Some Military College Alumni Upset by Pride Events
NORTHFIELD, Vt. (AP) - A Vermont military college that held what’s believed to be the nation’s first gay pride week on a military campus is refocusing the mission of its gay and lesbian club after some alumni were upset that it held a "condom Olympics" and "queer prom."
Norwich University President Richard Schneider said Tuesday that the administration should have had more oversight of the activities of the school’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Allies club - formed after the end of the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" rule - and focused more on education and ensuring that gay and lesbian students feel comfortable, supported and safe at college.
He isn’t backing away from Norwich’s commitment to ensure that gay and lesbian students are fully and openly integrated into school life and eventually the U.S. military.
"My responsibility is to get them ready to serve in the United States military or in the private sector. They’re worried that by letting them do those things and calling them those things, that’s not preparing them properly for what life as an adult is like," Schneider said, referring to the alumni who were upset. "We are not going to see condom Olympics held by the Army. So why are we teaching future second lieutenants that?"
Schneider said he recognized the need to teach students about safe-sex practices, but such activities would be focused on all students, not just members of the LGBTQA club.
Club President Joshua Fontanez said he was unaware of Schneider’s plan to change the focus of the club, but he welcomed an expanded emphasis on the need for safe-sex education. He said he was prepared for the controversy that followed pride week.
"I went in fully knowing what our goal was, understanding that growth is not always easy. With social change comes struggle," said the senior from Browns Mills, N.J. "The challenges that we are facing through pride week is the same challenges that the university was facing when they first admitted African-Americans (and) when they first admitted women."
Last month, Norwich highlighted that it was holding the first gay pride week at a military college. The six days of events were capped by what was billed as the "queer prom," which was attended by Gov. Peter Shumlin. Other events included seminars on bullying, safe sex and HIV testing and discussions with veterans.
But within hours of news of the gay pride events being held, Norwich began to hear from alumni, many of whom were upset - some by the activities themselves and others at the way the university handled the events.
"I had no problem with the formation of the club," said U.S. Navy Capt. Christopher Misner, a 1990 graduate and past president of the Norwich alumni organization who is now serving at the Pentagon.