On the eve of the Gonzaga basketball team’s nationally televised game against Stanford, students and faculty members are urging fans not to repeat chants of “Brokeback Mountain” against opposing players.
In Monday’s GU game against St. Mary’s, some students chanted the title of the movie at an opposing player, apparently a culturally current suggestion the player was gay. The movie, considered a top contender for a best picture Oscar, tells the story of two Wyoming sheepherders who fall in love.
The chants were the subject of several classroom discussions over the past week, and the faculty advisers for the Kennel Club urged students this week to avoid “inappropriate chants” at tonight’s Stanford game, which is being broadcast on ESPN at 6.
“We implore the students of the Kennel Club to show the nation this weekend what makes Gonzaga different,” Kennel Club advisers David Lindsay and Aaron Hill wrote in a letter in the student newspaper, the Bulletin. “We challenge the students of the Kennel Club to exhibit the class, the creativeness and the competitive drive that has become a foundation of this great University.”
Efforts to reach Lindsay, Hill and GU administration officials were unsuccessful Friday afternoon.
Mark Alfino, a professor of philosophy at GU, said the matter had been widely discussed among faculty members and students.
“Many faculty members have brought up the discussion in their classes,” he said. “They find none of the students have been comfortable with the chant, and that’s a good sign.”
Ryan Olson, the president of Helping Educate Regarding Orientation, a gay-straight alliance on campus, said the chants are just the latest incident that shows GU is struggling to make gays and lesbians welcome on campus. In a letter to the Bulletin, the membership of HERO wrote, “This is not even remotely the first time that Kennel Club chanters have chanted homophobic phrases at basketball games.”
The school’s failure to act on such past incidents, combined with other events such as the appearance of a speaker who criticized homosexuals at an event sponsored by student Republicans, is part of an overall pattern of bias against gays and lesbians by the university, Olson said in an interview Friday.
“A lot of people in the Kennel Club say it wasn’t them that (chanted ‘Brokeback Mountain’),” Olson said. “But there’s something to be said about apathy as well. Students didn’t stop people from saying it.”
In Friday’s Bulletin, senior Callie Monroe wrote a column calling the chants a case of “outright discrimination.”
“Imagine yourself as a homosexual individual in the midst of your peers, classmates and friends during this ‘Brokeback Mountain’ cheer,” Monroe wrote. “I simply do not understand how a student body claiming to live by Jesuit principles of acceptance and respect for all can allow an incident like this to happen and remain silent.”
Alfino was at Monday’s game, and he said he didn’t notice the chants. While he believes the school needs to improve the atmosphere for gays and lesbians on campus – and is involved in developing a new campaign to promote that – he said that in this case, he feels the reaction has been heartening.
“I don’t think, by itself, it’s an indication of grave moral disorder in the student body,” he said. “It was very comforting to hear from classroom discussions that (students see) this was inappropriate.”