SPU makes it onto nationwide ‘worst list’

Campus Pride names SPU for the first time in its annual ‘Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth’ list


During the first week of fall quarter, students came back to see numerous pride flags put up by other students to show solidarity and support for the LGBTQ+ community. (Caitlyn Schnider)

An LGBTQIA+ advocacy group named Campus Pride published a list of 180 colleges and universities in the United States, including Seattle Pacific University, as being the “Absolute Worst Campuses for LGBTQ Youth” on Oct. 25. 



The annual list that has existed since 2015 deemed SPU for the first time to be among the ‘worst’ and ‘most dangerous’ campuses for LGBTQIA+ youth in the nation and referenced the class action lawsuit SPU was named in, Hunter v. U.S. Department of Education.


According to the Campus Pride website, the criterion for the list states that the university must have either received and/or applied for a Title IX exemption and/or demonstrate a “past history and track record of anti-LGBTQ actions, programs, and practices.”


Tracy Norlen, SPU’s Director of Public Information, issued a statement on behalf of the university administration.


“The Campus Pride list does not reflect the deep and intense efforts by SPU faculty and staff to care for our LGBTQIA+ community,” said Norlen. 


Affirm, an LGBTQIA+ advocacy group at SPU consisting of faculty, staff and students, issued a statement that expressed sadness about the university being listed. 


“For an institution that advertises our community as a place promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the name of Christ’s love, this sobering call from Campus Pride tells us in no uncertain terms how we have failed,” Affirm stated.  


There were also various messages written in chalk around campus that were alongside the pride flags. (Caitlyn Schnider)

The advocacy group was created initially by Emily Huff, Director of Field Placements and Clinical Faculty, to advocate and mobilize to end anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and culture at the university. The group was involved in the campus-wide response and criticism of the SPU Board of Trustees’ decision to not remove the Statement on Human Sexuality last school year. 



Affirm calls for a rebuilding of existing campus structures and the removal of what Affirm deems to be discriminatory university policies. The group also called on the university to create spaces where LGBTQIA+, BIPOC and AAPI people feel welcomed.



The appearance of the SPU campus on the ‘Worst List’ did not surprise all of the student body after the disturbance in nursing professor Jeaux Rinedahl’s case. For a year, students and faculty have been demanding changes in campus policies to reflect the SPU culture.


Isabel Bartosh, second-year history and museum studies student and publicist of Haven, an LGBTQIA+ affirming club on campus, expressed criticism of the environment and hiring practices of the SPU administration.


“You cannot be an ethical university if you refuse to hire people based on their sexuality, something that they have no control over and is a natural part of who they are,” said Bartosh. “I wish we were not on the list, but no matter how affirming the student body is as a whole, SPU is still a discriminatory institution.”


Bartosh hopes that this list brings attention to and leads to the removal of the various policies at SPU that have been criticized as being discriminatory. She renewed a call on the university administration to remove the Statement on Human Sexuality and to make an active effort to hire LGBTQIA+ professors. 

At this point, the decision is completely in upper-level SPU hands. We as students have been leading these conversations for decades; it is time for tangible policy change. In the meantime, I want to continue to create a space where students can celebrate their queerness,” said Bartosh.