Faculty sends swift rebuke to Board of Trustees

Professors respond to decision to maintain Statement on Human Sexuality

Carlos Snellenberg-Fraser, Staff Reporter

Communication professor Dr. Matthew Bellinger dresses up in rainbow suspenders. Bellinger wore these suspenders to his classes on Monday in support of the LGBTQ community after the board of trustees decided to uphold the statement on human sexuality. (Courtesy of Dr. Matthew Bellinger)

Dismayed. Frustrated. Ignored. Hurt.

These are the words that have been used to describe the array of emotions after the Board of Trustees voted to maintain the Statement on Human Sexuality on Monday.

Carlene Brown, the Faculty Chair of Senate, was stunned and hurt by the Board of Trustees’ decision to not remove the Statement on Human Sexuality.

“It feels like yet another dismissive act, that ignored the voices of many in a community they should be holding in trust … to be dismissive like that has been painful. I am first and foremost a faculty member, and my student’s grieving hurts me. It is not just a few, I am talking numbers.”

Brown explained that as head of the faculty senate, the pain of her students and of the staff has been an uneasy thing to hear in the wake of the board’s decision.

“This is traumatic, this is not just a business decision of changing an academic calendar that we have to adjust to.”

She said that this decision is not just one that is hurtful and an attempt by outsiders to define individuals, but that she personally relates to the pain that the board’s decision has inflicted on the SPU community.

“This is personal, it goes to one’s humanity, this goes to outsiders defining people, of who is in and who is out. As an African-American woman, I know what that means. It is a deep hurt, and the board just landed a decision and walked away, and left us to deal with it.”

She described the concern over the mental health impact on the individuals within the community and wanted to assure students that this was a decision made by the board, not the faculty, staff, and administration.

“There is a place for all of us at SPU. What the board missed as an incredible opportunity, as a Christian university, was to model the way. That is the point the faculty was trying to get across.”

Brown has called for a special session of the Faculty Senate on Thursday to address the board’s decision.

Dr. Sara Koenig, professor of biblical studies explained that of the 97% of faculty that engaged in a poll at the employee forum meeting on Monday, 75% were against the board’s decision to maintain the statement on human sexuality.

“I am surprised that with such an overwhelming faculty sense of wanting to remove this, that they still didn’t remove it.”

She explained that the impact on SPU’s LGBTQ community could have detrimental effects on those individuals and on the greater community of Seattle.

“SPU is one of the larger Christian institutions, and I’m concerned about how this message is going to be portrayed for the city, if this will be another example of Christians being discriminatory.”

Dr. Koenig said that the faculty are discussing a potential anonymous vote of no-confidence of the board.
She said that from her perspective, she believes the faculty intends for SPU to remain a Christian university, but that they are discussing what that means in the context of supporting the LGBTQ+ individuals in the community as an ecumenical university.

“We are an ecumenical Christian institution. Many people go to churches that are open and affirming churches, and if we really believe that, then there should be an allowance for that, in addition to people who have more traditional views of sexuality as well.”

Dr. Koenig believes there are more conversations to be had and said.

“What does it look like for us to be a Christian institution, and uphold these elements of our statement of faith.”

Dr. Matthew Bellinger, assistant professor of communication, explained that the SPU community, in this process, had followed a democratic process to urge the board to overturn the Statement on Human Sexuality.

“This is no longer a situation in which individuals know their own feelings about the statement, but don’t know what others in the community think. At this point, we all know the will of the SPU community on this matter,” Dr. Bellinger said.

He explained that this decision by the board calls into question their legitimacy within the SPU community.

“So when the Board brings this decision to us—a decision that is opposed to the will of the SPU community—the Board is now faced with a new problem: a deficit of legitimacy in the eyes of this community,” Bellinger said. “In other words, the Board’s decision is not a resolution of this matter; it is an escalation. What began as differences over hiring policy has escalated into debates over the legitimacy of SPU’s current governance structure.”