Keep Goldy out of sexual politics

On Oct. 11, University students came out of the closet and were immediately greeted by the smiling face of Goldy Gopher. As a part of National Coming Out Day, the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community requested Goldy’s presence, as Goldy had participated in years past, to cheer on students coming to grips with their sexual identities. Although acceptance of alternative sexual orientations is an admirable aim of the University, Goldy’s presence at the event was an impermissible endorsement.

The University has a policy of nondiscrimination. It does not differentiate between individuals based on their race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation. Implicit in nondifferentiation, however, is nonendorsement of a particular viewpoint. This is a subtle, but important, distinction. For example, Goldy’s Web site lists that it is appropriate for Goldy to appear at a “get out the vote” rally but would be inappropriate for Goldy to appear at a rally for a specific political party. The University supports political activism but does not endorse any particular political viewpoint. Similarly, the University can be characterized as supporting the right of sexual-orientation choice but does not endorse any particular sexual orientation.

As another example, Goldy has never revealed Goldy’s religious preferences or endorsed others. The University is religion-blind, which is how it should be. It would not be seemly for Goldy to appear getting baptized on Easter or to wear a yarmulke on Rosh Hashanah or to appear at dawn on the beginning of Ramadan. There is a very fine line between endorsing diversity as a general proposition and endorsing a particular segment of a diverse student body which these examples cross.

In legal circles, it is said that hard cases makes bad law. The saying applies equally here. It is easy to be sympathetic to the gay community and, if polled, most students on campus would probably support an official University presence endorsing students coming out of the closet. However, this would set ill precedent for the future. The University would be forced to endorse any celebration of any viewpoint to maintain its viewpoint neutrality. Hypothetically speaking, if the issue was Goldy posing as an animal going under the knife by a student group – say, “Students for Vivisection” – a more sour taste might be left in our mouths. Yet, under a viewpoint neutrality argument, Goldy should be forced to appear.

The question could be asked, however, if it is not proper to support a group that has traditionally been discriminated against? Is it not only through positive acts that certain beliefs can be validated? Perhaps. But no matter how laudable the cause, it is for the University to set its own positive policy and for the figures of the University to follow. The University does not have an affirmative policy encouraging nontraditional sexual orientations. Without such a policy, it is not for Goldy, or any other University representative, to endorse any particular viewpoint.

However, it is easy, members of the majority argue, to espouse talk on equality when their beliefs are already entrenched and accepted. But this argument itself applies a double standard. Although the majority demographic under any dynamic must be sensitive to the needs of a minority group as any discrimination or injustice is that much more pernicious, the sensitivities of the majority group are also not to be wholly discounted. As any action contrary to the interest of a majority is, it is less likely to perpetuate historical and/or existing biases. That is not to say that the majority interests should not be represented or taken into account.

Representatives of the University have a responsibility to follow University policy. In attending the coming-out event, Goldy went beyond that policy. Goldy went from the University policy of accepting people regardless of their sexual orientation to endorsing a particular one. If this shift is to be made, it should be made by the regents of the University, not our favorite buck-toothed letterman.