In 2009, Julea Ward, a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University, was removed from the counseling program after her refusal to counsel gay, lesbian or bisexual students about same-sex relationship problems.
Believing her dismissal from the program was a violation of her First Amendment rights, Ward sued EMU.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students at Saginaw Valley need not worry about being turned away by counselors, said Jennifer Ordway, director of the student counseling center.
“Our staff is very open-minded and non-judgmental,” Ordway said. “I think it would take a lot to turn a student down.”
Ordway explained that if a counselor is not comfortable dealing with a certain case, it would be transferred to another counselor.
Eddie Jones, assistant director of the student counseling center, stressed the importance of counselors putting biases aside.
He said that he believes that a counselor should serve as a neutral person that students can talk to without feeling judged.
“Students aren’t usually looking for a lecture,” Jones said. “They are looking for a confirmation or some type of clarity rather than more stuff to pile on.”
Mark Giesler, assistant professor of social work, said that not everyone is on the same page when it comes to beliefs. Students pursuing a social work degree (whether they are planning on pursuing counseling or not) are taught to look past their personal beliefs and look at what’s best for their client.
“You wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of age, race or gender, so we don’t justify discrimination of sexual orientation either,” Giesler said.
Living Proud is an organization on campus that educates students about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students through meetings and activities.
In the Student Life section of the SVSU website has a list of resources and contact information for LGBT students.
This list includes other organizations that can help LGBT students deal with other issues in their lives.
Among these programs is one sponsored by the University of Michigan called “Spectrum Center.”
This day-long program explores the biases that LGBT persons face each day. Although a date has not yet been set, U-of-M is expected to make the presentation during winter semester.
In July 2010, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled in favor of EMU, saying that Ward violated the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, which says that a counselor is not to discriminate or impose personal beliefs.
The case remains in the Court of Appeals.