Dr. Mary Lyons’ letter to the Trustees

Dr. Mary Lyons’ letter to the Trustees

Dear Trustees:

I want to make you aware of impending student events on campus that have generated controversy among many folks, including those who are our constituents. Some of you have been contacted recently by a USD alumnus Charles Limandri or others, expressing concern about our Associated Students’ and Pride’s co-sponsorship of an upcoming entertainment event — a drag show — being held in conjunction with a series of educational lectures, discussions, and workshops designed to bring awareness and understanding about sensitive, contemporary issues surrounding gender identity and gender expression. In total, the events are intended to “foster students’ understanding of, and empathy for, the complexities of gender non-conformity.” Not surprisingly, the drag show event is being singled out by those concerned as an indication that our university is advocating or promoting a lifestyle and behaviors inconsistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church and the Catholic identity of the University of San Diego. Of course, this is not the case. Indeed, California state law AB887 (October 2011) and the subsequent inclusion of “gender identity” and “gender expression” in the university’s Policy Prohibiting Discrimination and Harassment have given rise to finding ways to heighten our students’ sensitivity and reinforce their respect for the individual. In this regard, the Associated Students and the Pride student organization planned events that have been quite common at other Catholic universities, including Santa Clara, DePaul, University of Seattle and others.

While we acknowledge the inevitable controversy surrounding a series of campus events exploring topics of this nature, we understand from experience the folly of discriminating against a particular student organization or segment of the student population when they have, in fact, followed university policies and protocols for planning and executing their events. These students are held to the same standards of deportment and accountability to which every other student organization or event is held, including consistency with out character as a Catholic university.

Please refer your continuing questions or concerns, and those of others who contact you, to Pamela Gray Payton, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs, at pgray@sandiego.edu or 619-260-4681. I am deeply grateful for your patience with this situation and for your abiding confidence that we will continue to execute our responsibilities to our students and to our university with integrity,

thoughtfulness, and faithfulness to out core values.


Mary E. Lyons, Ph.D. President