Two weeks ago it was made public that significant budget cuts are being made throughout the university. There is still a significant amount of information that has yet to be released about these cuts, but what we do know is that an unfortunate number of beloved additions to our faculty are being let go.
These decisions have been presented to many as a necessary response to the shrinking incoming undergraduate numbers and seem to be based on levels of seniority within each department. Indeed, it grieves us to know that our university is struggling to thrive. However, the lack of transparency in this overall process and the strategies that were used to make incredibly impactful decisions are significantly unsettling for many of us.
Many of the most recent faculty additions had been carefully selected through an intensive hiring process to ensure the diversification of our faculty. Leaders within the student body of Seattle Pacific University made it abundantly clear that we demand equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout all levels of the academic institution. Hiring efforts are a small but important step in this process because more diverse faculty and staff, campus-wide, are critical in creating safe spaces for students of varying intersectional identities to flourish. It is these hires, however, that have been the first to be cut – supposedly due to each member’s short time of involvement at SPU.
Weeks prior to this, certain student(s) elected to ASSP positions were accused of violating codes of student conduct. The accusations that led to one student’s premature termination from the ASSP core seem undeserving of such extreme actions. All that considered, it cannot be ignored that this individual openly identifies as queer. Many of us are troubled that this student’s alleged past choices are being used to prevent them from leading our student body in the upcoming year. While the sequence of events is upsetting, it is indeed difficult to tell whether discrimination played a role in the harsh discipline that ensued. It is most likely common knowledge that many students have committed worse offenses and received minimal disciplinary action.
While the announcement was startling, it was faculty who expressed concerns over the fact that violations of conduct and misdemeanors are outlined entirely separate from possible disciplinary actions. This lack of procedural continuity and transparency for student discipline leaves a disturbing amount of room for arbitrary discrimination against students. SPU still hasn’t made any changes to its anti-discrimination clause to protect LGBTQ+ students – in addition to these procedural issues, the overall lack of institutional inclusion of our LGBTQ+ population must be addressed.
We share this letter in order to draw attention to the various events that will require further conversation in the coming academic year. As students who uphold diversity as a critical part of our school’s Christian identity, we are disappointed with the administration’s general lack of commitment to protecting and supporting women, people of color, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized identities in the midst of difficult financial or disciplinary decisions.
We are troubled to see that those faculty who are more likely to welcome, engage, understand and defend our more vulnerable students are the ones who are in the most vulnerable positions themselves. Their loss of a job is a loss to the entire SPU community. We feel that efforts towards diversity have, so far, appeared half-hearted and easily reversed by tightened budgets. We are troubled by the overall lack of transparency throughout decision-making processes which impact us all. Overall, we are worried that our values as students and faculty alike aren’t being understood or taken seriously by the higher level decision-makers.
SPU is coming to a pivotal moment. It may be timely to start taking financial risks in favor of a radical commitment to diversity and inclusion. This will require transparency and institutional shifts of authority. The student body, faculty, staff and upper administration must continue these conversations so that SPU’s core values can be integrated throughout the entire institution in real and transformative ways.
To start, we as students hope to be invited more in to decision-making processes; to receive more transparency from administration overall; and to better recognize, affirm and protect LGBTQ+ students on our campus. As students, we are eager to partner in this work to transform our campus into the safe, inclusive space where more students can feel welcome in the future. We are optimistic that these effective, thorough, and enduring changes – while difficult in the moment – will only serve to better our school as a whole as it seeks new ways to successfully engage with the shifting world around us.
Allegra Namie, Senior, Sociology Major, Reconciliation Minor
Jess Sloan, Senior, Global Development Major, Reconciliation Minor, Ashton Hall Intercultural Coordinator, 2015-2016, SPU Justice Coalition, ASSP VP of Intercultural Affairs 2016-2017
Alexa Nava, Sophomore, Development Economics Major, Hill Hall Social Justice Director/Intercultural Coordinator, 2017-2018
Amanda Banks, Senior, Sociology Major, Reconciliation Minor, Student Ministry Coordinator, 2015-2016, Catalyst Ministries Programmer 2016-2017, Theology Student Union Core Team Member, 2017-2018
Andrea Diaz, Sophomore, Criminal Justice, Social Justice & Cultural Studies, Women’s Studies Major, Catalyst Education Programmer, 2018-2019
Ann Lam, First Year, Hill Hall Council PR Director 2018-2019
Anna Nicles, Theology Major, Theology Student Union Leadership Core 2017-2018
Aurelio Valdez-Barajas, First Year, Hill Hall Social Justice Director/Intercultural Coordinator, 2018-2019
Auriana Robin, Senior, Global Development Major, Catalyst Coordinator, 2017-2018
Bailey Alexander, Engineering Alumni, ASSP Treasurer, 2016-2017
Brian Pfau, Junior, Cellular and Molecular Biology Major, Haven President, 2016-2017
Caroline Beresford-Wood, Junior, SPU Theology Major, Group Core, 2017-2018, Group Coordinator, 2018-2019
Croix Boston, Senior, English-Creative Writing Major, Editor-in-chief of the Falcon Newspaper 2017-2018
Darian Burns, Sophomore, Urban Studies & Social Justice & Cultural Studies Double Major
Drew Cortez, 3rd Year Sociology & Cultural Studies Major, Haven Treasurer, 2017-2018
Eirene Smith, First Year, Hill Hall Council President, 2018-2019
Erin Rooney, Seminarian, Masters in Reconciliation and Intercultural Studies
Emily Hansum, Senior, Linguistics & Spanish Double Major, Tent City 3 Student Liaison 2017-2018
Emma Seely, Sophomore, Int. Sociology & Social Justice/Cultural Studies Double Major, Haven President 2018-2019
Hannah Evans, Senior, Psychology Major
Hannah Todd, Sophomore, Sociology Major, Psychology Minor, Social Justice Director, Emerson Hall 2017-2018
Jake Pettit, Senior, Theology Major, Reconciliation Minor
Jason Beutler, Senior, Theology Major, SPU Justice Coalition
Jenni Ferruzca, First Year, Social Justice & Spanish Major, Women’s Studies Minor, Intersectional Feminism
Club President, 2018-2019, Ashton Hall Social Justice Director, 2018-2019
Joe Cagley, Junior, CHA Senator & Haven Treasurer, 2018-2019
Joo-An Yoo, Sophomore, Accounting Major, Hill Hall SMC, 2017-2018
Joselyn Molina, Chemistry and Political Science Double Major, Urban Involvement Site Leader 2017-18, Urban Involvement Coordinator, 2018-2019
Kailee Liu, Sophomore, Sociology & Social Justice & Cultural Studies Double Major, Catalyst Ministry Programmer, 2018-2019
Katie Keck, Junior, Political Science & Women’s Studies, Student at Large – Committee for Student Clubs, 2016-2017
Melanie Campbell, Junior, Individual & Family Development Major, President of Students for Middle East Peace, 2018-2019
Melissa A. DEL RIO, General Studies BA in Theology, Sociology & Music, ASSP VP Intercultural Affairs, 2017-2018
Miguel Escobar, Seminarian, SPU Justice Coalition
Nathan Bennett, Senior, Psychology Major, Haven Co-Leader 2015-2016, SPU Justice Coalition, ASSP VP of Finance, 2016-2017
Skye Pestana, Junior, English Major, Vice President of Students for Middle East Peace, 2018-2019