More students are looking at whether or not a college is gay friendly, according to the New York Times. Finlandia University hasn’t made a statement on this issue, but most people who responded to a recent Finlandia Roar survey think Finlandia is gay-friendly.
Twenty-five out of 96 respondents (26 percent), thought Finlandia wasn’t “gay-friendly.” Six of those 25 were among the 13 people who identified as gay/lesbian/bisexual.
In the survey, all responses were anonymous and people were asked to give their age range, gender, sexual orientation, and say if they were a student at Finlandia or part of the faculty/staff.
Of the 96 responses, 31 percent claimed to be faculty/staff, 14 percent said that they were gay/lesbian/bisexual, and 25 percent said that they have witnessed some sort of harassment towards people because of their sexuality.
What Does “gay-friendly” Mean?
The term, “gay-friendly” has been used in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, and other news sources to show if a business, city, or university is accepting of anyone in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) community.
The term is meant to accept all members of the LGBT community, not to single out the people who are gay. Yet, some of the responders said that they found the term “gay-friendly” to be offensive because it was only mentioning people who are gay. However, all of these responses were from people who identified as being straight.
“I don’t think the term “gay-friendly campus” should be used,” stated a 18-25, female, straight student. “Using that terminology does not include the rest of the LGBTQ community. It is a generalization, really. Using such a label also can cause rifts, as it acknowledges a difference when there is none.”
“I am not fond of the term gay friendly,” replied a female, straight, faculty/staff member. “I would like Finlandia to be a welcoming place for a wide range of diverse people. There are so many shades of sexual identity I don’t like to limit it to one word – gay.”
None of the respondents that identified themselves as being gay/lesbian/bisexual said that the term was offensive. And all other responses didn’t indicate how they felt about the term.
“Gay-friendly means that people don’t treat you differently just because of your sexual orientation,” an 18-25 year old, male, gay student, “and, for people who oppose homosexuality, that you’re at least treated as a human being.”
[Gay-friendly means a] “campus community that isn’t judgmental [sic] or views each member as unique individual, but ultimately as a fellow community member,” said a male, straight, faculty/staff member.
Six out of the ninety-six respondents mentioned Finlandia as being an affiliate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and used that as a reason to not emphasize being “gay-friendly.”
“I feel as though a private Lutheran University we shouldn’t openly support homosexuality,” said an 18-25 year old male, straight, student. “It is against the teaching of scripture to accept this as normal.”
Meanwhile, in 2009, the ELCA passed a social statement on sexuality, showing that they accept people of all sexualities. “In doing so, they have welcomed their brothers and sisters with open arms and continue to reach out and share in faith discussions together,” said Finlandia University’s chaplain, Soren Schmidt. “This social statement was a defining moment in the ELCA and Finlandia University remains committed to the ELCA affiliation.”
Although the ELCA recognizes and supports the LGBTQ community, Finlandia University itself has never made a statement regarding if we are or aren’t gay friendly.
Feelings in the Classroom
Over half of the respondents to the survey said that they wouldn’t mind if there was someone in one of their classes that was gay. These people went on the record to give their opinion on the subject.
“I don’t mind if there are people in my class who aren’t right-handed, so why should I mind if someone isn’t “straight,” said Rene Johnson, Servant Leadership Director at Finlandia. “It’s just who they are.”
“The sexual orientation of other students is not something that is any of my concern,” said Nicole Kotila, a junior Psychology major. “Classes are always filled with people of different life situations, and my job is not to pass judgement on them, but to learn alongside them.”
“A person’s sexuality gay, straight, or otherwise should not in any way affect my ability to learn,” replied Jordan Dalgord, a freshman PTA major. “I have never had a preference for a type of classmate. The only preference I have in the classroom is that people who are there are respectful and have the same desire to learn as I have.”
There were some responses that surprised us about seeing any harassment towards people because of their sexual orientation.
“My friends and I were harassed (shouted at) by a group of drunk athletes because one of my friends is bisexual,” said an 18-25, female, straight student. “When we insulted them back one of them threw a beer can at us.”
“I’ve been told that I was a waist [sic] of a human being because of my sexuality,” replied an 18-25, female, lesbian, student.
“The terms “faggot” and “d*ke” are constantly thrown around,” said a 18-25, female, lesbian student.
There were also concerns raised about some members of administration and faculty. “A professor called gays and lesbians “flamers”,” said an 18-25, female, lesbian student. “Then said he would only feel comfortable using those terms in class.”
“Administration is not supportive or open minded,” stated a faculty/staff member who chose not to put their gender or sexual orientation.
Although we received a lot of positive responses, we did receive some that were not as supportive as others.
“They don’t need to make it a queer campus,” said a male, straight, student. “Leave the peoples [sic] orientation out of it. I don’t pay $18,000 a year to get involved in these debates. I’m there for my education not for somebody’s agenda.”
“Make it a straight university,” replied a 18-25, male, straight, student.
There were a lot of suggestions on how Finlandia can be made into a more “gay-friendly” campus.
“Including “diversity” as a part of campus orientation and faculty/staff training,” said a female, straight, faculty/staff member.
“I know the NCAA has educational programs on sexual identity,” stated a female, straight, faculty/staff member. “I strongly urge campus leaders to explore this opportunity.”
“I don’t think it would hurt the conversation process for the University to have open forums where divisive issues could be addressed and discussed,” said a male, straight, faculty/staff member.
According to Phyllis Fredendall, professor for the International School of Art and Design, the ISAAD has been “gay-friendly” since she started working there in 1991. “From my point of view, the art and design department at Suomi/Finlandia has always been an open-minded place,” said Fredendall. “Artists and designers appreciate individuality and creative expression. The acceptance of gay and lesbian students is a given.”
Overall, most people said that Finlandia is a “gay-friendly” campus. We have had some harassment issues, but there is always room for improvement. Students who have been harassed or bullied, or just need a safe space should contact Finlandia’s new Title IX Coordinator, Dr. Shana Porteen.
For more information on the ELCA statement, go to www.elca.org/What-We-Believe/Social-Issues/Social-Statements/JTF-Human-Sexuality.aspx