Provost responds to concerns over Board of Trustees decision to maintain hiring policy, Statement on Human Sexuality

Hartley maintains impartiality and reiterates lifestyle expectations for university employees and students

Carlos Snellenberg-Fraser, Staff Reporter

The room where the Board of Trustees typically meets in Upper Demaray hall under normal circumstances. (Marissa Lordahl)

In the aftermath of the Board of Trustees’ decision not to remove the Statement on Human Sexuality or the employee hiring policy, Provost Laura Hartley agreed to an interview to address the boards decision and the email she sent to students on Monday.

“The actual decision that the board announced on Monday in the employee forum, was not a decision about the Statement on Human Sexuality,” Hartley said. “It was instead a request to consider changing our hiring policies, particularly as it relates to conduct expectations for employees.”

“Faculty and staff are expected to refrain from sexual activity outside of marriage and same-sex sexual activity,” Hartley said.

Federal law states that an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of sex or marital status.

When asked about her personal views, she said, “Certainly I have personal views, but because of my role as an administrator and senior leader at SPU, it would be problematic for me to publicly share my personal views on this matter.”

Hartley explained that her role requires her to work with the community and with the board. Because of this, she says sharing her personal stances could interfere with the ability to work with the groups effectively.

“Especially right now as I am in this position of Executive-In-Charge. I am working in a space … that is between a board that has just announced a decision and a community that by and large disagree with that decision, and I have to work in good faith with both of those groups.”

Hartley said that her understanding was that revision and removal of the Statement on Human Sexuality was not a specific focus or question for the board in their consideration. She said that the board, to her knowledge, has not made a decision on the statement in any specific way.

In a transcript of the employee forum obtained by the Falcon, Cedric Davis, Chair of SPU Board of Trustees, said, “We have prayerfully reviewed SPU’s mission statement, statement of faith, and statement on human sexuality and reflected on SPU’s long-standing affiliation with the Free Methodist Church.”

Despite reviewing the Statement on Human Sexuality, the board chose not to address their decision on whether or not they would maintain the statement, and instead reaffirmed their decision to keep the employment policy related to human sexuality.

“After careful consideration and thoughtful review to remain in alignment with the board’s understanding of SPU’s statement of faith and to remain affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, the board declined to change SPU’s employment policy related to human sexuality,” Davis said.

The Board of Trustees’ vote, which included all 18 members, was done out of public view and was presented to the employee forum by the board’s chair, Cedric Davis. The board did not make public which or how many members of the board voted for or against removing the hiring policy.

Referencing student behavior in the email sent to students on Monday, Hartley explained that there are no behavioral expectations for graduate students regarding sexual activity, but that undergraduate students are prohibited from having sex or cohabitating outside of marriage.

When asked about on-campus resources for LGBTQ students, Hartley explained that there are none specifically for those students, instead referencing general campus-wide resources.

“We have a whole variety of clubs that support students in lots of different aspects of their identity and experience, and that includes Haven, for both LGBTQ students and their allies,” Hartley said.

Hartley wanted the SPU LGBTQ community to know that she recognizes the pain they have been experiencing in reaction to this decision.

“I do want our LGBTQ students who are impacted by this decision to understand that we in senior leadership know and hear their disappointment, and their pain, and their distress from this decision,” Hartley explained. “We are listening, we are paying attention, it is not our decision to make, but we are trying to stand in this place of support for them.”

Provost Hartley encouraged all students that experience any kind of unacceptable behavior to report it. She said that the administration wants them to report these incidents to the faculty and staff, or in a formal bias report.

“If we don’t know about the behavior, we can’t address it. And we can’t move the community to a place where all students feel supported and are able to succeed. And that is what we desire, is to be a place where students feel supported and are able to succeed,” Hartley said.