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Tuesday, May 21, 2024
The Observer

University denies LGBTQ+ club's speaker for Mendoza Ball

Mendoza MBA students' Diversity and Heritage Ball is set to take place this Saturday to celebrate the unique identities and diverse backgrounds of the graduate business community at the University of Notre Dame. The event, organized by the newly established Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee, will feature presentations from seven student clubs focused on promoting diversity and inclusion. 

Presentations will include clubs such as the Asian MBA Club which will perform Bollywood dancing, and the Latin American Club at Mendoza (LACM) who will teach their peers to salsa dance. However, the LGBTQ+ & Allies Club, a graduate business student group dedicated to supporting the LGBTQ+ community and its allies, will not be presenting at the event due to the university's denial of their guest speaker. 

Nick Y
LGBTQ+ and Allies Club attend the Irish Together basketball game to advocate for inclusion.

The LGBTQ+ & Allies club is an "identity-based resource group that supports various needs of the community and its allies at Mendoza and throughout Notre Dame" that serves the graduate business students in particular. Club president Nick Yanek is in his second and final year of the MBA program. Along with his team, Yanek decided to invite a prominent and well-respected drag queen to campus to speak about their experiences as an LGBTQ+ person.

With two seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and a "one-woman show on Broadway" under their belt, the original plan was for them to participate in a fireside chat before speaking to the whole group for 10 minutes and sing two songs. This request was denied by the university on the grounds that it was "not business-oriented," Yanek said, explaining that "It was asked if we didn’t have her sing but solely speak if that would be acceptable, and that was still denied."

The University released a statement regarding their decision, saying "Notre Dame values the LGBTQ members of our campus and works closely with the undergraduate and post-baccalaureate student groups on a wide array of events. Any programming sponsored by a student club must align with the group’s mission. That was not the case in this instance."

The LGBTQ+ & Allies mission as outlined by their official constitution is to “provide a forum for students of the graduate business community to discuss issues encountered by persons who identify as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or queer (LGBTQ) in the workplace and in business leadership.” 

Yanek said this was the first time in his two years as part of the club that an event has had any pushback.

“No other group was asked to be business oriented and they claim that they denied our idea because our club's mission is around LGBTQ business issues, which my counter to that is… one, we weren’t asked to participate in that way, we were asked to participate to showcase our culture," Yanek said.

Yanek added that, "The other piece of that is that I would argue it was business oriented. This individual made drag into their full-time career starting from nothing…drag is an enormous industry and there is a lot of money there."

The club has been building momentum over the last two years. This past Notre Dame Day, the LGBTQ+ & Allies club "was the top raising grad club," which Yanek attributes to the increase in alumni and student engagement with the club.

Due to this show of support, the club intends to revisit the issue of Notre Dame not facilitating Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA), a non-profit organization that aims to support the next generation of LGBTQ+ business leaders. In an article published by Poets and Quants, two former Notre Dame students recount their efforts to instate this partnership as "Notre Dame and one other school are the only two MBA programs in the Top 30 MBA programs in the U.S. without ROMBA Fellowships." This ended up being "flagged at the university level," and the partnership was revoked. Yanek is hopeful that the club's increasing prominence will result in these fellowships being offered at Notre Dame. 

The club released a statement regarding the Diversity and Heritage Ball over LinkedIn in order to “hold our University accountable to the Spirit of Inclusion, and to let this moment serve as an example for students to take greater perspectives when considering decisions that impact diverse communities.”

Yanek and his team aimed to "be respectful to the university and emphasize it wasn’t all of our administrators’ (decision)… but still hold Mendoza and the university accountable to their inclusion."

"We recognize that this could deter some LGBTQ MBA’s from wanting to come here, but we also hope that it kind of empowers them to help them decide that if they come there, they have an opportunity to keep the momentum going," Yanek said. "Change is needed and change is demanded."