The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

Students voice LGBTQ+ representation concerns, advocate for change

Chloe Almendarez / Hilltop Views
Students at St. Edward’s University are taking matters into their own hands about the change in LGBTQ+ representation across campus. An anonymously-run student petition is calling for the reinstallation of the Pride flag that once hung from the rafters in the campus coffeehouse.

Students are expressing their concerns about LGBTQ+ representation on campus after the Pride flag that used to hang above the ordering counter at Meadows Coffeehouse was removed last semester.

“It’s just worrying and concerning and making people feel scared and worried that they’re gonna have to go back in the closet to keep themselves safe — having to choose whether they want to be out and proud but risk their safety and maybe their friends and family safety, or go back in and hide and feel like they’re, you know, betraying themselves and their community,” PRIDE treasurer Tommy Linn said. “Because tensions have gotten worse, and legislation and all these different bills are trying to be passed and transphobic homophobic voices are getting louder and louder, the pushback is becoming worse.”

The Pride flag stood as a reminder of the LGBTQ+ community’s visibility on campus after former PRIDE vice-president B. Salinas got permission from the university to display the flag in 2018. Currently, a Pride flag hangs on the far northwest side of campus in the Office of Equity and Employee Relations in Equity Hall room 131. 

At St. Edward’s University, LGBTQ+ representation dates back to the early 90s when the Gay Lesbian Association, now known as PRIDE, first hit the hilltop. Since then, a myriad of queer-inclusive initiatives have been introduced, including PRIDE’s Drag Show, which first premiered in 2016, and Ally Training, which began in 2019. 

“It’s all in the little things,” Linn said. “I think if schools and corporations aren’t able to — even if it’s fake — just like proudly show something, then it shows that we’re going back. Things are getting worse again. That pride flag, as far as I knew, was a big symbol, a big ‘hey, we support you,’ despite this being a Catholic school.”


How students are taking action

An anonymously-ran Instagram account is now advocating for the return of the Pride flag in the coffeehouse through a student-led petition. The petition calls upon the university’s Holy Cross mission “to create positive social change and an environment where barriers do not hinder anyone because of any dimension of their identity” and has garnered 182 signatures as of today.   

“Our mission is to confront the critical issues of society and seek justice and peace and to educate the whole person’s heart and mind, right? And I think that the students are telling us this is making them feel less of a sense of belonging and less of a sense of welcome,” Associate Professor Alexandra Barron, PRIDE faculty advisor since 2007, said.

This petition is not the first time St. Edward’s students have advocated for diversity and inclusion issues on campus. In 2018, five student-led organizations came together to write the Red Door Manifesto, a letter that identified “a lack of transparency, accountability and action from higher administration” and demanded to be heard on a number of issues including the use of indirect language in official statements and a lack of comprehensive resources for queer students.

“I feel like our campus likes to pride on being a Hispanic serving university and that we offer a lot of diversity and inclusion, but if you look at the people who control this campus, the campus culture is a lot more like St. Ed’s is trying to become like UT or like Southwestern or something,” senior and Peer Health Educator Izzy Smith said. “I chose (St. Edward’s) based off of what it was like in 2019 and what I was offered in 2019. But l if I was seeing St. Ed’s as a freshman now, I would not want to go here.” 

These thoughts are echoed in the 2018 manifesto, where students wrote: “The school we have been sold is not the school we attend.” Smith also mentions interactions with other students on campus where homophobic slurs like “faggot” and “dyke” have been directed toward them. 

“It’s not a big deal to me anymore, but like for some people, that’s like life or death,” Smith said.

At 1:08 p.m. today, a Pride flag was hung on the wall of Meadows Coffeehouse after posters advertising the anonymous Instagram account were displayed across campus this morning. The flag has since been removed.

“While it does hurt to know that we keep having to push, I think even just taking that small step, just getting that little support back makes all the difference,” Linn said.

(Left) A student’s pride hangs on the wall in Meadow’s Coffeehouse. The flag has since been removed. (Right) Posters displaying a QR code that leads students to a Linktree run by the anonymous Instagram account @wheredtheprideflaggo. A majority of the posters have since been removed.


The push and pull of administration 

Smith is hosting a student-led event, “Authentic Allyship and Self Love,” to promote awareness and support for the LGBTQ+ community on campus in the Carter Auditorium on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. Smith said they experienced push back on whether the event can be open or closed to non-St. Edward’s individuals. Ultimately, they had to uninvite people from Equality TX, the off-campus organization Smith is partnering and interning with. 

“It was just really awkward because I had to go and email a bunch of people that I had already extended an invite to (and) be like, ‘actually my school said you can’t come,’” Smith said. “That sucked, and that made me look bad.”

According to Hilltop Views archives, students involved in organizations like PRIDE have experienced push back with university administration as early as 2011. In Fall 2011, PRIDE got permission to walk for the first time in Austin’s Pride Parade after they struck a deal with administration to remove the university’s name from their banner and opt out of wearing PRIDE shirts. 

The article says that before this breakthrough, “previous PRIDE at St. Edward’s presidents have tried and failed to persuade the university to let the student group march in the Austin PRIDE parade.”

“So, the students were like, ‘that feels really terrible, you’re asking us to kind of choose one of our identities as queer over our identity as St. Ed’s students, and you’re saying we can’t have both,’” Barron said. “So, to me, that’s like a moment that kind of illustrates what often happens, where there’ll be a school, the students will want something and they’ll think that they should be able to do it, and the school will be like, ‘well, what if other people see in the community, and they complain about us to the bishop, or they complain about us publicly?’”

Students have been given no clear answer as to why the Pride flag is no longer on display at Meadows Coffeehouse.

“To be honest, I’ve just never met anyone who said the pride flag in any way was a negative…it sends a message out that this is a place perhaps that’s not going to tolerate certain kinds of homophobia or transphobia,” Barron said. “It’s just a symbol, but sometimes symbols are how people feel a sense of belonging. Sometimes symbols are how we signal that everybody is welcome.” 

The Pride flag referenced in St. Edward’s University’s statement hanging on the wall of the Office of Equity and Employee Relations in Equity Hall room 131.

According to the Student Government Association’s Instagram, university President Montserrat Fuentes, Vice President of Student Affairs and Administration Lisa Kirkpatrick and Director of the Office of Student Belonging and Inclusive Excellence Erica Zamora will be visiting today’s senate meeting to address student concerns. St. Edward’s University released the following media statement to Hilltop Views in response to the conversations surrounding the missing Pride flag:

“The St. Edward’s University mission calls us to meet all students where they are and support them through their journey to graduation. Catholic Social Teaching affirms the dignity of every person. St. Edward’s continues to facilitate specialized and individualized spaces and opportunities that are developed with love and care to directly welcome and serve as resources for all of our students. The university does not identify itself or its students, faculty or staff by a single flag, symbol or issue, as our mission calls us to foster a respectful and inclusive campus community. A pride flag, along with a variety of flags, signs and symbols, is displayed in Equity Hall Lounge to represent and celebrate our vibrant and welcoming Hilltop community.”

The senate meeting will give students an opportunity to provide feedback and voice their concerns about diversity, inclusion and symbols on campus to administration. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the St. André Multipurpose Room.

“Everyone should be able to have that good experience, which is why things like the Pride flag in the coffee shop are important,” Smith said. “It’s not anything that’s super big and implemental. The small things really add up.” 

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About the Contributors
Chloe Almendarez
Chloe Almendarez, Managing Editor
Chloe Almendarez is a senior Psychology major with a minor in Education Studies. This is their second year working with "Hilltop Views" as Managing Editor. They are passionate about exploring education and equity. For all advertisement and business inquiries, you may contact them at [email protected]
Claire Lawrence
Claire Lawrence, Editor-in-Chief
Claire is a senior Communication major with a minor in Journalism continuing to dedicate her time growing and learning as a student journalist. Claire has been with Hilltop Views for three years. This is her second year as Editor-in-Chief. Previously, she served as a Staff Writer and as News Editor. Outside of St. Edward's, Claire plays bass in Austin-local band "Losers." Though she is graduating soon, she hopes to leave her mark in the newsroom and inspire other students to get involved with their campus paper.

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