Statement from USD VP for University Relations

Statement from USD VP for University Relations

Also see response form USD Law Student Graduate

On Thu, Apr 19, 2012 at 11:27 AM, Timothy O’Malley <> wrote:

We received your comments of concern about last week’s Drag Show on campus sponsored by the Associated Students of USD and the student Pride organization. As with any controversial activity or event, the show elicited dozens of impassioned responses, both in protest and in support, from students, alumni, parents, friends and others.

Despite the preconceived fears of some of our constituents about a stereotypical, commercial drag show, this particular event’s featured faculty speaker, invited emcee, six student contestants (men dressed as women and women dressed as men in casual, “cocktail attire”), and 200 audience members were held to the same standards of deportment and accountability to which every other student organization and campus event are held at USD, including consistency with our character as a Catholic university and with the teachings of the Catholic Church. Language, gestures, music, lyrics, and fashions were strictly monitored; offensiveness in any of these categories was prohibited. Nothing associated with the show promoted homosexual behavior or lifestyle, contradicted the Church’s teachings on human sexuality, or compromised USD’s Catholic identity or institutional mission.

The California Education Code was amended as of January 1, 2012, to add “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the list of characteristics upon which discrimination by postsecondary educational institutions is prohibited. The San Diego Municipal Code contains similar protections. These are unfamiliar terms to many and distinct from “sexual orientation.” USD was not compelled by law to permit the students to have a drag show on campus; that was never our claim. The change in the law and university policy, however, gave rise to discussion among student leadership about its implications. The recent student event was planned, designed, approved and executed as one means of bringing greater awareness and understanding, in both an educational and an entertaining way, of sensitive, contemporary issues surrounding gender identity and expression in our complex, 21st century society. Contrary to the assertion made by some that USD as a Catholic university is exempt from honoring this statutory provision in its own anti-discrimination policy, in fact USD is subject to these laws since the university is neither owned nor sponsored by the Church or a religious organization.

As always, our goal at USD is to provide a safe, inclusive learning environment that emphasizes the dignity of the person and respect for the individual. From our perspective, this goal was met by the program on April 11.

Timothy L. O’Malley, Ph.D.

Vice President for University Relations

University of San Diego

5998 Alcalá Park

San Diego, CA 92110-2492

Phone: (619) 260-4770

Fax: (619) 260-4700