Though it is summer and the Baylor University campus is quiet, conversations about inclusion continue.

Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unaffiliated student group that has applied for a charter as an official Baylor student organization, recently wrote a letter to the Baylor Board of Regents asking it to step in on the group’s behalf. Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman said the requests of the regents are still being considered, and the university has no statement at this time.

Hayden Evans, an officer with the group, wrote the letter.

“We ask that the Baylor Board of Regents adopt policies to ensure that LGBTQ+ students can organize and assemble as official student organizations, like the more than 350 other student organizations that are presently recognized on campus,” the letter states. “We also ask that the Regents empower Baylor President Linda Livingstone to ensure that these policies are equally and equitably applied.”

The letter goes on to ask that the regents officially prohibit staff and counselors from endorsing any form of conversion therapy, implicitly or explicitly.

Evans said the group, formerly known as the Sexual Identity Forum, has tried multiple times to complete the chartering process. Members are now directly asking the regents to either make a new policy, change the university’s statement on human sexuality or agree to meet with the student group at the regents’ next meeting. The group sent a similar letter asking for a meeting with the regents ahead of the board’s June meeting but was denied because it is considered an outside group by the board.

An open letter penned by Baylor alumni Skye Perryman, Jackie Baugh Moore and Tracy Teaff in April calls for Baylor to start officially recognizing LGBTQ student groups. The letter went on to receive more than 3,200 signatures from supporters with Baylor ties. The authors of the letter subsequently launched a website, bubearsforall.org, as a way to “ensure that no Baylor student, faculty member, staff member, or alumnus is discriminated against or treated unfairly as a result of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“The response and energy behind this movement is inspiring and remarkable,” the three said in a statement. “We will soon be formalizing ways that the more than 3,200 members who have signed the letter and the many others who have contacted us individually can take additional actions to help achieve justice for all Baylor students.”

They also cited multiple instances of student groups seeking chartered status throughout the years, including Baylor Freedom in the early 2000s.

“Although the decision to approve an organization is generally thought to be an operations decision, it is clear that at Baylor the board of regents is the final authority regarding this particular decision,” according to their statement. “So with great hope the students have now reached out to the board of regents.”

Evans said recent events have shaped the way LGBTQ students and allies see the university. Last semester’s visit by Matt Walsh, a blogger critical of the gay rights movement, was met with outcry and a petition to cancel the event. Baylor President Linda Livingstone defended the decision in a campuswide email April 4.

“As I reflect back over the past several weeks, our campus has struggled with demonstrating Christian hospitality while expressing different viewpoints,” Livingstone wrote. “We know that once our students graduate, they will need to be equipped to handle difficult conversations or to face issues they may not agree with or that challenge our Christian beliefs.”

Evans said the university’s response to a more recent incident differed. Baylor’s spring commencement included a benediction delivered by Dan Freemyer, in which he addressed climate change, privilege and race. The benediction caught criticism from some conservative websites, including The Blaze.

Shortly after the commencement, Baylor President Linda Livingstone released a statement on the benediction.

“Like many of the attendees at one of the May 18, 2019, Commencement ceremonies, I was caught off-guard during the Benediction as this prayer is intended to focus on the graduates as they leave Baylor University and make a mark around the world, not to communicate any kind of political statement,” she wrote. “The prayer was not scripted by anyone within the University, and I am disappointed that it has distracted from a special moment for our graduates and families attending Commencement.”

Evans said his group and other students he has discussed the matter with took issue with the variation in the university’s responses to the two events.

“The university was very, very quick in distancing itself from the benediction,” Evans said. “In the very recent past, they’ve taken no steps … in distancing themselves from the Matt Walsh speech and inviting him to campus.”

He said for the members, the university’s response felt deliberate.

“It sends a message of ‘Are we welcome at Baylor?’ ” Evans said. “They have systematically, in the past and now, silenced voices they disagree with and that disagree with their biblical interpretation.”

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