Alumni of the university discovered the offending remarks when the looked at the description of a course called ‘SWK 314: Deviant Behavior’.
It reads: ‘Deviant Behavior focuses on the sociological theories of deviant behavior such as strain theory, differential association theory, labeling theory and phenomenological theory.
‘The behaviors that are primarily examined are murder, rape, robbery, prostitution, homosexuality, mental illness and drug use. The course focuses on structural conditions in society that potentially play a role in influencing deviant behavior.’
But when the university’s Gay Alumni and Allies group voiced their concern, the institution replied with a threatening email from its lawyer.
The American Psychiatric Association has removed homosexuality as an illness in 1973 and other similar bodies have done the same around the world.
The Human Rights Campaign notes categorizing same-sex attraction as ‘deviant’ has also been ridiculed for its falseness, by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association.
But Franciscan University however, still maintains it makes sense for them to consider it a ‘deviance’.
A university statement said: ‘Franciscan University follows Catholic Church teaching in regard to homosexuality and treats homosexual persons with “respect, compassion and sensitivity” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2358) while holding homosexual acts as “intrinsically disordered”.’
The university has also insisted that ‘deviant’ simply refers to ‘different from the norm’.
Elizabeth Vermilyea and Gregory Gronbacher had contacted the school officials to try to get the course description changed.
The university responded instead with an email warning them not to use the university’s name or logo in their activities via their attorney.
Gronbacher, a 1990 Franciscan grad student, in a radio interview asked: ‘What if you’re a gay student at Franciscan University? How are you going to feel if you’re sitting in that class and they’re putting you in the same category as murderers?’
In their press release The Franciscan Gay Alumni and Allies group said they worry having this kind of viewpoint taught in a college course would mean Franciscan graduates are less prepared when they head out in their careers.
‘Further concern must be raised that such classifications feed cultural biases and promote hatred for lesbian and gay individuals and runs counter to official Roman Catholic teaching on this matter,’ said the release.
National Public Radio (NPR) in the US reports this is not only just raising an issue with the alumni, but it also has the potential to cost the school its accreditation, in particular from the group which registers its social work program.
Stephen Holloway, director of the office of accreditation at the Council on Social Work Education, states there is a diversity requirement that includes sexual orientation in his organization’s accrediting standards.
He said: ‘The fact that homosexuality was identified in the course description as a deviant behaviour raises a flag.
‘Understanding diversity and difference and their dynamics in society is critical for social workers to be effective in working with diverse populations.’
This is not the first time that Franciscan has made headlines for controversies on its campus.