Student Voices Disappointment with Administrative Response to Bishop McManus’ Discriminatory Comments

Dear President Boroughs, Dean Freije, and Dean Murray,

I am writing to express my frustration and disappointment at the administration’s lack of response to the Bishop’s discriminatory comments against transgender individuals. I appreciate that there was a statement made specifically regarding the writing and missteps of the article, but there was no direct, strong criticism of the Bishop’s words.

These comments were in response to, and therefore in specific reference to, the employment of Professor Rawson and the existence of Digital Transgender Archive on campus. I appreciate that you heavily supported him, advocated for his value to the College, and thank you for asserting that the Telegram owes him an apology. As a senior who has worked closely with Professor Rawson regularly over the past four years in the DTA, in class, and on my College Honors thesis, I can attest to the great and often arduous lengths he goes to to advocate for the Holy Cross LGBTQIA+ community on top of all of his other academic commitments and accomplishments. I can therefore also verify the emotional toll this takes on an individual; namely, I can vouch for the discriminatory, often hostile environment that surrounds queer people on campus, rendering individuals unable to fully embrace their identity.

Much of these environmental concerns come from the seeming inability – or unwillingness – on the part of the College to explicitly attempt to reconcile the historically negative relationship between the Catholic Church and the LGBTQIA+ community. This was nowhere near as evident as in the underwhelming response to the Bishop’s comments. There was an acknowledgement of this in your email. That being said, no immediate and concrete action has been taken in this regard, nor has it been taken over the past year despite the hate crime on campus and numerous instances of LGBTQIA+ discrimination in other ways on campus despite this issue being raised in the ENGAGE summit, as you mentioned in your email, back in November.

Why do we only resurface our promises to close the divides between us when we are forced to react to yet another incident, one that could have been prevented with quick and decisive action done in the best interests of the members of our community?

It disturbs me that a faculty member at the College should be forced to defend themselves against hate speech when the College has the power and capabilities to strongly advocate for their own employee immediately and with decisive action prior to the release of a damaging article. This does not bode well for LGBTQIA+ students on campus, who have substantially less power than faculty, staff, employees, and administrators. Are marginalized students forced to advocate for themselves against discriminatory practices while under the roof of the College? If the College cannot come out with a strong stance against those who believe that transgender individuals are committing “heresy,” then it seems as though this is the case.

Yes, we are a Catholic institution, and this makes it difficult to oppose comments made by the Church itself. But if Holy Cross is to admit LGBTQIA+ students to this campus, employ LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff, and administrators, and claim that we are an institution that “embraces and supports all members of our community,” this must be demonstrated. If the College is not going to openly and aggressively advocate for its marginalized students, even if that means acting in opposition to “traditional” Church “values,” we may as well be turned away at the door.

We are sick of committees, lukewarm responses, and months of silence when it comes to the plight of marginalized students on campus. Actions speak louder than words, and the actions by those in power on LGBTQIA+ issues over this past year have yet to be louder than a whisper.


Mithra Salmassi

This letter was originally sent to Fr. Boroughs, Dean Freije, and Dean Murray in an email by Mithra Salmassi ’19.

Categories: Opinions

Tagged as: ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s