Before the Nov. 16 OU-Baylor football game, an OU LGBTQ activism group released a statement to raise awareness of university policies affecting Baylor’s LGBTQ community.
Baylor students and graduates, as well as LGBTQ activists nationwide, have criticized the university’s policies regarding LGBTQ rights in the past — Baylor refuses to officially recognize LGBTQ student organizations, and some activists have questioned whether the university is in compliance with federal Title IX laws due to treatment of LGBTQ students.
“To allow the rights of one person to be violated puts at risk the rights and liberties of all,” said Trae Havens, a second-year OU law student and president of the LGBTQ advocacy group OUtlaw, in the statement. “These poignant words are etched into the foundation of the OU College of Law, reminding us that every day we must make a commitment to protecting those who need our advocate voice.”
In the statement, Havens said Baylor remains the only school in both the Big 12 and all power-five conferences to “deny equal rights and recognition to queer students.”
Baylor’s official website includes a university “statement on human sexuality,” which explains that the university’s stance on sexuality is derived from biblical beliefs. Baylor's statement also says students are expected not to participate in advocacy groups that promote understandings of sexuality that are “contrary to biblical teaching.”
Havens told The Daily that Baylor has continually denied official recognition of LGBTQ student groups that organize on campus, including Gamma Alpha Upsilon, which Havens said is “a completely underground” student group that holds regular meetings.
“At OU, we are very privileged to experience a welcoming community that is continuously checking our own standards and where we need to grow as far as accepting all types of people and combating hateful behavior,” Havens said. “I think it's super important to emphasize that we are a leading voice in our conference, and we have to take that privilege and do the best that we can with it.”
OUtlaw has reached out to students from each Big 12 campus to gather opinions about what students value, Havens said, to petition for the adoption of a conference-wide equity and inclusion statement by the Big 12. The Pac-12 conference’s social outreach program, Pac-12 Impact, could serve as a guide for the Big 12, Havens said.
“If you look at conferences like the Pac-12 — that not only have statements about how they feel about diversity, equity and inclusion, they have a group of students in the Pac-12 specifically dedicated to meet that end,” Havens said. “They use their social media and media sources before sporting events to broadcast, ‘This is who we are, and this is what we stand for as a conference.’”
Havens said Baylor should follow Texas Christian University’s example as another private Christian university for the treatment of their LGBTQ student organizations.
“(Baylor is) a private institution, so they get to set their own standard, but we have other private institutions in the Big 12 that are Christian-affiliated that allow their LGBTQ students to congregate and assemble,” Havens said. “(Baylor is) alone in that aspect.”
Havens hopes to present a preliminary conference inclusion statement to the Big 12, with collaboration from LGBTQ groups from other Big 12 schools, by the end of the current academic year.
“(Baylor is) associated with all of the other schools that are conference who have the opposite views,” Havens said. “So at what point do we pressure the Big 12 to say, ‘You need to tell the world who we are as a conference,' rather than letting some of these views get lost in the void?”