Francisco González is proud of his education, but less so of his university’s views
Based on the premise that any private university is entitled to exercise its right to academic and research freedoms – and, therefore, to take sides on public matters in order to maintain coherence in its institutional principles – I do not judge the Universidad de La Sabana for publicly expressing its stance on same-sex adoption issues in Colombia. However, it is another matter altogether that, as an openly gay professional who graduated from this higher education institution, I am not convinced by their research methodologies and “scientific” evidence which “prove” that homosexuality is a disease.
The Universidad de La Sabana is widely known in Colombia for having strong Opus Dei-based institutional beliefs as well as reputed academic programs. Although I never agreed with their official position on sexuality or religious matters, I strongly believe that students have the right to choose what they consider relevant to their professional education. And while their conservative and traditional family-based views were implicit in their teaching, students were always free to express their opinion about any issue in academic debates or discussions.
It is understandable that the Universidad de La Sabana is trying to reinforce its position on same-sex adoption, especially when the Constitutional Court of Colombia officially solicited its scientific stance; this issue of sexual diversity ultimately poses a threat to its strong family principles and foundations and, therefore, it has the right to defend its position as an institution.
Still, it is interesting that my alma mater is trying to prove that homosexuality is a disease, particularly when many members of its academic body and students are part of the LGBT community. Back then, I used to think, “do they secretly believe that we are sick?” However, I can say that I never experienced any sort of rejection nor received any negative comments about my sexual orientation at all, from anyone, throughout my university years. Also, I can say that my university never tried to indoctrinate me with its religious beliefs, although we students always knew what its position was.
It’s funny now to remember the sexual education elective course I took — offered to students from all academic programs except for Medicine—in which a professor of the Medical Faculty taught us that condoms were not a reliable defense against sexually transmitted diseases because they were not technically made for anal sex. The theory basically said that HIV has a smaller particle size than the pores of latex condoms, so it can leak through them. Scary, right?
It was more terrifying to believe that students were buying into that theory and then to see their even more terrified faces. The professor concluded that abstinence was the right answer: no sex, no pregnancy and no sexually transmitted diseases. This is where I say that it is the student’s responsibility to do their own independent research and build their own criteria because ultimately, the university is free to choose the theories it wants to teach.
All in all, I must admit that it did not come as a surprise to me when my university hit the news with such controversial statements. From a professional communications perspective, La Sabana did not do a good job in getting their point across, by allowing a Bioethics professor to take on the role of spokesperson. Also, it was not a wise move on their part to take the declaration back once the media backlash came and we all already knew what the game was about.
At this point, I don’t really care whether they believe I’m following an “unnatural” course of life or not. I owe much of my current professional success to my university education. I was one of those students who chose the Universidad de La Sabana based solely on academia, even when my family and some friends warned me about the supposed ideological and Opus Dei “brainwashing” I was going to experience. For now, it is the Universidad de La Sabana’s challenge to maintain its position without going against the tide and it is their students’ responsibility to develop their own judgement regarding these issues.
By Francisco González