Over the past several years, the campus atmosphere has slowly shifted toward a reasonably safe and tolerant environment for gays and lesbians. At large, the university has stopped blatant discriminatory practices, people are able to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of ceaseless harassment, and many voices have taken a stand for inclusion without condition.
As university policies change to make EMU a more inclusive place, the student handbook continues to painfully lag behind the University atmosphere. In the section on Sexual Misconduct, the policy contains the phrase “homosexual genital activity.” The passage also includes sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, and premarital and extramarital sex as sexual misconduct.
Due to the context of our environment and the laws in the state of Virginia, homosexual genital activity is already precluded under the provision of “premarital” sexual misconduct. To further identify “homosexual genital activity” as sexual misconduct is redundant.
While other University policies discriminate against LGBTQ persons, these three words explicitly draw attention to and further ostracize LGBTQ persons making this policy extremely damaging. For those who identify themselves as gay or lesbian, these words signal that EMU believes the expression of their sexuality is wrong, labeling LGBTQ persons as deviants and further perpetuating the undue attention paid to their genital activity.
Instead, the attention should be placed on a healthy expression of their identity and the belief that people are worth more than their genitals.
There are many policies that could change in order to make EMU a place for LGBTQ persons to thrive instead of simply survive. Dropping these three words from the student handbook is an easy and important next step. Eliminating these three words will have no real impact on University policy, as all unmarried community members are prohibited from having sex. However, the implications of not singling out this group of individuals as sexual deviants are huge.
I urge University administrators and members of the Board of Trustees, to consider the removal of these three words from the Student Handbook. As students, may we all work diligently toward viewing members of our community as whole people and helping one another to healthily express our identities.
-Darian Harnish, Advertising Manager