WACO, Texas (KWTX) The president of Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unsanctioned LGBTQ group, says a letter emailed Tuesday to students, faculty and staff by Baylor University President Dr. Linda Livingstone should start the campus conversation for which the group has been calling.
"Even though they did ignore a lot of things we are so encouraged at the fact that Baylor was able to send out this email to all of its faculty and all its staff, and I think even some alumni saw it, we are so encouraged that they were able to just start talking about it,” Gamma Alpha Upsilon President Elizabeth Benton said.
“That's all we wanted to do.”
While Baylor’s policy affirming “singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm” remains unchanged, the school “is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students – including our LGBTQ students," Livingstone said in the letter, which came as Gamma Alpha Upsilon tries again to win an official charter.
Students to whom KWTX talked Wednesday were divided on whether the group should be granted official status.
"I feel like they have every right to be on campus,” McAllen junior Patricio Pena said.
“I come from a very conservative Catholic background, but I've never been a person to be opposed to representation so I feel like every person who doesn't have a voice on campus should have a voice on campus."
But New Orleans sophomore Blake Mire said the university must hold to its principles.
"(Livingstone’s letter) basically said ‘we're here to support you and do everything we can for you,’ but there's just certain things that as a Christian University we're not going to allow because that’s just in their mission,” he said.
Senior Stella Huang, who’s from China, agreed.
"I can understand because this is a Christian school so they're religious beliefs led them to have their standards."
The university unveiled a webpage on Tuesday that includes the university’s Statement on Human Sexuality as well as the school’s sexual conduct policy.
The university does not discipline or expel students for same-sex attraction, but does provide resources for LGBTQ students through the Title IX Office, Bias Response Team, Chaplain’s Office and Spiritual Life and the Counseling Center, Livingstone said in the letter.
Counselors don’t practice or condone conversion therapy, she said.
"It's really important for us that we live out our mission as an institution and are true to policies of that institution and we certainly are a broad based Christian institution that has very deep roots with Texas Baptists,” Livingstone told KWTX Wednesday.
Conversations initiated last summer on how the school could better support all “under-represented students” made it “evident to us that there are many misperceptions regarding Baylor’s stance on human sexuality and that there is more we can do to support our LGBTQ students,” Livingstone said in the letter.
“Additionally, we have found, as you might imagine, that this extremely complex issue evokes a wide range of strong emotions and interpretations both within and beyond the Christian community.”
“A common theme emerging from all of the aforementioned conversations is the need for us to provide more robust and more specific training for students, faculty and staff in loving, caring for and supporting our LGBTQ students,” she said.
“It also became clear that we need to provide additional opportunities for our University community to listen to each other and discuss such matters in a civil, academic and supportive environment, as they are important to our faith and society. And, perhaps most importantly, we need to establish trust with our LGBTQ students so that, among other things, they might seek out the resources provided by Baylor, all of which must be done as a faithful expression of our Christian mission.”