By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

This month’s issue of Connections coincides with LGBT History Month: a time to acknowledge the contributions made by LGBT individuals toward expanding gay rights and civil rights. At Jesuit colleges and universities, many faculty and staff are leading the way toward creating increasingly welcome campuses for students (and fellow faculty and staff) who identify as members of the LGBT community.

You will learn about retreats through University Ministry at the University of San Francisco; “Safe Zone” training at Saint Joseph’s University; the history of LGBTQIA+ programs and initiatives at Canisius University; and anti-harassment initiatives through the Law School at Gonzaga University. We are also pleased to feature a student’s perspective on LGBT resources at Jesuit schools, written by our AJCU summer intern, Nora McCaughey, now a senior at Marquette University.

These are just a few examples of how our schools are serving members of the LGBT community, while living out the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, including “Walking with the Excluded” and “Journeying with Youth.” As Jesuit Superior General Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J. wrote, “To accompany young people demands of us authenticity of life, spiritual depth, and openness to sharing the life-mission that gives meaning to who we are and what we do. Having these, we can learn, along with the young, to find God in all things, and through our ministries and apostolates, we can help them live this stage of their lives more profoundly.” AMDG.

By Camille Shira Angel and Jane Bleasdale, University of San Francisco

A fall 2019 USF fair showcasing Queering Religion student projects (photo courtesy of Rabbi Camille Angel)


In its newly revised mission statement, the University of San Francisco (USF) includes sexual orientation and gender as two of the many identities of community members that are now acknowledged and affirmed publicly. Many people in the USF community have shared that now, for the first time, they feel recognized and can connect to the University’s mission.

The new mission statement is just one of many ways that faculty and staff at USF are working to welcome, celebrate and support the LGBTQIA+ community. Here, Rabbi Camille Shira Angel and Dr. Jane Bleasdale discuss those efforts for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Rabbi Camille Shira Angel with Qmmunity leader, Ella Quinn (photo courtesy of Rabbi Camille Angel)


Undergraduate: Rabbi Camille Shira Angel
I believe the path toward pride, visibility and audibility for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual (LGBTQIA+) people is complicated by a reality that other marginalized people do not face: the official teaching of the Catholic Church, to which Jesuit colleges and universities are linked in heritage and choice.

When it comes to faith, many LGBTQIA+ people feel torn. Some connect to their religious, ethnic, and cultural communities while denying their gender identities and sexuality. Others join an American LGBTQIA+ community that is White/Anglo-dominant and hostile to overt expressions of faith and spiritual longing. At USF, where I am Rabbi-in-Residence, most people have never met a woman rabbi, let alone a Lesbian rabbi, who teaches two classes in which LGBTQIA+ people incorporate religion in their lives.

In my class called Queering Religion, I explore how LGBTQIA+ people navigate religions that have often attempted to negate them. In the class called Honoring Our LGTBQIA+ Religious Elders, I pair students with LGBTQIA+ religious-identified adults, 65+ years of age to meet and reflect upon LGBTQIA+ history, as well as the intersections of prejudice and discrimination, using texts from Jewish ethical thought, along with feminism, ethics, and writings on intersectionality. Elders relay their role in making change and working for liberation.

University Ministry
Flowing from the classroom to ministry, together with my students, we have initiated weekly programs to build a spiritual, social, and justice-based “Qmmunity.” One program, called Breaking Bread and the Binary, convenes weekly meetings and hosts retreats each semester. We often lead prayer for students using Siddur Sha’ar Zahav, a queer and egalitarian Jewish prayer book for believers and non-believers.

2019 Spectrum Retreat participants (photo courtesy of Rabbi Camille Shira Angel)


Student Life
The Cultural Centers at USF bring students together to increase their understanding, and to embrace their roles as members of a diverse community on both local and global levels. As a part of USF’s Cultural Centers, the Gender & Sexuality Center is both a physical lounge space for students and a center for student-run programs.

The Gender & Sexuality Center has an undergraduate intern, who creates programs for USF students to engage with LGBTQIA+ and gender identity topics. These open programs use social media to engage students. Program examples include LGBTQIA+ representation in cartoons and celebrities who break gendered fashion rules.

Graduate: Dr. Jane Bleasdale
The School of Education at USF supports the LGBTQIA+ community in both K–12 schools and higher education through programming, curriculum, research, and one-to-one engagement. Our mission is to “advance justice through education,” which includes justice for the LGBTQIA+ community.

The Catholic Educational Leadership Program includes and supports LGBTQIA+ students in Catholic schools locally, nationally and globally. The CEL program embodies Catholic social thought and the promotion of justice. In partnership with the McGrath Institute for Jesuit Catholic Education at USF, program faculty, staff, and students conduct research and present at national and international conferences (e.g., Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice; Commitment to Justice in Jesuit Higher Education Conference; Jesuit Schools Network Conferences and Colloquium, etc.).

At home, we have also convened many community spaces. Here are some highlights:

We have a long way to go before full inclusion is realized on our campus, and we are working across schools and in our student life programming to center the lives and experiences of our queer community.

Camille Shira Angel is Rabbi-in-Residence in University Ministry and a faculty member in the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice at the University of San Francisco. Jane Bleasdale is an assistant professor in USF’s School of Education, director of the Catholic Educational Leadership Program, and an advocate for the LGBQTIA+ community in Catholic education.

Above: Catholic Educators gathered at USF in June 2019 for the inaugural summit: Supporting LGBTQIA+ Inclusion in Catholic Schools (photo courtesy of Jane Bleasdale).

By Erin O’Boyle (on behalf of the Saint Joseph’s University Office of Marketing and Communications)

Photo courtesy of Saint Joseph’s University


This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Safe Zone Training program at Saint Joseph’s University (SJU). Established in 2001, the program builds a network of supportive members of the campus community who strive to create inclusive safe spaces for all SJU community members, while raising awareness of the LGBTQIA+ community through the lens of an ally.

Training is open to all faculty, staff and students and encourages participants to reflect on their own unique experiences and identities, while shedding light on common misconceptions through interactive quizzes, videos and discussions.

Created in a time before social media, Safe Zone Training was initially established as a way for allies to openly express their support of the LGBTQIA+ community. Upon completion of the program, attendees are given a Safe Zone pin for their backpacks, or a sign to display in their offices as a visual indicator of their allyship and training.

Public awareness and acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community and the issues its members face have evolved over the past decade. In 2011, just over 50% of the United States population supported gay marriage; by 2015, same-sex marriage became the law of the land in the U.S. with the 5-4 ruling in favor by the Supreme Court of the United States.

As the country’s support and knowledge of this community has developed and expanded, so too has Saint Joseph’s Safe Zone training. “When training started, same-sex marriage was illegal in most of the country,” said Kim Allen Stuck, Ph.D., assistant vice president of student success and educational services, and one of the main facilitators of Safe Zone Training. “People didn’t talk as much about gender then. Now, we’re addressing topics like they/them pronouns, intersex identities, and asexuality. Language is constantly evolving and things are changing all the time, so our training has completely evolved over twenty years.”

Nearly 70 faculty and staff attended the first training session in 2001. Last year alone, there were 375 participants. Training sessions have also increased from once a year to five times a year, and have become more interactive over time. “We give participants a quiz of terms,” said Allen-Stuck. “It helps them to see how much they know, and what they still need to learn. At the end of training, we ask people to make one commitment as to what they’re going to do to change.”

Allen-Stuck explained that many people have added their pronouns to their email signatures and profiles, and a number of professors now start their semesters by passing out index cards so that students can indicate their chosen names and pronouns — a practice that compliments the University’s Chosen Name and Identity Guidelines. Allen-Stuck said that she also asks students for their preferred names and pronouns when writing their letters of recommendation. “It is important to clarify how a person wants to be identified,” she explained.

Safe Zone Training is included as part of larger leadership training programs, and many individuals who have attended Safe Zone have subsequently requested trainings for their entire department. Allen-Stuck says they’ve trained attendees ranging from campus ministry leaders and members of public safety, to athletics and facilities staff.

Participants go through the program with varying levels of awareness and education. For some, this may be the first time they have ever talked about LGBTQIA+ issues or have been in a space where they feel comfortable asking questions. Others return repeatedly to get a refresher or learn something new, as the training is constantly updated. Some return because they want to learn more and engage in the conversation.

Will Marsh ’18, web developer at Saint Joseph’s, says that Safe Zone Training offers affirmation and support for faculty and staff, too.

“Our faculty and staff have continually been supportive in my experience as a student,” said the former president of SJU Pride, a student-led organization that advocates for LGBTQIA+ students on campus. “Then you see them at trainings. They might be an ally, they might be a member of the LGBTQIA+ community; you never know. But you are able to see who is supporting you.”


  1. Confront heterosexism and cissexism comments and actions.
  2. Display posters and pictures of LGBTQIA+ individuals in your office or living space.
  3. Attend LGBTQIA+-related events.
  4. Share events and programs from queer and trans organizations.
  5. Include a variety of genders on forms or materials.
  6. Let your queer and trans colleagues know that their partners are welcome at departmental events.
  7. Encourage students, peers and colleagues to report bias.

By Richard D. Reitsma, Ph.D. (he/him/his), Associate Professor & Chair of the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures & Cultures at Canisius University

Photo of Richard D. reitsma courtesy of the author


When I was on the job market, I made a conscious decision to have an open CV that would not obfuscate my sexuality, which would be challenging considering the bulk of my research was on the topic of sexuality, and so were some of my classes. That didn’t make it easy to get hired. In fact, it was more often than not an impediment, particularly for long term employment. For these reasons, it came as a surprise to me when I was offered a tenure-track position at Canisius University, a Jesuit, Catholic institution.

I was hired to help increase the diversity of the College and thus raise its profile. And while there have been some bumps in the road, the institution as a whole has evolved in LGBTQIA+ terms.

When I started in January 2011, one of the things I decided to do was create an environment that I wish I had had as an undergraduate student, and which I felt was also lacking in some of my previous places of employment. I wanted Canisius to have a robust intellectual and social community supportive of LGBTQIA+ issues. To that end, I set up an LGBTQIA+ faculty and staff caucus. One thing this group did, which I am proud of, was develop a statement of diversity for our syllabi. The faculty and staff caucus has since run its course, but some faculty continue to incorporate variations of the statement of diversity in their syllabi.

During my second semester at the College, I set up an LGBTQIA+ speakers’ series. Gathering funds was challenging, but there was never a problem getting an audience. The series continues a decade later and has evolved to include a LatinX speakers’ series and class visits by LGBTQIA+ writers, filmmakers, advocates and actors both from Canisius and from our partner Jesuit institution, Ibero Puebla in Mexico, where I teach a graduate course in the summer.

Prior to my arrival at Canisius, there had been various other LGBTQIA+-centered activities and organizations. During the 1994-95 academic year, when a female student came out in the student newspaper, The Griffin, the community responded with some educational committees to address the issues of inclusion and respect, but the efforts faded within two years.

Seven years later, in 2001, the next major moment in LGBTQIA+ history at Canisius occurred when another student came out in The Griffin, calling for the formation of a student club for the community. In response, several students banded together and eventually formed the LGBTQIA+ and Allies student educational club, UNITY.

Photo of Richard D. reitsma and student courtesy of the author


While UNITY started out small and remained relatively small for many years, I am proud to say that today, UNITY is one of the larger clubs on campus, with a respectable budget and weekly activities (including many that involve collaboration with other clubs). The club has an active presence on campus and the club room, once formerly a closet (yes, literally) is now an actual office space on the same passageway as other mainstays of campus life. UNITY hosts many events and continues to educate for change and awareness. We’ve increased LGBTQIA+ donor funding and have had a presence at Homecoming events.

When I became faculty advisor to UNITY, I advocated for the introduction of a Lavender Graduation ceremony, now in its fifth year at Canisius. This is a celebration for UNITY members and their friends and family to reflect on their years at Canisius and look forward to the future. While other campuses have been doing this activity since 1995, Canisius is now part of this broader national experience of reflection, honoring our members and building community.

In addition, Campus Ministry, under the leadership of a now retired-campus minister, Sue Fisher, started the Always Our Children (AOC) retreat, using as its basis the 1997 U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Marriage and Family statement advocating that Catholics view their homosexual children with love. The AOC retreats (run by Campus Ministry since 2003) have been a source of refuge, learning and community for the LGBTQIA+ and ally community on campus, bringing together students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members.

And for the last several years, Canisius students, staff, and faculty advisors have participated in the IgnatianQ conferences. IgnatianQ is a student-run and student-focused Ignatian LGBTQ+ conference that brings together the community of LGBTQIA+ folks (and allies) at Jesuit universities from across the U.S. every year.

Today at Canisius, students are writing theses on LGBTQIA+ themes across various disciplines. An increasing number of courses on LGBTQIA+ themes, or those with significant content from the community, are offered.

With encouragement from UNITY, the College is in the process of creating some gender-neutral bathrooms. Canisius also instituted a “Preferred First Name Policy,” which recognizes a student’s choice to be identified by a preferred name rather than a legal name. Such an accommodation helps to foster a more welcoming, supportive, and respectful campus climate.

In addition, the College is being more intentional in its efforts to recruit an increasingly diverse student body that includes LGBTQIA+ students, as well as African, Latino, Asian and Native American students. For the first time last spring, the Canisius Admissions Office hosted two new webinars for potential students: “A Place for You: LGBTQIA+” and “You Belong: Diversity at Canisius” each showcased Canisius’ increasingly vibrant population of students, organizations, and opportunities.

And there’s more.

The Office of Human Resources is sponsoring the creation of employee resource groups, including one for LGBTQIA+ employees. Canisius is also collaborating with the Pride Center of Western New York to develop a train-the-trainer program modeled after Safe Zone. In late October, the organization is hosting a faculty and staff workshop on campus entitled “LGBTQ+ & Effective Ally-ship.”

Because of the opportunities provided students through UNITY, AOC retreat, IgnatianQ, the LGBTQIA+ Speaker Series, the local embraceWNY scholarship, and the increasing opportunities for LGBTQIA+ people at Canisius and in our community, students are engaging in important leadership roles, serving as event organizers, club leaders, speakers, and learning how to be upstanding community leaders and advocates. Students are empowered to make their voices heard, to educate our community, and help push us toward increasingly embracing more deeply our mission to be people for and with others, and to “walk with the excluded” and “journey with the youth” as we are advocated to do through the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs). The benefit to students is seen in academics (theses, courses, scholarships), in improved mental health and personal wellness, in developing leaders and strong community partners, and creating networks of support and intergenerational learning and mentoring opportunities.

While there is a lot yet to do, Canisius continues to make important strides in accompanying, valuing, and incorporating the LGBTQIA+ community as an integral part of the College’s intellectual, social, cultural, and academic life. This is done in part because of how the College understands its mission and identity to stand with, and advocate for, all its members, embracing diversity as part of a path toward enriching the lives of all.

Richard D. Reitsma, Ph.D. serves at Canisius University as Founder/Director of the Borders & Migrations Initiative & LatinX/LGBTQ Speakers Series, and Faculty Advisor to Sigma Delta Pi, Spanish Honors Society, LASAF (Latin American Students and Friends) and UNITY (LGBTQ & Allies GSA).

By Tom Miller, Interim Managing Editor, Gonzaga News Service & Kate Vanskike-Bunch, Senior Director of Content Strategy & Publications at Gonzaga University

Photo courtesy of Gonzaga University


When Zoe Jaspers first came to Gonzaga University, they questioned their gender identity and were nervous about what that meant entering a Catholic institution, even though they found its faith tradition appealing. Fortunately, Gonzaga community members embraced Jaspers in that period of questioning.

Jaspers, who uses the pronoun ‘they,’ participated in events with the University’s Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center, including a national conference in Washington, D.C. In their senior year, Jaspers found even greater support during a Mission & Ministry retreat, where they connected with campus minister, Rev. Janeen Steer.

“Janeen was aggressively supportive of my journey and me,” said Jaspers. “I went from not being involved with Mission & Ministry to practically living in its office. It was my home.”

Jaspers said that it was through the ministry staff where they felt most affirmed, even more so than in the Queer Student Union. They explained, “I can’t have my faith without my queerness and transness, and I cannot fully understand my transness and queerness without my faith.”

Building a Network of Allies
In 2004, the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Resource Center at Gonzaga became the first such hub at a U.S. Jesuit college or university to support students, staff and faculty who identify as LGBTQ+ or who wish to be allies. These efforts are now bolstered by the addition of Gonzaga Law School’s Lincoln LGBTQ+ Rights Clinic, which began operating in August 2020.

The two entities have collaborated on such projects as a law panel discussing Bostock v. Clayton County, a landmark civil rights case in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees against discrimination because they are gay or transgender. About 50 people attended the event.

Deena González (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)


Cooperation between the center and the clinic, both named for alumnus and donor Joe Lincoln, mirrors other campus efforts. “Active partnerships are very much a part of the Gonzaga ethos,” said Deena González, provost and senior vice president. “We see this in the ways that Academic Affairs and Student Affairs work together in co-curricular activities, and in stretching the learning environment across many areas of the university.

“We see staff supporting student LGBTQ+ initiatives, we see multicultural clubs and groups being supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ+ members, and we are beginning to witness what U.S. popular culture, in normalizing LGBTQ+ characters, has done to introduce everyone to cultures and communities that are diverse and still struggling with misrepresentation or stereotyping.”

Matthew Barcus, program manager for LGBTQ+ education and support at the resource center, highlighted the annual Lavender Mass, previously known as the Mass of Compassion, as one of the center’s three key initiatives. Its focus is on creating an inclusive faith space that has connected the center with Mission and Ministry and campus Jesuits for more than ten years.

“We host this Mass around National Coming Out Day each October to show that our Jesuit, Catholic identity does not limit us from being LGBTQ+ affirming,” said Barcus, the first full-time staff member dedicated to the program when he was hired in 2016.

Another program is the monthly “Out to Lunch with Allies,” in which campus community members are invited to connect over a meal. It features a topic presented by a center staff member or an intern, followed by discussion.

Matthew Barcus (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)


Barcus cited gender-inclusive campus work as a third highlight. He said, “Over the last six years, we have collaborated to create housing questions to best match students with roommates and housing spaces. We added an option to include pronouns on staff and faculty business cards and e-mail signatures. We also developed a chosen-name policy for rosters, advising, and the campus directory.”

Barcus notes that there is more work to be done. He said, “We are committed to creating a campus where everyone can be recognized and validated for who they are in a holistic way, striving for our goal of belonging for folks of diverse gender identities and expressions.”

On the Legal Front
At the law clinic, Professor Gail Hammer and students work with individual clients; conduct policy research that results in briefs; and develop educational materials and offer presentations, in addition to collaborating with local, regional and national organizations. They have assisted with anti-harassment protection orders for couples with abusive neighbors; advised on wills and powers of attorney for couples and individuals; worked on an employment discrimination case; and assisted with changes to ID and birth certificate documents.

The clinic has also researched and written many briefs, such as one for Legal Voice on the standards that apply to Washington prisons and jails for medical treatment of transgender people, and its study of recent calls to dismantle the child welfare system, noting several ways that LGBTQ+ people are affected. The clinic also writes and distributes “Know Your Rights” articles and has advised medical providers on protocols for interacting with LGBTQ+ patients.

Gail Hammer (photo courtesy of Gonzaga University)


Feedback undergirds Professor Hammer’s confidence that the Lincoln LGBTQ+ Clinic provides significant value to the community and clients it serves, and to the students enrolled in it. “I hear expressions of gratitude and appreciation daily, from students, from organizations serving the LGBTQ+ community, and from clients,” said Hammer. “It is a joy to work with the inspired and dedicated students.”

Tied to Mission
Not all of the feedback on the campus initiatives is appreciation, and the University engages in conversation with critics.

“Here at Gonzaga, we care deeply about our mission, including the many ways we seek to provide a transformative educational experience for our students, advance a culture of inclusion, and make God’s abundant love visible in our community and in the world,” said Michelle Wheatley, vice president for mission integration.

González, the provost, also sees the work of the two resource entities as central to Gonzaga’s mission. She said, “These conversations, discussions, debates, interventions and research efforts help us to create spaces and structures designed to move the needle on justice for all maligned groups, but also afford an opportunity to do what we, as a university, proudly uphold as our learning capacities.

“We learn from one another, whether similar or different in histories, backgrounds or cultures. This defines us as a university, that is, our tolerance for difference and our recognition of it, as we also see our commonalities.”

By Nora McCaughey, Marquette University ’22

Photo of Nora McCaughey courtesy of author


The Jesuit phrase, cura personalis, or care for the whole person, is an integral part of life at all Jesuit institutions. As a student at Marquette University, I’ve seen this implemented in myriad ways: Snacks and therapy dogs on campus during midterms to help students relax; a counseling center that students can utilize free of charge; and events for relaxation, such as yoga and group journaling. Caring for the whole person means going beyond academics and catering to all needs, not just those that will result in good grades. Minority groups in particular may find themselves in need of more assistance in caring for the whole person, especially if the environment they live in does not support them.

In accordance with cura personalis, Jesuit colleges and universities across the nation have adapted and made clear that students struggling with their sexuality or gender are welcome at multicultural resource centers, counseling centers, and other spaces on campus. But some universities have gone even farther, implementing LGBTQ+ Resource Centers to give students exclusive and fully-sexuality oriented staff and peers.

Over the summer, I interviewed Emma Wuetrich, the assistant director of the Marquette LGBTQ+ Resource Center. She said, “Marquette students utilize the LGBTQ+ Resource Center services by attending our campus-wide educational programs, attending our allyship-building workshops, and engaging with us on social media.”

While all of these could be achieved without an entire center dedicated to LGBTQ+ students, Wuetrich explained that resource centers need to be created individually rather than simply being lumped in with other agencies.

The lack of equity in society has led some to require more support than others, and the Marquette LGBTQ+ Resource Center is a great example of that. But students don’t just go to the center when they are in trouble or need counseling. They stop in between classes, to take breaks, chat with friends, or use the queer literature lending library.

Screenshot via


The center hosts campus-wide educational programs, such as allyship-building workshops and other events. Some are aimed at students across campus regardless of sexuality or gender, to educate the student body and increase the culture of inclusion. But there are also events for students who feel they need a safe space with other LGBTQ+ people in which to talk or be themselves. “When students feel safe, protected, and valid, they are better equipped to learn, perform, and succeed,” said Wuetrich.

But things still aren’t perfect on Jesuit campuses. When I asked Alex Wagner, an LGBTQ+ student at Marquette, if he’d ever visited the LGBTQ+ Center, he said that he has only attended one event because he didn’t think the environment was very welcoming. “I went with my friend for an arts and crafts event, which was fun, but I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my story as a gay man, and [others in attendance] kind of seemed upset about that.”

In fact, Wagner has some ideas about how to make the Resource Center even better. At Marquette, a lot of groups holding events will incentivize students to come with prizes — a gift card, free food, etc. (NB: I personally have attended a lot of events for organizations I’m not a part of because of these prizes.) Wagner thinks this model could serve the university well. He suggested, “Maybe a coupon, or refreshments, just to get more allies in and make the group more inclusive.”

Despite Wagner’s less-than-ideal experience, he still sees value in the Center. He said, “I’m glad it exists, in case I need it.”

It makes Wagner feel more comfortable to know that Marquette isn’t ignoring their LGBTQ+ students, or even lumping them into the counseling center or multicultural center, by dedicating an entire office to their needs. Even though Wagner doesn’t think he personally will utilize the center, he said it was great to see so many LGBTQ+ students be proud in a safe environment at a popular place on campus to tell their stories and meet new people.

Georgetown University is another Jesuit institution that has made their acceptance of LGBTQ+ students clear. In addition to a Resource Center, Georgetown has created a blog, LGBTQ Histories at Georgetown, showcasing a timeline of events, archives, and interviews with staff, faculty, and alumni who were present during the 2007 Out for Change campaign, which led to the creation of the Center. Georgetown’s implementation of an LBGTQ+ Center almost a decade before the legalization of gay marriage shows a true devotion to students at a time even before it became widely normalized. A center retreat, called Journeys, is a time for LGBTQ+ community members and cis or straight allies to come together in a non-campus location and reflect and learn about each other. Being able to speak outside of a stressful school campus environment allows for more openness and a true sense of retreating from everyday life, instead of gathering once a week inside of a classroom.

While Jesuit colleges and universities provide support for LGBTQ+ students on their campuses in different ways, more could be done; not all Catholic students feel accepted because of the rocky history of Christianity and Catholicism with homosexuality. Schools are continuing to improve upon their programs and include as many students as possible, which I’ve been fortunate enough to see firsthand at Marquette. LGBTQ+ students deserve the same right to be themselves on campus as everyone else, and having more centers at Jesuit schools would help ensure this is possible.

Nora McCaughey served as an intern at AJCU in Summer 2021.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU

In late September, the Biden Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This notice seeks comments from the public on a rule to be implemented and enforced by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It formalizes the current DACA program with the inclusion of several proposed changes.

DACA is a policy that allows for “prosecutorial discretion” with respect to young people who came to the United States as children; who do not have immigration status; and who are low enforcement priorities for removal from the United States. The policy was first outlined in a 2012 memo prepared at the direction of President Obama by then U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. It set out specific criteria for when DHS could grant “deferred action” for children:

DACA does not create a pathway toward citizenship, nor does it grant any special status. But it does allow for young people to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation and provide them with a way to work and earn income. Any individual meeting the criteria listed above could request and apply for DACA.

For DACA recipients, these past nine years have been tenuous and rocky because of legal and executive challenges to the policy that protects them from deportation. Early in the Trump Administration, the President used an executive order to eliminate DACA and its protections. This action resulted in a number of court cases (including one that went to the Supreme Court) that have left DACA on unsolid footing. While the Supreme Court maintained the program by rejecting President Trump’s attempt to dismantle it, it did so by calling that action “arbitrary and capricious.” The Court did not say that a presidential administration could not end the program, though if it did, it must follow legal rules.

In a separate case on DACA, Judge Andrew Scott Hanen of the Southern District Court of Texas ruled the program illegal beyond executive authority, and created without notice and comment in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. That decision has been appealed. For DACA recipients, attacks on the program have created significant uncertainty in their ability to remain in the U.S., leaving them with fear of what might come next.

In response to these challenges, the Biden Administration is seeking to “fortify and strengthen” DACA using the established rulemaking process. While not a long-term solution for individuals seeking clarity on their status and, ultimately, a pathway toward citizenship, it is intended to restore protections that will pass muster in a court of law. The proposed rule reasserts the current criteria for DACA but allows for an individual to apply for it without work authorization (work authorization can be applied for separately). This was likely done to protect the underlying DACA program from new court challenges, but it is not without controversy, as the unintended consequences of separating DACA and work authorization could create new problems for those with DACA status.

While issuing a new proposed rule is a step forward, the Biden Administration acknowledges that more must be done. In order to fully protect DACA recipients, Dreamers, and other populations in the United States without legal status, Congress must pass legislation to codify the policy with the goal of creating a pathway toward citizenship.

House and Senate Democrats sought to include immigration provisions as part of their reconciliation bill known as the Build Back Better plan (budget reconciliation allows lawmakers to advance a bill with a simple majority, but has strict rules for what is included). But the Senate Parliamentarian (the person charged with determining if policies meet the rules of budget reconciliation) ruled that the immigration legislation could not be included as part of this evolving legislative package.

Legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate (S.264 and HR6) to authorize the DACA program and protect Dreamers, as the House legislation also provides a pathway toward citizenship for other populations. But there are not enough votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster and advance the legislation. The House passed HR6 in March 2021.

AJCU has a long history of engagement on immigration, specifically advocating for protections for Dreamers and advancing a legislative solution that would provide U.S. citizenship for this particular population. AJCU presidents have taken public stands, offered strong statements, and engaged in direct advocacy in recognition of the extraordinary ways that Dreamers contribute to our campus communities, neighborhoods, and nation. AJCU staff have also marched in solidarity with Dreamers to express support for them and the program.

There are approximately 600,000 individuals in the U.S. who currently have DACA status, about 33% of whom fall in an “essential critical infrastructure worker“ category (a DHS defined term), e.g., teachers, healthcare providers, food service workers, etc. The September 2021 notice of proposed rulemaking is an invitation to learn more about DACA and individual Dreamers, and to become engaged in this important policy discussion. AJCU will submit comments, as will many of our Jesuit colleges and universities. Please visit the websites below for more information about the DACA program and explore ways that you can ensure it will continue!