Upset by what they see as unnecessary compromise, several members of Belmont’s LGBTQ organization Bridge Builders are planning on creating a new organization not connected to University Ministries.
Sophomores Ryan Marquez and Adam Reid said that they feel that the organization’s current classification as a faith/sexuality organization is not very welcoming to the LGBTQ community at large and that Belmont only recognized Bridge Builders to appease angry students.
“We want to move out of University Ministries and have our own safe space,” Marquez said.
Marquez said that the meetings held in the University Ministries office make some members very uncomfortable when trying to talk about sensitive issues like sex.
“A lot of students get nervous or afraid in that space because the offices are in use,” Reid said. “You’ll have a University Ministries guy walk out when we are talking about sex and it’s awkward.”
Bridge Builders was officially recognized as an University Ministries affiliated student organization in 2011 following its third application in three years. The approval came in the midst of the controversy surrounding the departure of then women’s soccer coach Lisa Howe.
With Belmont’s new recognition of Bridge Builders, the administration also added the term “sexual orientation” to its non-discrimination policy.
But for Marquez and Reid, those two victories are not enough for the community.
“They’ve given us these things as privileges, but this is a civil rights issue,” Reid said.
Styling themselves as an organization independent of Bridge Builders and calling themselves “Bridge Burners” on social media, the group ultimately hopes to become recognized as Belmont’s chapter of the national Gay-Straight Alliance with or without university approval.
“We are done asking. We are done saying ‘Hey, can we?” Reid said.
But president of Bridge Builders senior Sean Della Croce does not see a problem with the current atmosphere of the organization.
“We are not a club of submission,” said Della Croce said. “Last semester I had meetings with the president of the university and the provost and we got to put on the programming we wanted to put on.”
Della Croce points to the official recognition on campus and successful events like last year’s Coming Out Day celebrations of how integrated into the community the group has become.
She does say that in the past they have come under more scrutiny, but with their inclusion in the newly formed Hope Council and the Vision Council, Della Croce sees the tone has shifted.
“When I submit things to Bruinlink and to Student Affairs, they are approved quickly and easily.”
Bridge Builders identifies the group as the GSA on campus and wants the doors to be open to everyone on campus, regardless of their faith, race or sexual orientation, Della Croce said.
“We are the GSA on campus. And not everyone is a person of faith, so we retool what we do based on who is at the meeting.”
Della Croce said that she is aware of the Bridge Burners group, but said that their incendiary reasoning will not get them very far. While they were members of the Bridge Builders, they are very isolated in their rhetoric she said.
While the group is still in its early stages, more than 50 people have already shown interest, Marquez said.
They are planning their first official meeting within the next week.
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