Students protest Seattle Pacific A-LGBTQ recruitment policy

More than two weeks ago, Seattle Pacific University announced a decision by its board of trustees to support discriminatory recruitment policies against LGBTQ + individuals. After that the students occupied the administration building in protest. Two weeks later, they are still there.

The protesters plan to continue their position in the summer, relying on local students as well as alumni to keep up the pressure on the university to change its recruitment policy. And they note the support of faculty and staff members, including some administrators.

The Faculty Senate has issued a resolution to the Board of Trustees to withdraw its discriminatory appointment policy. The resolution was passed with more than 80 percent of eligible faculty members voting in favor.

But trustees remain the most resistant group to change এবং and the only ones who can reverse a policy that leads to a no-confidence vote on the 2021 board and protests in recent weeks.

Seattle Pacific University, which is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, states that “sexual experience between a man and a woman” means that “employees are expected to abstain from sexual behavior that, according to university policy, is sexual intercourse, extramarital sex.” And inconsistent with the university’s understanding of biblical values, including homosexuality. “

But students, faculty and alumni say the university has advanced over the years; It now welcomes LGBTQ + students, and they say it’s time for the board of trustees to develop with them. One complication, however, is that changing the SPU’s policy on LGBTQ + recruitment will eventually end its membership with the Free Methodist Church.

Policy and protest

In the face of criticism from all quarters, SPU trustees are not saying much about the decision to maintain the controversial recruitment policy.

Since the vote in late May, three people, including the most recent chair, have left the board of trustees. Two have resigned and another is reported to have left after his term expired.

“We want the SPU community to know that this was a thorough and prayerful discussion,” former board chair Cedric Davis said in a statement on the SPU website. “Although this decision has provoked a complex and heartbreaking response, the board made a decision that it believes is consistent with the university’s mission and statement of belief and has chosen to keep in touch with the SPU’s founding community, the Free Methodist Church USA. , As a key part of its historical identity as a Christian university.

Davis was among the trustees who left the board following a recent decision; He did not respond to a request for comment. The board is reluctant to explain how the individual trustees voted, and the SPU declined to make any member available for comment.

Kevin Johnson, a member whose term ended last month, reflected the decision in a LinkedIn post, noting that he did not agree with how the majority of SPU trustees voted on the appointment.

“While I respect each board member on an individual level, I do not agree with the decision to support the university’s policy on board appointments, especially for members of the LBGTQIA + community,” Johnson wrote. “I wholeheartedly stand for equality of all kinds and will always push for a community of love and inclusion. I am sending this message to someone who was once a minority, or seems to be excluded from a larger group at any level. Especially to the students, faculty and staff of SPU, I am by your side. I am sending you my love. “

This marks the second time in so many years that the SPU’s Board of Trustees has approved a recruitment policy that discriminates against LGBTQ + potential employees. The first example came in April 2021, following a lawsuit by Juix Rinedhall, a gay assistant nursing professor who sued SPU and claimed that he had been deprived of a full-time position because of his sexual orientation. The lawsuit was settled out of court last month, according to the university’s website.

April Middlezans, chair of the SPU faculty senate, suggested that Rinedhall’s lawsuit draw attention to policy, which has been “vague and confusing” over the years, he said.

“Three more reasons that explain why the question of LGBTQIA + recruitment has not been raised so far are: 1) the Code of Conduct and the statement on human sexuality have not consistently and prominently appeared as part of the recruitment process over the years, at least for faculty, 2) adders. Apparently the value of this behavior does not need to be maintained (because I do not understand) and 3) the strong ethnic / racial DEI efforts at SPU over the years have led many to make similar assumptions about the type and level of commitment to LGBTQIA +, ”Middlejans wrote in an email.

Rinedhall’s case sparked controversy on campus and forced trustees to reconsider their position, which eventually formed a 14-member working group in January to recommend policy. These recommendations were distributed in April, setting up the board’s latest vote.

Kevin Newhauser, a professor of sociology at SPU, was vice-president of the newly formed LGBTQIA + work group, which he said consisted of teachers, staff, trustees and administrators with diverse views. After considering what might happen if the university changed its appointments and how the decision would be financially effective, the group recommended that the board drop the policy.

“What we have argued is that the university has come out with a statement of assurance without changing the recruitment policy. We weren’t trying to tell the Conservatives, ‘The university is going to say you’re doing it wrong.’ What we were asking conservatively was to make room at the table for voices that disagreed with them, “said Newhasser.” That’s what we recommend. “

But, as of April 2021, the trustees voted to maintain the discriminatory recruitment policy, rejected the work group’s recommendation, and created a response on the SPU campus.

The students have been occupying the administration building since the May elections. Last week, the faculty senate approved the LGBTQIA + work group’s recommendations and passed a resolution calling for a change in recruitment policy on the question of trustees. The resolution further noted that a survey of faculty and staff conducted last year strongly supported the policy change.

Faculty members claim that the trustees acted improperly in their decision, violating a privacy agreement by leaking the LGBTQIA + workgroup’s recommendations to the Free Methodist Church. Prior to the leak, Newhauser said SPU would be able to change its policy and stay in a better position with values. However, once informed, the Free Methodist Church changes its policies, adding a new rule to prevent member organizations from hiring people who abuse education on sexual purity. Newhauser said the update means changing the recruitment policy to the SPU will now violate church rules.

SPU did not respond to a request for comment on church leaks.

Middlegens noted that the Free Methodist Church had “excessive influence on board decisions in both April 2021 and May 2022” in maintaining a discriminatory recruitment policy.

According to its bylaws, the SPU Board of Trustees must consist of one-third of the members of the Free Methodist Church. And on the current board, two members — whose LGBTQIA + workgroup documents are suspected of leaking to the church — also work on the Free Methodist Church Board of Administration, which then changes its policy to bar member organizations from hiring LGBTQ + individuals.

“What has been most troubling for the SPU community is the way these two trustees have used (or, I would argue, violate) the power of the church to influence the church, and we have been trying throughout the year to share this process. To resolve the current crisis, “said Middlejans.

Beyond an FAQ page explaining the statement and decision, the board also answered questions previously submitted in a town hall-style meeting with the university community. But students and teachers said the answers were vague and gave no real insight.

“The board tried to explain their decision to the Town Hall with the SPU community on May 26, but their answers were not very precise or satisfactory,” Middlejans said. “I do not think so. Rather, those on the board who voted to keep the policy simply cannot say exactly 1) how this policy is in the best interests of the SPU and 2) how it is compatible with a loving, welcoming Christian environment. “

Chloe Gillot, a graduate senior and protest organizer, said the board had offered very little in the way of interpretation, except that changing the policy would cost SPU’s affiliation with the Free Methodist Church.

But it is a sacrifice that he and the other students will gladly make.

“I am a Christian, and I do not believe that there is any basis for discrimination in Christianity, especially on the basis of sex,” said Gillot. “Also for me, I don’t want to see people use my faith and my religion to hurt people with weapons, and I think a lot of people at SPU share that feeling.”

Being out of touch with the Free Methodist Church will only result in minor financial changes for the SPU. The free Methodist Church community has provided a total of $ 324,000 in financial support to SPU over the past four decades, according to university statistics.

Ability to withstand change

The board has twice promised anti-LGBTQ recruitment policy in SPUs, leaving students behind not only through a position, but also through possible legal action. A GoFundMe page has already raised more than $ 23,000 to finance a lawsuit against the board of trustees.

According to the GoFundMe page, students plan to sue trustees for breach of trust responsibilities. They are asking to change the policy by July 1. If the board of trustees reverses the course, they will fund the SPU. They are also asking alumni to stop giving grants to the university.

David Nguyen, a lawyer and professor at the Indianapolis School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University, suggested that it was questionable whether students would win in court.

“I think, unfortunately, a court of law will probably say that the students are not the injured party in this case,” Nguyen said. “If anything, faculty members or staff who have been discriminated against by this policy are more likely to stand up for the cause than students.”

Discriminatory recruitment policy itself exists in a legal gray area, Nguyen added.

“The constitution regulates our government institutions; We have no access to the constitution in the private sector. And so, to a certain extent, our non-governmental organizations do not have to retain certain rights that our public institutions have to maintain unless they decide to grant those rights by contract through a faculty handbook or student and / or an employment contract, “he said. Said.

Although official and legal remedies may be an extension, students still have the power to protest and plan to sleep outside the administrative office, fueled by free donuts and other meals provided by faculty and staff.

“One of the great things about our community is that we are so united in our efforts,” said Lor Lagos, a graduate senior. “We plan to relocate the seating area in the summer, and alumni are willing to accept it and organize it and continue it in the summer, even if students have to go home, or graduate and get a job and things like that.”

But the appointment policy remains firmly in the hands of trustees who have twice endorsed it.

“Now it seems we’re stuck in a situation where the campus community-faculty, staff and students are committed to a vision of what SPU should be, and the board is committed to a different perspective,” Newhauser said. Given the board’s legal powers and authority to make such policy decisions, it is unclear what will transfer them because they do not seem to be responding to this huge expression of dissent, at least for now. “

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