CARA VAN METER
Much like members of any other student organization, Pepperdine students who are involved in the Malibu Gays, Lesbians and Everyone Else (GLEE) club gather regularly. Like members of any other club, they sponsor student events and spend time getting to know each other better.
There’s a difference, though, between the Malibu GLEE club and other clubs. The GLEE Club does not have official status as a student organization. When GLEE club members come together, they do so in their own homes or at off-campus locations. When they sponsor events, each member must pay out of pocket to help cover the costs. When they spend time talking with one another, they’re often talking about the frustration they feel as part of a quiet (until recently) minority at Pepperdine.
“While the university respects the right of any individual to hold different views from the University, we are under no obligation to support the formal organization of groups with opposing purposes,” Dean of Student Affairs Mark Davis wrote in an e-mail. Davis stressed the importance of distinguishing between the individual rights of students and the university’s recognition of a student organization.
The club, organized in 2006 by current senior Jamaal Crowley, has more than 50 members at Pepperdine. According to Crowley, a telecommunications productions major, the club’s purpose is to serve as a support system for gay students and their friends, regardless of orientation.
“It’s a lot harder doing it off campus — money issues, finding a place to hold an event, all that stuff makes a big difference,” Crowley said. “We just want to be recognized officially as a group that wants to do nothing but good. We want the same rules and restrictions as any other group.”
According to the Student Organizations Handbook, privileges afforded to student organizations include, among other things, the use of the university’s name, the use of campus facilities and services, the ability to fundraise and recruit on campus, and the ability to advertise on campus as well as membership in the Inter-Club Council.
“The university affords all students the same individual rights to hold and express their viewpoints — including perspectives that don’t support the University’s mission or Code of Conduct, which they voluntarily agree to uphold when they enroll at Pepperdine,” Davis wrote.
Crowley said he felt the need to form a gay-affirming support group, now the GLEE club, when a number of incoming freshmen contacted him over the summer with concerns about the Pepperdine community.
“When [students] come out and their family and friends are un-accepting, what are they supposed to do?” Crowley said. “They don’t need people telling them that what they are doing is sinful and wrong, which is what they get from a lot of students here.”
Crowley said he does not understand why the university is opposed to the creation of a student organization with that explicit purpose. The Student Organizations Handbook defines a student organization as “a group of at least 15 Seaver College undergraduate students who voluntarily gather for a common purpose.” School rules bind members.
According to Davis, this includes the university’s principle, outlined in the Seaver College Student Handbook, that sexual relationships are “designed by God to be expressed solely within a marriage between husband and wife,” and that any sexual relations outside these parameters are inconsistent with the teaching of Scripture and should be avoided by all members of the university.
Crowley argues that the GLEE club is not about supporting gay sex, but about gay lifestyle and culture, and that being gay does not equate to having gay sex.
“We don’t even talk about sex. That’s on your own time,” Crowley said.
Crowley said he does not view homosexuality as a sin and believes that Biblical interpretations that use the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9 to suggest such are taken out of context.
“It’s difficult for me to see it from Pepperdine’s perspective, because the Bible addresses only homosexual acts — and we’re not about gay sex. The group is about supporting gay students,” Crowley said. “I don’t think God is going to send me to hell because I’m gay. I think God created us all in his own image. If we’re in his own image, and we’re gay, that means something’s up.”
Senior political science major Kristen Compean said she opposes the formation of a GLEE club as such at Pepperdine but believes GLEE might better serve students on campus if the organization were designed as a support group for all students learning to understand homosexual friends and family members and if the club encouraged homosexual students to abstain from promiscuity.
Freshman business major Alex Pennekamp, a GLEE club member, disagrees.
“Being gay is not a choice and is just a part of who we are,” Pennekamp said. “We are still good and moral people that can add richness and diversity to the Pepperdine community.”
To read more about GLEE please go to http://www.gleeuta.org/.