Updated: March 16, 2015 at 10:14 a.m.
This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Victoria Sheridan.
Allied in Pride called for GW’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation to lose funding from the Student Association if its members refuse to complete LGBT sensitivity trainings that could be required under an SA bill proposed last month.
In a post on its Facebook page last week, Allied in Pride criticized the conservative group’s resistance to being educated on LGBT issues. Since then, the backlash has been picked up by Fox News and conservative blog Breitbart News Network, which reported that YAF has been branded as a hate group because of its stance.
“If GW YAF refuses to participate in safe zone trainings that are aimed at increasing safety and understanding, then they should be considered a hate group, and thereby be revoked of all funding from the Student Association,” the Allied in Pride post read. The post also stated that YAF’s refusal to use preferred gender pronouns is an “act of violence.”
YAF received a $1,390 allocation for use this academic year, a 39 percent increase from the year before.
The University also released a statement Thursday stating that all student organization presidents and treasurers participated in a mandatory conference-style training day this past fall. They could chose from the sessions that covered topics like LGBT “safe zone” training, bystander intervention, leadership skills or fundraising and budgeting.
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said he did not know which training sessions YAF leaders, or leaders of any student group, chose to attend.
Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said in a statement that University officials have not yet seen the bill passed by the SA.
Konwerski also said, “Bills passed by the SA serve only as recommendations to the University administration.”
“We value student input in discussing ways in which we can continue to ensure our campuses reflect and embrace a rich diversity of students, faculty and staff who are treated equitably,” Konwerski said. “In that spirit, we expect all students to treat each other with dignity and engage in productive, respectful dialogue.”
The SA voted in favor of a package of bills at the end of February to create mandatory training sessions about LGBT issues for student leaders and faculty, publish a list of gender-neutral bathrooms and add a gender-neutral option to all office forms.
YAF President Emily Jashinsky did not immediately return a request for comment. Jashinksy told The Hatchet last week that she would seek an exemption from mandatory training.
Patrick X. Coyle, the national vice president of YAF, wrote a letter to Breitbart News Network following the Allied in Pride post and slammed GW for a having a “hateful atmosphere.” Coyle called for YAF critics to “respect the free speech rights of other groups on campus.”
“Why is there not sensitivity training for gay and liberal groups to respect the free speech rights of other groups on campus?” Coyle wrote. “Why has the student association not considered similar training to teach students to respect those who believe in traditional marriage?”
Allied in Pride President Rob Todaro responded in a Facebook post Monday saying the conservative media has portrayed YAF as “the ones being victimized.”
“This is an issue of promoting safe spaces and refusing to do so is hateful and intolerant,” he wrote in the post. Todaro, a former Hatchet writer, declined to comment further.
SA presidential candidates Andie Dowd and Ben Pryde issued statements on their Facebook campaign pages, saying they would support the SA bill to require sensitivity and “safe zone” training for student organizations.
Dowd said in her statement that YAF’s opposition to the training “directly contradicts the inclusive campus that student leaders have worked to build.”
Pryde said he would not seek YAF’s endorsement in his campaign.
“While the Young America’s Foundation has the right to hold any opinion they choose to hold, diversity is essential to the identity of our University,” he said. “Every member of our community must feel secure and appreciated, regardless of race, religion, income, background, ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity.”
The third presidential candidate, Alex Cho, said in a statement on his Facebook page Tuesday that YAF’s stance is “counterproductive to what the student body is trying to achieve: inclusiveness.”
The controversy was also picked up by the news show Fox & Friends on Tuesday.
The Washington Times called the potential for mandated training an “assault on basic freedoms.”
“This is a remarkable exercise in classic intolerance, and worse, enforced by a threat to cut off the funding of those who refuse to speak in the prescribed pronouns of distorted language,” the editorial read.