Pepperdine Admin Halts Creation of LGBT Club on Campus, Says It's Against 'God's Will'
Updated below: Pepperdine tries to further justify its position, saying an LGBT club would "not affirm the University's traditional sexual ethic."
Pepperdine University No rainbow for Pepperdine?
Originally posted January 23 at 3 p.m.
Thriving LGBT clubs are almost a given at California's public universities. (And even private, stick-up-its-arse USC has embraced a new age of sexual equality with open-minded institutionals like a new "Queer Worldmaking" exhibit at the school library.)
But hop aboard the Pleasantville time machine that is Malibu's hillside Pepperside University, and re-enter a dark age when, mandatorily, Adam smoked cigars with the boys while Eve baked them pie in the kitchen.
Latest outrage: Administrators have denied a student application to make gay-straight alliance "Reach OUT" an official university club, say Alexander Cooper and Lindsay Jakows, the seniors who run the alliance.
Dean of Students Mark Davis (who "speaks for the administration," according to public-relations officer Jerry Derloshon) gives the student newspaper some reasons for rejecting Reach OUT:
From the administration's perspective, the issue remains how Reach OUT will align with the Pepperdine mission and tradition. While Davis acknowledged that the relationship with the Churches of Christ is important, more central is honoring the biblical conviction that sexual activity should be reserved for a husband-wife relationship.
"Pepperdine seeks to be faithful to this teaching because we believe it is God's will," Davis said, "and therefore we cannot endorse another view or take a neutral position on sexual morality. Although Reach OUT stated in its application that it has no position on sexual activity, we do not believe it is possible for a LGBT student organization to maintain a neutral position."
Furthermore, Davis feels students should be contented with "Building Bridges," a committee formed by the administration to address LGBT issues.
But in a Change.org petition to make Reach OUT a real club -- gaining major steam after being picked up by L.A.'s richly historied gay rag, The Advocate -- students argue that Building Bridges fails to "provide LGBT students with a sense of community."
The petition is nearing 4,000 signatures this afternoon.
Judging by comments on the (unofficial) org's teaming Facebook page, Bridges is the stodgy adult answer to a much more complex problem on campus. "Reach OUT, you are the reason I can breathe at this school," writes one student. "Thank you."
Here's a fascinating history of the gay-rights struggle at Pepperdine, courtesy of Cooper and Jakows. The terribly regressive stance that administrators have taken on homosexuality is best roasted by Robert Cargill, a former adjunct professor of religion, in the petition's comment section:
"I am saddened that the Pepperdine administration has chosen to take a fundamentalist Church of Christ position on this issue, one that is radically different from the position held by many of its faculty. Unfortunately, Pepperdine is moving in the wrong direction as an institution seeking to be considered among the nation's best universities, particularly on social issues. By suppressing voices of differing opinions, Pepperdine is seeking to become more like other, more conservative Church of Christ schools rather than leading the way as a national university. Because of this, Pepperdine will sadly continue to be associated with the far right wing of social and political issues, rather than being a place that welcomes and promotes real discussion of difficult social and religious issues."
We've contacted Dean Davis for more on the university's rationale. Kind of hard to believe that a modern-day place of higher learning would still try to fight in the losing battle against civil rights for all. Then again, this is Malibu we're talking about.
Updated on page 2: Davis does more explaining, and the Weekly speaks with the Pepperdine seniors behind the non-club.