The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday August 11th

Year in Review: Psalm 100 sparks campus debate on non-discrimination policy

A gay senior was expelled from the Christian a cappella group Psalm 100 in August, a decision that the University determined did not violate its non-discrimination policy for student groups.

But the dismissal of Will Thomason did spark an on-campus controversy that contributed to the focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, trasgender and queer issues that dominated 2011.

The a cappella group maintained that its members voted unanimously to remove Thomason because of his views on homosexuality, not his sexual orientation.

“It was really about a disagreement with something that was clearly written in Scripture and in the Bible and we just have to base all of our decisions, constitutionally … on the Bible,” said Blake Templeton, the group’s general manager, in August.

UNC’s non-discrimination policy gives student groups the right to limit membership to those who share a certain set of ideas, as long as no student is excluded on the basis of personal characteristics — including sexual orientation.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp said in October that the University did not find enough evidence to conclude that Thomason’s dismissal was related to his sexual orientation rather than his beliefs on homosexuality.

The decision elicited protest from some on campus, including Terri Phoenix, director of the LGBTQ Center.

“It is unreasonable to ask someone to make a choice between different parts of who they are,” Phoenix said following the decision. “I think that’s a very challenging choice to put people in, and I think it’s unfair that that’s the position that Psalm 100 in this case put Will into.”

But Crisp added that the decision should spark an examination of the policy itself.

UNC officials are still in the early stages of the review.

Meanwhile, an initiative to implement a gender-neutral housing option is currently being examined by administrators.

The proposal, which was presented to Crisp in October, would allow individuals of any sexual orientation and gender to live together in UNC’s residence halls.

Supporters have emphasized that, while inspired by the needs of the gay community, the issue is one of health and safety.

“These people don’t get to choose to live with who they feel the most comfortable with, and I feel like that’s a universal problem,” said Kevin Claybren, the initiative’s organizer, in September.

Originally slated to be presented by Crisp to the Board of Trustees in November, the proposal was pushed back to the spring in lieu of time-consuming tuition talks.

But supporters of gender-neutral housing are still hopeful that an option will be available in the fall, they said in November.

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