On Oct. 7, he and his partner of four years will meet up with 50 or so lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) alumni, along with their spouses, partners and children, for Wheaton’s annual homecoming weekend. And during the group’s inaugural gathering, its members won’t be looking to blend in with the crowd. At the football game against Elmhurst College on Oct. 8, Wheaton’s LGBT alums and their supporters will be wearing matching T-shirts emblazoned with the group’s name, OneWheaton, and a rainbow.
OneWheaton’s highly visible presence on campus puts the college in a difficult position. On the one hand, Wheaton students can still get kicked out for being openly and unrepentantly gay — administrators declined to tell TIME how many students had been asked to leave because of their sexual orientation — and reparative counseling is a common option before dismissal. But at the same time, the college recognizes gay and lesbian alumni as part of the Wheaton family and has a history of embracing those society has marginalized. Wheaton was the first college in Illinois to graduate African-American students and has enrolled women since its founding in 1860. “Welcoming but not affirming is probably a good way of describing our attitude,” Wheaton College president Philip Ryken says of OneWheaton or any other alumni group that doesn’t agree with the school’s Community Covenant, which spells out its position on a variety of issues.
I’m glad the students are organizing, but if the monsters running the school are still kicking kids out for being gay, and worse, sending them to reparative therapy that has been proven not to work, and can damage them for life, then I’m not sure I’d give the school’s administrators much of an attaboy. The students, however, yes.