When I heard about the walk-out on campus that was being sponsored by Haven, I wanted to go. However, I did not know if I would be able to go due to homework and other responsibilities. My friends convinced me that I needed to go, because the protest represented something bigger than any assignment I had due the next day.
Haven is a club for LGBTQ+ students at Seattle Pacific University, providing a space for community and inclusion amongst students who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or want to have conversations about sexuality. The walk-out protest that Haven sponsored stemmed from SPU’s statement on human sexuality, specifically its discriminatory attitude toward members of the LGTBQ+ community. Attending reminded me about the importance of being an active member of change in the community.
I was overcome with visceral emotions concerning the change that needs to occur at SPU. Our community is called to create an environment where every student, no matter their sexuality or gender, feels accepted and welcomed in a university that promises to support them.
While we were in front of the First Free Methodist Church shouting in unity, “No justice, no peace,” I was struck by the image we were creating.
The fact that we felt the need to fight in order to be heard, to disrupt in order to reconcile, made me wonder about how society has to choose confrontation for the sake of justice over the imagination of peace.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
Peace cannot be falsified; in the presence of silencing and turning blind eyes, any semblance of harmony is simply waiting to be disrupted.
Until SPU addresses its policies concerning discrimination against members of the LGBTQ+ community in the dorms, student life and the workplace on campus, we cannot hope to have a truly peaceful community.
SPU’s mission statement cannot help but look hypocritical until this issue are addressed, as we cannot hope to “engage the culture and change the world” if we cannot take steps to reconcile with members of our own community.
As a part of their policy, SPU will not hire a professor if they identify as gay. This goes to show how ignorant SPU’s policy is; putting such a high emphasis on one’s sexuality as a hiring metric makes me wonder what SPU is deciding to value in members of their community overall.
What has a greater impact, the quality of the education of SPU’s students or keeping a homophobic mission statement that holds back the rest of the world from moving toward equality and justice?
Unfortunately, this rating allegedly seems to come down to more of a question of dollars rather than principles. When I talk to other students and professors about the rules, they tell me the rules come from the people who dictate the priorities of the donors and other people that fund the school. These donors have homophobic ideologies that are harmful because they allow tolerance for bigotry.
However, the choice between inclusion and principle does not have to be binary. SPU can still stay true to its Christian identity while not making LGBTQ+ students feel like they are less important than the heterosexual students that go here.
Alejandra Diaz, a freshman at SPU, said, “I was not aware that SPU would knowingly discriminate against LGBTQ+ students when accepting admission. As a bisexual woman of color this not only puts me in an uncomfortable spot with my ethnicity, but also my sexuality at this PWI (Predominantly White Institution).”
Less understanding people at SPU often take the position that if certain students don’t like the community here, then they are free to leave. But they do not take into account that the students they casually dismiss have built lives and a home here on campus, same as them, in addition to having other tangible reasons for choosing to spend their college experience at SPU.
Students cannot just leave, the same way that we cannot just give up. What we can do is work on changing things for the better to make a more positive community for everyone, and truly start building an environment that is peaceful, not just silent.
The protest allowed me to see that SPU cannot continue to tell students to go and change that world, that they are capable of doing anything, yet simultaneously say that gay professors aren’t worthy of being hired here and that the rights and desires of LGBTQ+ students are less valuable or legitimate on campus.
As a community, we cannot hope to fulfill our promises to engage our culture if we refuse to engage with all of it, and we cannot hope to change the world until we start with change in our own environment.
I hope that others will take this inequality seriously, and that they will realize that though things like articles and protests may seem like they are small acts that create no real impact, they are the building blocks upon which fundamental change rests.