Regis University provost encourages faculty to attend campus ‘drag show’

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Denver, Colo., Nov 2, 2018 / 07:00 pm (CNA).- The provost of Denver’s Regis University has encouraged faculty members to attend a student drag show on the university campus, and to take in-class measures intended to support the gender identity preferences of students.

An Oct. 29 letter from university provost Janet Houser and the university’s Queer Resource Alliance noted that “this week has been a challenging one for our LGBTQIA community at Regis, with recent reports indicating that the Trump administration is considering policy changes that would eliminate federal protections for transgender people.”

“Our Jesuit values call us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society.”

The letter referred to an October announcement that the Department of Health and Human Services would seek to define gender “on a biological basis that is clear, grounded in science, objective and administrable,” for the purposes of the federal Title IX program.

In response, Regis faculty were encouraged to “remember that you may have students in your class classroom (including out queer students, students from queer families, queer students who are not out yet, and others) struggling with this news and its implications.”

To “support your LGBTQIA students, especially transgender students,” the provost suggested faculty members attend an on-campus “Drag Show featuring student performers,” along with other campus events commemorating the “Transgender Day of Remembrance,” on Nov. 15.

A Regis University spokesperson told CNA that “our Jesuit values call on us to respect the human dignity of all individuals, to care for the whole person, and to serve the most marginalized members of our society. Our faculty and staff strive to care for all our students with the respect, sensitivity and compassion they deserve, and to celebrate everyone’s gifts. We will continue to do so in manner that fulfills our mission and upholds our Catholic, Christian conviction that all lives are sacred.”

The Oct. 29 letter also encouraged professors to “avoid phrases that reinforce the gender binary, such as ‘ladies and gentlemen,’” “assign readings by queer, and especially transgender, authors,” and “add your preferred gender pronouns to your email signature (for example, “she/her/hers”).”

Additionally, faculty members were encouraged to refer to students by their preferred names and gender pronouns, and to indicate their intention to do so on course syllabi.

“Ask students to give their names and preferred gender pronouns on the first day of class, and avoid reading from off the roster. You may read a student’s ‘dead name’-a legal name that they no longer go by-which can be very upsetting for transgender students to hear,” the letter said.

The Queer Resource Alliance is a university-sponsored organization, that, according to the university’s website, “aims to create an inclusive, equitable, and supportive environment for community members of all orientations and gender identities by providing leadership, education, and advocacy related to challenges and issues faced by Regis LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, students.”

The alliance offers a “Brave Space” training program, comprised of a “3-hour ‘Gender and Sexuality 101’ training meant to introduce Regis community members to issues and terminology relevant to LGBTQIA people, as well as how to be an ally to the queer community.”  

A university spokesperson told CNA that “young LGBTQIA people are among the most vulnerable in our society — these youth seriously contemplate suicide at three times the rate of heterosexual youth; almost half of all transgender people have attempted suicide – thus compassion and welcoming arms to provide a safe, warm environment is an imperative for all educators.”

In the 2015 apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis condemned an “ideology of gender” that “leads to educational programs and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female.”

Although the letter’s recommendations are not officially university policy, Houser is the chief academic officer at Regis. The university’s website notes that Houser “serves as acting president in the extended absence of Father Fitzgibbons.”

“The provost shared the Queer Resource Alliance’s recommendations on how to advise all faculty on how they can best fulfill our mission. This includes being aware of readings that reflect a diversity of thought and lived experience whenever possible and appropriate. We are in the business of creating an environment in which all of our students can succeed academically, and support for LGBTQIA students is in line with this goal,” a Regis spokesperson told CNA.

Regis is a Catholic university sponsored by the Society of Jesus, and founded in 1877.

“Standing within the Catholic and United States traditions, we are inspired by the particular Jesuit vision of Ignatius Loyola. This vision challenges us to attain the inner freedom to make intelligent choices,” the university’s mission statement says.