Georgetown University welcomed students from 14 Jesuit schools, including The University, to discuss LGBTQ issues as the second Annual IgnatianQ Conference March 27-29. Seniors Dominick Petitto, Sheila Loesch, Ewelina Taran and first-year student Chloe-Symone Alvarado attended with Justine Johnson, director of the Jane Kopas Women’s Center (JKWC).
The conference brought together about 160 LGBTQ students and allies from Jesuit schools as far as California and has grown by 50 percent in the past year. According to its website, IgnatianQ “aims to create a community of people active in their faith, community and campus” in the hope that “participants leave with a better understanding of their unique and beautiful identities after a weekend of productive conversations full of grace, dignity and empowerment.”
The weekend included reflection, socials and an interfaith panel. Each day opened and closed in prayer. Breakout sessions gave attendees an opportunity to learn and teach others about specific topics.
“It was really cool to see what other schools were doing, considering they’re all Jesuit schools,” Petitto said.
Both Petitto and Loesch attended a session on working with institutions for justice, which focused on how to repair unjust regulations and how to create new regulations that protect the rights of LGBTQ students. Loesch saw this as an opportunity to learn how to gain support beyond the student body.
“As a student officer and a student on campus who cares about development of resources for LGBTQ persons, I wanted to learn about how to gain allies among faculty and see how professors can be resources for me,” Loesch said.
This particular session, as well as one highlighting trans rights, exposed some deficiencies in The University’s treatment of LGBTQ persons in comparison to other Jesuit schools.
“One main thing that our school isn’t doing … is having its own LGBTQ resource center,” Petitto said. “Another thing is having more transgender rights, like applications having more (gender options) and housing rights.”
While The University does have a club for LGBTQ persons and allies, Scranton Inclusion, it does not have a designated office for LGBTQ concerns. Additionally, people who identify as transgender must live on-campus with people of the same biological sex.
IgnatianQ did help to highlight the resources The University does provide to its LGBTQ community. Scranton Alliance for Equality (SAFE) Space, does provide a secure haven for LGBT students. In addition, The University provides training in LGBTQ concerns and sensitivity to faculty members and to all resident assistants.
“I think the two main (resources) are having RESPECT, which provides training (in LGBTQ issues and sensitivity) for professors and required LGBTQ training for all RAs,” Petitto said. “I think those are the most progressive (processes) we have.”
Support for LGBTQ students, programs and organizations, however, appeared to Loesch to be much more integrated into the greater university community at the other Jesuit schools.
“Their clubs were very very active and had tons of students, and also would work with other student groups,” Loesch said. “The fabric of their LGBTQ students and student organizations was interwoven in campus life.”
The keynote speakers emphasized support of LGBTQ community as Ignatian institutions. Loesch called speaker, Georgetown’s director of Mission and Ministry Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., “the Father Rick of Georgetown.”
“God works with each individual uniquely and specially. [There is no] difference between working with the LGBT community and working with others,” O’Brien said. “It’s just working with God’s people.”
Both Loesch and Petitto see LGBTQ concerns as part of the Ignatian dedication to service. “I think sometimes when we talk about service on this campus, it’s often people who are ‘different’ from us — people who are poor, who are in need — but people who are LGBTQ on this campus are also in need, because we don’t feel supported,” Loesch said.
“We always talk about taking care of others, and being men and women for others. In order to do that, we really have to do that for everyone, regardless of orientation of any kind,” Petitto added.
Both students hope The University will continue to send students to the conference and implement ideas learned there so the community will grow in support of all students.