By Zachary Landau | The Duquesne Duke
After more than a year of inactivity, Duquesne’s gay-straight alliance is functional once again.
The group, also known as Lambda, held its first meeting since 2013 on Oct. 22. Co-Presidents Hunter Ackley, 19, pharmacy student, and Rachel Coury, 20, psychology major, are thrilled with the response they have received thus far.
“I’m just very excited about it,” Coury said. “I think it’s a great peer-group for anyone on campus who is in this LGBT community, [and] even for people who are not in that community, … it’s just good to have this group as a support group.”
Originally founded in 2005, the group experienced a decline in leadership until it ceased operations in 2013, according to member Niko Martini.
“I almost think that maybe [Lambda] was dormant because people are intimidated by the fact that they’re on a Catholic campus,” Coury said, “but it hasn’t been an issue now that we’ve formed.”
According to the co-presidents, Lambda’s goal is to create a positive and supportive environment for LGBT students at Duquesne, where they have faced adversity in the past.
Last spring, the Student Government Association’s Student Life Committee was “denied approval of posting any materials that featured gay couples” for the Red Flag Campaign, an effort that strives to educate students about relationship abuse, according to Martini.
Martini said that even though many LGBT students have positive experiences on campus, acceptance among the Duquesne community “could be better.”
Supply Chain Management and International Relations senior Matthew Felix is gay, and he remembers a moment in the Power Center bathrooms when he overheard one male say to another “Why do they allow faggots in the locker room?”
“Once upon a time a comment like this would have bothered me,” Felix admitted.
Martini pointed out that the experience for LGBT students at Duquesne is very different from other universities.
“It’s definitely not as accepting as Pitt or Point Park,” Martini said. “I know a handful of students who are ‘out’ (have revealed their sexual orientation) to people outside of the Duquesne community, but not within the Duquesne community.”
According to Martini, some LGBT students even move off-campus to find more acceptance.
When asked about students that are made to feel uncomfortable because of their sexual or gender identity, Duquesne’s Vice President of Student Life Douglas Frizzell was adamant about resolving these issues.
“You’re going to have some [members of the Duquesne community] that are not going to be open to diversity,” he said. However, Frizzell emphasized that whenever LGBT students are made to feel unsafe or unwelcomed, the offending parties are going to be “held accountable.”
Frizzell cited Duquesne’s mission statement, which incorporates promoting diversity and inclusion, as the basis for the university’s attitude towards the LGBT community. Frizzell further elaborated that the university aims to follow the Church’s teachings of inclusivity and respecting the dignity of all persons.
Frizzell said he wants to hear more from LGBT students about “what can we do to make them feel comfortable.”
Lambda’s co-presidents said they would like to team up with other gay-straight alliances in the area, such as the University of Pittsburgh’s GSA, to find ways to support their members.
According to Coury, the group aims “to be informational … and to provide a safe place for all of our members who would otherwise be uncomfortable and want somewhere where they can feel like themselves.”
Lambda meets every Thursday at 8 p.m. in Fisher 625. Updates from the group can be found on Facebook at Duquesne University GSA (Gay Straight Alliance) and on Campus Link.