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Newman University students form a group to support the Catholic school’s LGBTQ community.

Newman University student Ruben Lerma has spoken out on the complex difficulties of being gay in a conservative educational institution. To his surprise, students of the Wichita, Kansas private Catholic university have gathered together to support LGBTQ students, even though Catholic teaching limits sex to married heterosexual couples.

Newman University, for all its conservativeness, is progressive on other fronts. According to Ruben Lerma, although his grade point average is 4.0 and his ACT marks more than 30, he failed to qualify for financial aid as he was not a citizen of the United States. For the university, there was no problem of him being an immigrant. The educational institution offered him an almost complete tuition scholarship every semester. He is asked to pay a measly $2,000 for the $23,000 bill. This was his principal reason to choose to attend Newman University.

Lerma worried at first about being gay in a Catholic University. This was not unfounded. He has suffered years of depression due to being gay at his North High School. He has since learned to trump his depression, made possible with Gay/Straight Alliance support. The problem was the university did not have a support group and not always a safe place for a gay person. He overheard a number of his fellow students saying gay people must go to hell and gay marriage legalization will lead to gays getting married to animals. A few of his college mates pointed out to quite a number of students who hate gay people. He finally made his concerns known at a public forum during his junior year.

Increasing interest among the university students to recognize the diversity of the school spurred the educational institution to form a committee so the LGBTQ group can be planned. The committee conferred in the summer and also during the fall of 2016. The model used is inspired by the one at Notre Dame. The university's progressive stance is not only restricted to LGBTQs. It has also kickstarted returning the institution's Black Student Union, adding a club to support Asian students and hiring a diversity coordinator.According to Clark Shafer, the spokesman for Newman University, the institution has always had the utmost concern for all the students. Prior to making this “Pastoral Plan” public, Newman contacted all important donor and alumnus and got their approval for upholding the Catholic values of the school.

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