Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Catholic U. Cancels Screening of ‘Milk’

The Catholic University of America cancelled a “Milk and Cookies” event last minute Wednesday, during which the movie “Milk,” about LGBTQ rights activist Harvey Milk, would be shown in honor of the OUTober LGBTQ Awareness Month.

“We were completely shocked that that happened,” Catholic University College Democrats communications representative Jackson Tovar, a sophomore, said. The College Democrats were to sponsor the event.

The university said the event was postponed due to a miscommunication between the College Democrats and the administration surrounding the intention behind the event.

“For university administrators, it called into question whether the event had changed in nature from one of education to one of advocacy,” university spokesperson Victor Nakas said in a statement. “Given the confusion caused by the advertising, the Office of the Dean of Students contacted the College Democrats to postpone the event.”

Set to begin Wednesday at 6 p.m., the event would have featured the screening of “Milk,” a documentary detailing the life of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in America. Milk, a San Francisco supervisor, was assassinated in 1978. The movie would have been preceded by introductory speeches by CUA alum Kevin Walling, chairman of the Democratic Party in Montgomery County, Md., as well as the first LGBTQ party chair, and John Whyte, a professor of politics at CUA, on how the LGBTQ movement has shaped the Democratic Party.

According to Tovar, however, the event was cancelled, not postponed, and there is no planning underway for a similar future event.

“We have not put any planning into rescheduling the event nor is there an event on the calendar,” Tovar said.

Tovar said that he did not completely understand what the university meant by “advocacy,” but maintained that the event was intended to promote awareness about the LGBTQ community, not advocate for anything.

“The College Democrats were not going to impose beliefs on anybody. We were not going to advocate for official rights, or homosexual marriage, or anything of that matter, strictly awareness,” Tovar said. “And [LGBTQ] awareness is a very important issue, whether it’s suicide rates among identifiers of [LGBTQ] or whether it’s showing ‘Milk’, the harassment, the bullying, and also the assassination that this elected official went through. Just purely, purely awareness, and no advocacy whatsoever.”

He said that College Democrats had gone through all of the proper channels to have the event approved by the university administration, including having the speakers and flyers approved by the Office of Campus Activities.

The group distributed flyers, which were initially approved at the same time as the event, for the event that said “Kick off LGBT Awareness Month with The CUA College Democrats.”

“It had a stamp of approval that any flyer that is publicized on campus needs to have. The administrators were caught in a lie with their official statement and official reasoning. It’s more likely that the administrators had a problem with either me coming back to speak or the general topic itself,” Walling said.

Tovar said that he thought the flyers were clear on what the event would entail.

“In my opinion there was no miscommunication between the college democrats and the administration because we made it pretty clear that our event was for awareness, and that we wrote ‘LGBT awareness month’ on our posters,” Tovar said.

Though he does not identify as LGBTQ, Tovar has not observed any homophobic harassment between students on campus.

“Though it’s a Catholic school, there is an [LGBTQ] community on campus. And I don’t think there’s any hostility toward the students from other students. I don’t identify [LGBTQ] myself so I can’t fully say what they go through everyday, but there is a community, there is a presence,” Tovar said.

According to Walling, Catholic University recognized an on-campus LGBTQ group starting in the 1980s up until the about 10 years ago, but an LGBTQ group has not been recognized since.

The Organization for Gay and Lesbian Rights, which existed on Catholic University’s campus from 1988 to 2002, was disbanded after the group saw a decline in membership as well as increased animosity that picked up as the national marriage equality movement began to grow. When Catholic University students attempted to start a new LGBTQ support group, called CUAllies, in 2009, the group again saw hostility from the community, prompting another decline in membership.

“There have been numerous efforts to re-charter the organization as a meeting space for LGBT Catholics to talk about their faith and to talk about their sexual orientation or gender identity in an open, supporting atmosphere,” Walling said.

Despite Catholic University’s identity as a pontifical university, meaning that it has received papal approval and abides by Catholic doctrine, Walling pushed for a more accepting campus environment for students who identify as LGBTQ. Georgetown University is of Catholic and Jesuit affiliation, but has not received papal approval and is not obligated to follow Catholic doctrine.

“It speaks to a greater narrative here at Catholic U that instead of embracing diversity and creating a supporting environment … it shouldn’t be the case that we’re canceling [LGBTQ] advocacy events and it shouldn’t be the case that we don’t have a single [LGBTQ] organization on campus as a resource for students,” Walling said.

Walling conveyed his disappointment in his alma mater.

“That the university is scared of this topic in 2014 is pretty disheartening, especially given the views of the Holy Father. Pope Francis said, ‘Who am I to judge?’ At Catholic, it appears the administration is who to judge, and that’s disappointing,” Walling said.

Hoya Staff Writer Kshithij Shrinath contributed reporting.

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