Stony Brook University prides itself on its diversity and receptiveness to all students. The school has a “plan for equality, inclusion and diversity” in which it claims that “The aim of this plan is to build on successes and address opportunities to take Stony Brook University to the next level in its efforts to enhance student, faculty and staff diversity and to build an inclusive community. Doing so will require an assessment of historical practices, a review of policies and processes and a connection to University-wide priorities and mission.”
The Stony Brook College Democrats, alongside Stony Brook LGBTA, House of SHADE and the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance (FMLA) are calling for Stony Brook University to remove Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle’s name from the school’s stadium immediately. If the university fails to remove LaValle’s name from our stadium, they are failing to practice what they preach.
On Jan. 15, 2019, Sen. LaValle became one of only four state senators to vote against NY State Assembly bill A576, which banned the use of conversion therapy specifically for minors in New York. His refusal to legislatively condemn this inhumane and barbaric form of torture is extremely troubling. Gay conversion therapy is a horrible practice that has no scientific standing and no place in our society.
In his statement, LaValle said: “I voted no on this bill because I strongly believe that trained medical professionals, who across the board have stated that the practice of conversion therapy is archaic and inhumane, should be determining misconduct, not elected officials.”
LaValle’s defense exposes the flaw in his argument. He himself acknowledges that medical professionals have deemed conversion therapy “archaic and inhumane.” How is it then justified to treat gay conversion therapy the same as legitimate medical practices that have scientific backing? Giving the torture of children the same weight as legitimate medical procedures is as offensive as it is illogical. Gay conversion therapy is a sick, twisted ritual that is a product of the bigotry — not a legitimate medical procedure. LaValle’s excuse for his vote is weak at best. Through this vote, he has again shown Stony Brook students that he is no friend of the LGBTQ community.
This is not the first effort to have the senator’s name removed from our stadium. In 2009, Stony Brook students requested his name be removed from the stadium after he voted against marriage equality. His record on LGBTQ rights is nothing to tout in his defense.
Having one’s name on a stadium is an incredible privilege, not a right. Although the senator claims to be personally opposed to gay conversion therapy, we refuse to waste time speculating what he might be saying at his dinner table. We care about how he uses his power. LaValle is not a benevolent donor; he sat on a committee responsible for allocating taxpayer money to public universities. Now, he has used his power to hurt the Stony Brook community. If his actions as a legislator got his name on the stadium, his actions as a legislator can get his name removed. One vote defending gay conversion therapy is enough to justify our request.
As students of a public university, we do not feel we should be obligated to turn our heads to such an offensive vote in fear of financial backlash. We have no plans to abandon our peers and our principles. We have no plans to abandon the LGBTQ community because it is inconvenient for us. Public officials are supposed to answer to the people, not vice versa. The students living on campus cannot vote LaValle out of office, but they can demand his name be removed from their home.
We do not equivocate on the issue of gay conversion therapy. We do not believe LaValle was justified in voting the way he did; his logic is insulting and fundamentally flawed. When it comes to the torture of children, complacency is inexcusable. When it comes to communities that are too oppressed to fight for themselves, complacency is an affirmation of their oppression. When LaValle voted against A576, he voted against Stony Brook University. The most important part of any university is its students. If you earn the privilege to have a building named after you, you have a responsibility to protect all of us. This is our school, our community, our home and our family. Please join us and sign our petition here.