Editor’s note: The location of the PEACEful BBQ has been changed to the Guinan Hall courtyard and not the Crooker patio. Commuters are welcome, and must sign in at the front desk.
One of two contentious LGBT events planned by the University of St. Thomas’ student organization Diversity and Inclusion (renamed “Campus Community” over the summer), has been scheduled for Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Guinan Hall courtyard and has been named “PEACEful BBQ.”
The Independent spoke to two people close to the event: Campus Community’s leader, senior international studies major Samaria Herbert, and adjunct philosophy professor the Rev. Raphael Mary Salzillo, OP.
“It is going to be a social event highlighting different resources on campus for the LGBT community,” Herbert said.
The planning process has been fraught from the start.
Herbert said when brainstorming potential ideas for an LGBT event, her planning committee brought up challenges and potential conflicts she never would have thought of on her own.
“After some things have been explained to me, I realized this is a much more delicate subject than I originally thought,” Herbert said.
Her planning committee includes her CC team, Student Government Parliamentarian Salvatore Aquila, and members of the P.E.A.C.E club. Salzillo, along with UST’s new campus minister, Max Linville, contributed thoughts and discussion points.
Salzillo was a nice addition to the planning process, Herbert said. He has been involved with the Courage organization for 17 years, a national apostolate of the Catholic Church that strives to support men and women who experience same sex attraction but want to live chastely.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines chastity as “the successful integration of sexuality within the person and thus the inner unity of man in his bodily and spiritual being.”
“Living chastity is something all of us are called to,” Salzillo said. “It’s just living the intention of God for our sexuality.”
Although many people were happy to see Salzillo join the planning process, according to posts on the Concerned UST Alumni Facebook page, Salzillo was not brought to the University to help organize the BBQ. He happened to join UST’s faculty last spring just as controversy erupted over funding requests for two proposed LGBT events on campus, prompting UST President Richard Ludwick to ask Salzillo to help CC.
Multiple comments on the UST Concerned Alumni Page insisted that Salzillo’s experience with Courage would allow the events to take place in line with the University’s Catholic values–which was always Herbert’s intention, Salzillo said.
“Honestly I didn’t do very much [in the planning process], it was Samaria’s idea from the beginning, the final idea was hers,” Salzillo said. “I was just kind of a part of the conversation.”
During the 2019 spring student government allocation session, the unspecified nature of the two proposed LGBT events sparked outrage and anxiety that UST was promoting the “LGBT lifestyle.” Widespread speculation and rumors prompted heated Facebook exchanges, a flurry of Catholic media coverage, (x, x), and a petition urging UST to “STOP funding pro-LGBT events.” The petition had 22,2522 signatures at the time of print, most of them gathered in its first few days.
In response, Ludwick wrote an open letter to the UST community.
“I am sorry if you have been taken in by the distortion of the truth that has been circulating,” Ludwick wrote. “The fact is that the University of St. Thomas is a Catholic university faithful to the Magisterium and its teachings, and has been for more than 70 years.”
That didn’t settle everyone’s fears, however. People continued to publish concerns about the event on alumni Facebook page. Meanwhile, Herbert says, some students in UST’s LGBT community told her they felt unsafe attending the event, and wondered if security would be in attendance.
UST police will be at the BBQ, as they are at every campus event, Herbert told them.
Ultimately, Herbert said she feels her organization is misunderstood.
“It’s been said that people think this organization is specifically for LGBT people on campus, which is incorrect,” Herbert said. “We’re for all marginalized groups on campus.”
During the 2019-20 school year, CC will hold events in support of transfer and first-generation students, African American culture, Asian culture, and others. The LGBT community just happens to be one of the groups that CC is trying to give a voice to, Herbert said.
Nonetheless, Salzillo said he is happy to see an event for LGBT people happening at UST.
“We are presenting legitimate campus resources that were already there; we’re just trying to make them more available to people,” Salzillo said. “I don’t think the public would have any reason to react negatively to it.”
In fact, Salzillo said he thinks the University needs to provide more campus resources to UST’s LGBT community.
“We just can’t pretend like there aren’t people with same-sex attraction on the campus,” Salzillo said.
“They need to be supported just like anyone else.”