The University Record, March 1, 1993

Concerns will be made part of Housing Division staff education programs

The University’s commitment “to creating a diverse community in which individuals are not harassed, excluded or made to feel uncomfortable because of their sex, color, religion, sexual orientation, lifestyle or political beliefs” was reaffirmed by the Housing Division in a letter to the seven staff members who protested displays and activities in the residence halls concerning sexual orientation. The letter did hint, however, that program organizers may have overstepped “acceptable limits” with respect to the displays, and Housing officials plan to incorporate the staff members’ concerns in their staff education programs.

“Valuing diversity is a major social trend,” said George A. SanFacon, director of housing facilities, residence operations. “Ultimately, this diversity speaks to and for all of us—for we are each unique and irreducible. By embracing diversity as one of the core values of human community, we ultimately recognize and affirm our own sense of specialness.”

In addressing the issues raised by the staff, SanFacon referred to the Housing Division’s “Living at Michigan Credo,” which states in part: “The University is a special place. It is a community designed to foster freedom of thought and unconventional, even uncomfortable opinions.”

Commenting on the photographs in the public display cabinets at South and East Quadrangle, SanFacon noted that “in the process of establishing a community in which gays and lesbians are accepted and respected, unconventional displays or programs may give cause for concern or discomfort on the part of others. And on occasion, staff or residents may overstep acceptable limits and infringe on the rights of others.”

Housing Director Robert C. Hughes said in a prepared statement that the division will use the concern expressed by facilities staff “as a way to sensitize our educational staff who are involved in developing such displays to be aware that they may be unduly offending someone and they should carefully consider the appropriateness of what gets posted in a residence hall setting.

“The Housing Division has no interest, and does not condone, the promotion or encouragement of anyone—staff or resident—to have one sexual orientation or another,” Hughes said. “We do have an interest in encouraging respect and tolerance for individuals who have a sexual orientation different from one’s own, and in insuring that gay or lesbian staff or residents are free from harassment or discrimination. We provide, through the libraries and programming that we do, the opportunity for anyone to learn more about the topic of sexual orientation, as part of our overall provision of educational opportunities for students to learn about a wide variety of social issues.”

Hughes also noted in his statement that residence hall staff sponsor a number of programs and activities “in a wide multitude of areas” and that each residence hall library “has a ‘Special Collections’ series designed to support the acquisition of a multicultural set of holdings in each library.”

Addressing the members’ concerns about the film series, residence hall libraries and the Lesbian-Gay Male Programs Office, SanFacon stated: “While some may view such efforts as condoning, encouraging or promoting these sexual orientations, that is not the intention or purpose. Rather, Housing is supporting the right of community members to be different, and enabling them to experience a personally meaningful living and learning environment.”