus. I have experienced firsthand the discrimination and pain that has been felt by countless other minority individuals who consider themselves to be the past, present and future of this university.
I do not hesitate in expressing my love for this university and the students I have grown to call family. But at the same time, with this love in my heart, I will not hesitate to call upon Baylor leadership to change its blatant discrimination of the LGBTQIA+ community.
While civil discourse is necessary for the progression of this movement, there comes a point where mere conversation is no longer enough.
Until that action is created, we as a community of LGBTQIA+ students and allies will continue working to make sure you hear us. Because no matter how much it shakes you and your Christian faith, we exist.
Unequal and discriminatory treatment of LGBTQIA+ students – such as robbing them of a supportive and loving community by denying them the ability to establish a chartered organization – is antithetical to the value of love that infuses Christ’s teachings.
It is because of this that the Student Senate passed our resolution, and it is because of this that Baylor must change its practices.
We are not seeking to rewrite the history of Baylor as a Baptist university. We are seeking to end harmful and discriminatory practices against students to finally align this university with the values of love it claims to follow.
Editor’s note: This article is part of an ongoing series focused on engaging the emerging generations of faith leaders. If you know anyone who might be interested, encourage them to submit their article for consideration to firstname.lastname@example.org
Veronica Bonifacio Penales is a Sophomore Senator in Baylor Student Government and member of the unofficial Gamma Alpha Upsilon. Majoring in International Studies and Political Science and minoring in women and gender studies, Veronica will continue her call to action on Baylor leadership until equality is present on this campus.
Addison Knight is a Sophomore Student Senator at Baylor University where she studies English Literature. Addison is passionate about mental health and diversity and inclusivity and is dedicated to creating a genuinely loving and healthy environment for all students.