Sacred Heart University does not hide where they stand in regard to their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
“We embrace one another regardless of our differences, protect those who cannot protect themselves and speak up when we see injustice and hypocrisy. We cannot and will not betray them, because we cannot and will not be silent,” said Dr. John Petillo, President of SHU, in a 2019 blog post.
The university doubled down on this belief last spring when it held its rally to affirm support for the LGBTQ+ community. The rally was held in the wake of the Vatican’s anti-gay decision on same-sex marriage earlier this year.
The University’s Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) has been welcoming students for over 20 years. GSA is a student-led club that provides programs and events that promote a diverse and accepting environment and aim to make Sacred Heart a safer place for all students.
Most GSA events are made possible through Multicultural Affairs, an office at Sacred Heart that “seeks to foster open dialogue on inclusivity, ensuring a welcoming environment for people of all backgrounds while amplifying underrepresented voices within the community.”
Robert Johnson, the Director of Multicultural Affairs, is a Sacred Heart alumnus who was appointed in 2020 to direct the new Multicultural Center on campus.
“As a Catholic university, we preach inclusion. We preach about social justice,” said Johnson. “We will be modeling what it should look like to practice the golden rule: treat people the way you want to be treated.”
The Multicultural Center offers student training and workshops on diversity and inclusion.
“It’s important to have someone that looks like you that is accomplishing things that you perceive yourself to one day be doing,” said Johnson.
This September, Student Activities announced the addition of Sacred Heart’s newest club celebrating LGBTQ+ identities and culture, PRIDE.
The announcement of the university’s newest club came a couple weeks before Sacred Heart held its second annual Coming Out Day Celebration on Oct. 13. The event held in the middle of Pioneer Village included talks from several members of the Sacred Heart staff, like President Petillo and Julie Lawrence, the executive director of diversity and inclusion. It also featured guest speakers like Reverend Sara Smith and Ben Greene.
“It was an awesome thing to be a part of,” said junior Abby Palmer, who attended the event as an ally alongside several of her friends. “So many people turned out to show our support for every person on this campus.”
Petillo has spoken about Sacred Heart taking criticism on numerous occasions in the past in regard to the university’s known support of the LGBTQ+ community.
“For my part, those who write or complain that our university is less Christian because of our respect for inclusiveness, I suggest strongly that you take your ignorance and hatred elsewhere,” said Petillo at the Coming Out Day Celebration.