By Katherine Martin
Last Saturday, anonymous flyers were hung up around campus calling out a “homophobic administration” for a lack of progress made on a proposed LGBTQ+ crosswalk. The proposal was drawn up last April by Melanie Castillo ‘18 and given to Lou DiMasi who sent it to then president, Jack Neuhauser. Supplies were bought after the project got the go ahead.
The rainbow crosswalk was originally planned to be at the main entrance near the Center for Women and Gender. It would represent LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion on this campus.
“It was April. April is crazy, right? He did not say no to it but then it just never happened,” said Dawn Ellinwood, vice president for student affairs.
When the project failed to take place, Katie O’Donoghue ’19 spearheaded re-introducing the idea to President Sterritt in the fall of 2018.
“Which is great but, who takes it down?” Ellinwood said of the crosswalk, or other permanent installations regarding expression. “Or, how long does it stay up? We don’t have a policy. That’s what we’re working on.”
President Sterritt, recognizing a need for a proper procedure, organized a committee regarding free speech and expression. The crosswalk, an expression of LGBTQ+ rights would fall into this category. This group made up of faculty and students including O’Donoghue, met four times in the fall and created a policy that was sent to the college attorney and vetted in February. They are now working on a procedure through which all requests of free speech and expression will go.
“I can understand why there is frustration from the community,” said O’Donoghue. “We have asked for quite a bit of patience throughout this process, but within our community and beyond, marginalized groups are tired of being told to be patient. My primary concern is that the flyers may hinder our progress going forward, but I certainly empathize with the frustration.”
According to the flyer, the administration offered a flagpole as an alternative to the crosswalk. “Don’t be fooled,” the flyer reads. “A homophobic administration will not allow an LGBT flag if it will not allow a rainbow crosswalk.”
“We talked about a flagpole outside of Alliot where people could sign up for a three month period and there would be an educational piece to it,” Ellinwood said. “For me, a flag can be a number of different things. A crosswalk is permanent.
“Not everybody is on the same page on this campus. There’s lots to consider. We are a Catholic institution. Does that mean we aren’t welcoming? No. It’s hard. Hate speech is actually free speech too. So, if someone comes forward and wants to fly a black lives matter sign it’s going to go through the process. If someone comes and wants to fly a MAGA sign, why? We will go through this process. We have to think broadly. I’m hoping it works.”
As of now, no date is in place to install the crosswalk and no advancements seem to be possible until the procedure of the committee is set in stone.
“Do I see it completed by the end of the spring? I can’t answer that. You know, my dream would be in the next few weeks we have a policy and procedure and it would be the first one to go through. It’s a really well done proposal so let’s put it through and see and if it doesn’t go there where does it go? And how do we do this?”