Non-discrimination policy creates disadvantage for LGBTQ+
By Kassidy Crown
Seattle Pacific University’s Associated Students of Seattle Pacific elections have come to a close, and with that comes a new group of student leaders and new policy initiatives.
One such policy topic is the LGBTQ+ population on campus and the impact of policy on their community.
As policy shifts across the nation and in Seattle itself, we can see that SPU, as a Christian university, is not as readily inclined to shift its views towards that of the liberal city it finds itself in.
The reluctance to acknowledge SPU’s queer population not only alienates current students from their peers and SPU itself, but also reflects poorly on SPU.
As Emilia Sunderland, one of the members of Haven’s leadership, mentions, “If SPU truly is a Christian school that wants to preach reconciliation toward minority groups, I find it hypocritical to disregard us or treat us as lesser than our heterosexual counterparts.”
SPU’s non-discrimination policy says nothing about queer or transgender students, essentially offering them no protection from potentially dangerous or toxic situations.
The fact that SPU denies discrimination protection for its LGBTQ+ students leads to students feeling like they must hide their true identities in fear of discrimination, and the lack of protection if discrimination were to take place.
Hiding one’s identity is not only hurting the students, but also the school.
By not recognizing its LGBTQ+ population, the school is limiting its diversity and alienating students. “Alienation [or] forcing students to keep their sexuality or gender identity as a secret takes away from the diverse culture here,” Sunderland states. Had Sunderland not heard about Haven, the campus’s club supporting LGBTQ+ students, from a previous student, she is not sure if she would have felt safe enough to attend Seattle Pacific.
Queer relationships, also not recognized formally by SPU, raise questions considering policy.
For example, what extent do floor hours play in such relationships, or how can one gain education on safe sex for a homosexual couple?
Sunderland explains how floor hour policy changes would only end up in “nothing but distrust and fear of the dorms,” and that because the LGBTQ+ population is so small, it would not make sense to target “a select few LGBT+ kids in the dorms.”
The lack of representation of queer relationships means a lack of ability to receive the same resources that a heterosexual couple may be able to access, as well. While Sunderland does admit that the health and counseling center are affirming to LGBTQ+ students, she does note that she has not read anywhere in print that these services are accepting of LGBTQ+ students, she only knows it through word of mouth.
“It makes me heartbroken to think about any students who desperately needed help but weren’t sure where to go, weren’t sure if going to the counseling center would help or make the problem worse” Sunderland explains.
Furthermore, Seattle Pacific University’s choice in not including LGBTQ+ students in their non-discrimination policy alienates potential LGBTQ+ students.
Sunderland says that she often sees high school seniors asking Haven about member’s experiences at SPU as LGBTQ+ students.
Several future ASSP members hope to fix the issues of ignoring the LGBTQ+ population by advocating discussions and better understanding of this population on campus.
One such officer, Nathan Samayo, is advocating discussions with administration to develop a better discussion towards experiences students may find “harmful, unwanted, and ‘othered,’” as stated by Samayo himself in his candidate overview.
With these efforts underway by ASSP candidates, it is possible that we can see some major changes in SPU’s policy. Or, if nothing else, a discussion can be opened between administration and ASSP aiming to recognize the validity of LGBTQ+ students on campus, and their inclusion within the non-discrimination policy.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love SPU and am so happy to be here, but that love means I want it to be better,” Sunderland concludes. “I want future members of the LGBT community to feel safe on this campus.”
By recognizing LGBTQ+ students, SPU will be not only spreading Jesus’ message of loving thy neighbor, but also encouraging potential students to come to a school where they do not feel scared to be who they are.
Kassidy is a sophomore studying psychology.