Gay Student Says He Was Chucked Out of Dorm Room Due to ’Phobic Roomie
A student at Seton Hall University says that he was forced out of his dorm room after his roommate complained to the administration about being assigned housing with a gay man, local newspaper The Record reported on March 15.
Jesse Cruz has brought suit against the university, alleging that the administration's response was to assign him--and not the roommate--to a different dormitory on "Room Change Day," the article said.
"Room Change Day" allows students who are unhappy with their dormitory assignments to request new accommodations. But it is not typically used to pull students who are happy with their rooms out of their assigned housing and send them elsewhere.
Indeed, counsel for the university says that isn't what happened in this case, either. "The University has never taken any action against Mr. Cruz based on his sexual preference," attorney Katherine Suga informed Cruz's lawyer, Rosemarie Arnold.
According to Cruz, he not only was reassigned to a different room in another dorm, he also went to the university's administration to tell them that he had not wished to move. He also stated his belief that he was being compelled to change rooms because of his status as a sexual minority. He was offered another room, but again it was not the room to which he had originally been assigned.
"I didn't think it was fair that I was being moved because I was gay," Cruz explained. He had paid the full fee for the semester's housing costs the previous August.
Cruz related that he stayed with a friend and slept on the floor during a two-week period when his lawyer was dealing with the school's administration. Eventually, he got his old room back. His roommate moved elsewhere, and a new roommate moved in.
The young man's suit alleges that he suffered psychologically, and seeks compensatory damages. His lawyer says that there is a "moral" component to the suit, as well.
"On a moral level, we are seeking to make sure that this never happens again," Arnold told the media. "We as parents send our children into the real world for the first time when we send them to college, and we expect the college to treat them responsibly."
"We do not yet have a copy of the complaint, so we are not in a position to comment at this time," said Seton Hall spokesperson Greg Tobin, the article reported.
Seton Hall is a private Catholic university located in South Orange, New Jersey, about 14 miles from New York City.
The university denied recognition to a GLBT student group, TRUTH, in late 2003. However, the group was allowed to apply for school funds, and organize educational events. What it was not allowed to do was to organize social events, a Jan. 16, 2004, Associated Press story said. The arrangement was similar to one under which a GLBT student group at Georgetown University operated.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that gays and lesbians do not "choose" their sexual orientation. However, church teaching also opposes family parity for gays, and holds that God's plan for gays is that they should live in celibacy.
The church also says that gays are "disordered" with respect to their ability to form relationships, and calls any sexual expression of affection between consenting adult partners of the same gender "inherently evil."
The Catholic hierarchy condemned a class on marriage equality offered at Seton Hall last year by associate professor of political science W. King Mott. The class was offered through the school's Women and Gender Studies program.
Mott said at the time that the course was not intended to promote marriage rights for gay and lesbian families, but to examine the push for family parity, and the objections to it. "It is one thing to say 'I am for or against gay marriage,' " said Mott, according to the April 15, 2010, edition of the University newspaper, The Setonian. "It's another to actually understand the issue."
Aside from looking at the debate around marriage rights in the United States--including state-level marriage equality, which is offered in five states and the District of Columbia, and ballot initiatives such as Proposition 8, which put the rights of minority families up to popular vote--the course examined the institution of marriage itself in other cultural contexts. The final assignment in the course of study was an essay on marriage equality.
"I hope my students gain an appreciation and respect for disinterested analysis that can be used to formulate an informed opinion," Mott told The Setonian, adding, "The best schools offer controversial classes. The class is not about advocacy, but about studying the issue from an academic perspective. It's about awareness."
But some in the Catholic hierarchy wished to see the course pulled. Newark Archbishop John J. Myers attacked the course as being "not in synch" with Catholic dogma, reported anti-gay religious website LifeSiteNews.com on April 30, 2010. Moreover, said LifeSiteNews.com, the archbishop claimed that the Board of Trustees of the university was encouraging that "whatever action is required under the law to protect the Catholicity of this university" be taken in derailing the course of study.
Slamming Mott as a "homosexualist" professor, the LifeSitenews.com article cited the archbishop as saying, "Recent news that a course on same-sex marriage is proposed for the fall schedule at Seton Hall University troubles me greatly." Myers went on to say that "marriage is a union of man and woman, reflecting the complementarity of the sexes." The Catholic view of marriage, the archbishop claimed, "precedes any societal connotation of marriage, and is based on natural law."
Myers went on to denounce the course, saying that it "seeks to promote as legitimate a train of thought that is contrary to what the Church teaches. As a result, the course is not in synch with Catholic teaching."
As justification for his statement, the archbishop cited Pope Benedict XVI, who told Catholic American instructors during a 2008 visit that, "Teachers and administrators, whether in universities or schools, have the duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice. This requires that public witness to the way of Christ, as found in the Gospel and upheld by the Church's Magisterium, shapes all aspects of an institution's life, both inside and outside the classroom."
The young minds enrolled at the university expressed enthusiasm for the course. Gesina Phillips, a Junior at Seton Hall University and proponent of GLBT equality, told The Setonian, "I hope to gain new insights into the issue, as well as a great deal of more knowledge about the politics surrounding the gay marriage debate."
Anthony Angelella, a Junior, was "surprised" at the offering, added that article, but went on to say that he was "excited to see what can come from it." Added Angelella, "I think that, as a Catholic myself, the class being offered just shows that a Catholic campus doesn't have to be so cut and dry about controversial issues."
In 2009, Myers joined Catholic bishops in denouncing the invitation made to President Barack Obama by the University of Notre Dame to speak at commencement exercises. Obama was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university on May 17 of that year.