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Support shown for referendum

Majority of students support adding 'sexual orientation' to University clause

Published: Thursday, March 3, 2005

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01

An overwhelming majority of students favored amending the University nondiscrimination policy, according to yesterday's election results.

Approximately 50 percent of Boston College's undergraduate population voted on the student initiated referendum regarding whether to include sexual orientation in BC's nondiscrimination policy.

Collective student efforts combined with the Undergraduate Government of BC (UGBC) to place the referendum on the recent election ballot.

Those who chose to vote on the referendum were able to do so without casting a vote for UGBC president, vice president, or senator.

Out of the 4,053 students who voted on the referendum, approximately 84 percent voted "yes," while about 16 percent voted "no."

Nick Salter, director of domestic affairs for the UGBC and A&S '07, has been closely involved in developing the campaign advocating for the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause.

Salter said he hopes the referendum results are part of a progressive movement that will gain momentum.

"I think 84 percent is a huge win for people on this campus. I think it [the results] shows that students and faculty are united behind this issue, possibly more so that any other issue on campus," he said. "We hope that we can work with administration to bring about the change that we're hoping for."

Grace Simmons, UGBC president and A&S '05, said she is pleased with the results of the referendum vote and the number of students who voted. Simmons also emphasized the importance of understanding why the administration is hesitant to include a sexual orientation clause.

"[UGBC] needs to communicate to the student body the reasons as to why the clause is the way it is and whether or not changing the clause would change BC as a Jesuit institution."

Luke Howe, UGBC president-elect and CSOM '06, intends to become further involved with administrators and to support Salter's efforts in working toward the inclusion of a sexual orientation clause.

"We'll definitely be following up with the administration in the fall and figuring out where to go from there," said Howe. "[It's] a great step in the right direction."

Mike Yaksich, director of GLBT issues and A&S '05, was enthusiastic about the results of the referendum.

"I'm very excited to know that students overwhelmingly support the change, as well as faculty and professors," said Yaksich. "Now I can show student support with affirmative data."

Yaksich said that he believes the vote in favor of the student referendum would have been higher if the wording on the ballot had been a little clearer.

Yaksich said this referendum was important because of the possible impact it could have on breaking down BC's homophobic label.

"[This referendum] is a strong statement by the student body that BC students support each other on campus regardless of the stereotypes that exist about the school. [The referendum] is about supporting each other, it's about making BC the best place it can be for students," he said.

In defense of BC's decision to maintain the current nondiscrimination policy, Jack Dunn, University spokesperson, said, "We're in compliance with all applicable state and federal laws."

Dunn referenced the Massachusetts exemption clause, Chapter 151b, which exempts religiously affiliated institutions in Massachusetts from including sexual orientation in nondiscrimination policies.

Jesuit universities with a nondiscrimination policy often incorporate sexual orientation because an exemption clause does not exist within state law, he said.

Presently, BC gives full spousal benefits to married couples - gay or straight - because of Massachusetts law requirements.

In an e-mail to The Heights, Dunn said that the referendum does not take into account all facets of a complex issue.

"Boston College is a most welcoming community, one that does not discriminate in its admissions or hiring practices or tolerate harassment in any way, including on the basis of sexual orientation," he said.

Dunn discussed the other side of the matter by pointing out that BC wants to remain faithful to its Jesuit ideals.

"For Boston College to forego its protection under state law and include this provision could mean that our decisions would be measured by Massachusetts civil courts unfamiliar with Church doctrine. This precedent, in a litigious society, might jeopardize our ability to make decisions in support of Church teaching, and in accordance with our belief system."

"Boston College is a Jesuit, Catholic university. We are simply trying to uphold the underlying beliefs and values that sustain us as a Catholic university while being true to the mission of our founders," said Dunn.

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