As sponsors flee, Universities stand by anti-LGBT St. Patrick's Day Parade

As top-billed sponsors including Guinness and Heineken pull their support of the New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade over its ban on LGBT families and organizations, there remains puzzling support from Universities that also claim to respect and protect LGBT people and students.

Fairfield University, Fordham University, Iona College, Manhattan College, and Quinnipiac University were listed as sponsors of the parade on its website on Friday. The NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade website has since removed all sponsor listings from the page.

GLAAD reached out to each of the Universities and Colleges to request comment about their support for the parade and clarification about the schools' own non-discrimination policies.

A representative for Quinnipiac University (the first school to respond) referred GLAAD to its student handbook, which does indeed state that the University "values diversity, multiculturalism, and respect for others in an environment free from bias." The handbook goes on to say that discrimination or harassment on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited and "undermine[s] the environment of equity and mutual respect that is essential to fulfil the University’s mission as articulated in the University’s Strategic Plan for Inclusiveness."

GLAAD pointed out the disparity between Quinnipiac's non-discrimination policy and its sponsorship of the anti-LGBT St. Patrick's Day Parade and asked the University official if there were criteria by which Quinnipiac evaluates sponsors, or if it was common for the University to support events that don't adhere to the school's non-discrimination policies. The representative did not respond to that inquiry.

Fairfield University, the only other University to respond to GLAAD's emails, provided the following statement:

Fairfield University marches in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade because of our proud and long history with the Irish American community. The New England Province of the Society of Jesus in Boston Province established Fairfield University in 1942. In our early years, many of our students were young men of Irish descent who could not find admission to other colleges and universities, and went on after their education at Fairfield to play a prominent role in the business and cultural life of the region and beyond.

Today, as a Catholic University in the Northeast, a large percentage of our current students are young men and women of Irish descent. All eight Presidents of Fairfield University have been of Irish descent, including the founding President, the Rev. John J. McEleney, S.J.

While supporting the parade as a celebration of the culture and traditions of the Irish people, Fairfield University supports diversity and the importance of openness and tolerance towards everyone in our community.

Meanwhile, Fairfield's student handbook states:

Fairfield University defines diversity in the broadest sense, reflecting its commitment to creating a more inclusive community that is reflective of the richly diverse global community of which we are part. Diversity encompasses not only racial, ethnic, and religious diversity, but also diversity of socio-economic contexts, cultural perspectives, national origins, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical ability, and educational backgrounds.

Fairfield did not comment on the criteria by which the University bases sponsorships.

Fordham University, Iona College, and Manhattan College did not respond to GLAAD's request for comment. However, each of the Universities have non-discrimination or harassment policies that include sexual orientation. (Policies can be found at the following links: Fordham, Iona College, Manhattan College.)

Given the Universites' ostensible commitment to non-discrimination, it's puzzling to see the institutions stand by the anti-LGBT policy of the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade. What's clear is that the Universities' own policies aren't being reflected in their sponsorships.

GLAAD will be contacting each of the Universities' LGBT student groups encouraging them to express their own concern to University officials.

Other remaining sponsors of the parade include Empire City Casino, C.I.E. Tours, and Ford Motors. Ford is the last major American corporation to support the discriminatory parade.

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