University Of Waterloo Students Set To Stage Silent Rally Protesting Appearance Of Notre Dame Professor Charles Rice Who Contends Homosexuality A “Moral Disorder”
WATERLOO, ONTARIO, CANADA-- With a sea of rainbow colours, organizers of a silent vigil on campus Tuesday night hopes its presence will shout out the message that anti-gay views don’t belong at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada. Protesters troubled by a planned lecture by Charles Rice, a Notre Dame professor emeritus who sees homosexuality as a “moral disorder” and is opposed to gay marriage, say his invitation to campus makes gay students feel unwelcome.
“Seeing Charles Rice recognized in this way, it’s painful. It really hurts. It makes me feel like some people are trying to tell me I don’t belong on this campus,” said Ashling Ligate, a fourth-year independent studies student. “It makes me feel the campus doesn’t take homophobia seriously.”
Shannon Rae, an assistant professor and associate chair of philosophy who organized the vigil, said she wants the gathering to be a celebration, not a protest. But inviting the 80-year-old Rice to speak shows her university is still “behind the times on gender issues,” she said, in an email. University president Feridun Hamdullahpur has said he is disappointed that Rice was chosen for annual Pascal Lecture on Christianity. But Ligate says that is just lip-service, suggesting the president could have cancelled the lecture.
“If he was really serious about supporting queer students … he could say ‘this is unacceptable,’” Ligate said. “He could cancel this. He could have sent a much stronger statement.”
The protesters say they will not interfere with Rice’s talk, but want their presence to be a strong counter point to the views of the man speaking inside the Modern Languages Theatre.
“We have a very strong queer community at UW, and we have a very strong queer community in Kitchener-Waterloo. Neither of them will stand for this,” Ligate said. “We deserve better than this. The university deserves better than this … I think the general tone of people is that this does not belong at UW.”
Rae, meanwhile, said no one plans to interfere with Rice’s talk. But they will make it clear he doesn’t speak for most people on campus, she said.
“I do want to send the clear message that, despite the fact that the Pascal Lecture is administered by the University of Waterloo, Dr. Rice’s views are not the views of the university,” she said. “I want these valued members of our community to feel safe and supported, and to know that the university is behind them.”
The university also needs to change the rules around the selection process for all lecture series, to bring more transparency to the way guest speakers are chosen, Rae said.