October 6, 2000
Dear Viterbo Community:
Viterbo University received notification of the receipt of a $5,500 grant from the La Crosse Foundation’s Building Bridges Program in the late Spring. The funds were to be used to underwrite expenses associated with the Theatre Department’s Black Box production of Splendora and the Sexual Diversity Awareness Week Symposium scheduled for November 8-15.
A broad-based committee was formed comprised of Viterbo faculty, administrators, students, and representatives from the La Crosse community. This group met frequently during the past several months to plan a comprehensive program featuring several keynote presentations, and panels on the cultural, social, and spiritual aspects of the symposium in addition to the production of Splendora.
The purpose of sponsoring this symposium on sexual diversity can be found within the mission statement developed by the planning committee. It states:
"The mission of this awareness week on sexual diversity is to provide a safe, educational and supportive environment that promotes meaningful dialogue, open communication, understanding, respect and greater appreciation among the sexually diverse members of our communities. Reflecting Viterbo’s mission to provide a liberal arts education which is rooted in the values of human dignity and respect for a diverse world, the forums scheduled throughout this week-long event will invite participants to consider such topics as sexual orientation, homophobia, and heterosexism from a variety of perspectives and viewpoints. It is our hope that this experience will allow us the opportunity to build bridges of understanding and respect within these communities and invite us to celebrate the diversity that defines and enhances our human experience."
Recently, it has become evident that the activities associated with this week have generated extremely strong reactions that have raised serious concerns among the event planners.
Consequently I have been in conversation and consultation with members of the President’s Cabinet, the planning committee members most directly involved in the symposium, and members of the Theatre Department (Sr. Jean Moore, Vice President of Student Life; Jack Havertape, Academic Vice President; Pat Kerrigan, Director of Marketing and Communications; Paul Sannerud, Dean of the Fine Arts; Fr. Tom O’Neill, Director of Campus Ministry; Susan Rush, Theatre Department Chair and Splendora Director; Dean Yohnk, Viterbo Bridge Builder contact).
The group was unanimous in its determination that given the existing climate, Viterbo could no longer fulfill the mission as stated in the grant proposal—that is: "to provide a safe, educational and supportive environment that promotes meaningful dialogue…." Therefore, in full consultation with this group, I am announcing the decision to cancel the production of "Splendora" and the activities of Sexual Diversity Awareness Week, and to return the grant to the La Crosse Foundation’s Building Bridges Program.
I regret that we are unable to move forward with our original purpose. This cancellation is no doubt disappointing to many. I, however, want to assure our students that we will do everything within our means to provide the kind of meaningful academic, developmental, and spiritual activities that all of us have come to expect here at Viterbo University.
Viterbo’s fine theatre department will continue to stage a wide range of dramatic works of recognized artistic or literary merit. This includes providing the members of our audiences as well as students with experiences which encourage and challenge us to consider and reflect upon the fullest possible spectrum of human actions, thoughts, philosophies, beliefs, values, prejudices, and diversities.
Finally, I wish to express my support and extend my sincere empathy to all the committee members who have given unselfishly of their time and talents over these past several months to a program intended to reduce hate for our fellow human beings. I understand and feel the hurt of those involved.
I thank those consulted for their support in this most difficult decision. While this is not the decision of one person, as President, I assume the responsibility for the decision.
Viterbo has remained viable through many disappointments and challenges over its 110-year history. It will continue to do so now and in the years ahead. May the good Lord bless our university community at this significant juncture.
William J. Medland, Ph.D
Viterbo University President