Tried and denied: Samford’s gay-straight alliance

IKE LAMBERT, Guest Contributor

From 2007 to 2012, Samford University was ranked among the top 10 “Most Unfriendly LGBT Campuses” by the Princeton Review. Why?

Samford’s absence of a school-sanctioned Gay-Straight Alliance.

The most recent attempt to form a GSA came from a professor and group of students in the sociology department in 2011. They met regularly on campus but never attempted to receive formal acknowledgement as a campus organization.Wolfgang Sauber via Creative Commons copy

However, the overwhelming majority of colleges have school-sanctioned Gay-Straight Alliances (GSA). Every other university in Alabama has approved a GSA chapter, including Auburn, Alabama, UAB and Birmingham Southern.

GSAs provide an outlet for LGBT students and their allies to meet and discuss real issues effecting them without the fear of persecution.

They endeavor to reverse the unacceptable trends of discrimination that put LGBT youths at a seven times greater risk for suicide, five times greater risk to suffer from depression, four and a half times greater risk to abuse drugs and four times greater risk to be attacked with a weapon while at school, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

After forming my high school’s GSA in Auburn, I can tell you that the positive impact a club like this can have on the life of a struggling LGBT student is incredible.

I saw numerous depressed, scared LGBT students, rejected by family and friends, become leaders and better yet, happy.

It helped them so much to know they were not alone and someone was on their side.

So where does this leave struggling LGBT students at Samford?

A courageous group of alumni and current students in 2011 saw the adversity many LGBT students faced at Samford and formed the group SAFE Samford.

While SAFE Samford is not an official Samford organization, you will see their stickers on the outside of these professors’ doors. This is so that LGBT students facing adversity can easily seek out help, something a GSA could much more efficiently do.

The success of SAFE Samford demonstrates the need for a school-sanctioned GSA at Samford. But it is problematic this organization had to be founded by professors.

While hate groups such as the Westboro Baptist Church display horrendous signs dehumanizing and defaming LGBT people, we as Samford students and true Christians must work to create a better image of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

We must assert that Samford University seeks the betterment of all people, regardless of sexual orientation.

We may have been one of the last schools to integrate in 1972, but we should not be one of the last schools to show our LGBT peers that they truly are welcomed here at Samford.

A GSA may not mean much to some but to a struggling LGBT student, it can literally be a lifesaver.

Ike Lambert is a freshman international relations major. Email him at jlamber1@samford.edu.

*Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that the university board of trustees had rejected a formal request to create a school-sanctioned GSA. This is untrue, as the group never attempted to seek formal recognition. We regret the error.

 

3 comments

  1. Well written and compassionate, Ike. The powers-that-be in the administration and the SU Board of Trustees have certainly tried to squelch this endeavor. However, there are those of generous spirit in the administration who hear your pleas and are empathetic to your cause. As more alumni (especially those who financially support the University) make their voices heard, that influence will be difficult to ignore. Please know that the 600+ members of the Students, Alumni, and Faculty for LGBT Equality at Samford, support you and other students to make this a reality.

  2. Danner Kline says:

    I applaud your courage on this issue, Ike. I’m a 2000 graduate of Samford. There were plenty of closeted LGBT folks at Samford back then, and I’m sure it remains true today. Regardless of how the board of trustees feels regarding the morality of homosexuality, there is no way to reconcile the love of Christ with hostility toward LGBT human beings. Hopefully student and faculty activism can eventually turn things for the better.

    Best wishes,
    Danner Kline

  3. Michael Smith says:

    Thank you for this article. I am Samford School of Music, class of 2000. I came out while at Samford, and even gave a Convocation talk on the subject. I am encouraged by the amount of faculty members willing to speak out on this, and I hope that the board of trustees will wake up and realize that the God they are trying so hard to protect is indeed omnipotent, and can be God in, for, and through LGBT people.

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