An Open Letter to Seattle Pacific University Administration

Claire Conway, Guest Writer

Your halfhearted statement in response to the Rinedahl lawsuit is a reminder that LGBTQ+ voices are not valued at SPU.

Today, a friend of mine asked me whether my school is “worth going to even though it’s homophobic.” Apparently, he has been considering applying to a graduate program at SPU, and he has serious doubts after learning that the university refuses to hire openly gay professors. He works in outdoor education, and his current research focuses on LGBTQ+ youth and their relationships to nature. He told me that his main concern is not for himself or the way that he would be treated as a student at SPU, but for the integrity of his education.

Today, I could not defend my university.

This is my third year at SPU, and on the whole, I’ve been happy with my choice; the professors in my design program are respected, knowledgeable, and caring, and I enjoy being part of a diverse and talented community of students from all over the world. But it continually disturbs me to know that in the future, if I choose to become a professor (a path I have considered), I could be barred from teaching at my alma mater simply because I identify as LGBTQ+.

As a queer student, I am ashamed to attend an institution that will not employ a gay professor full time. Not only is this policy archaic, exclusionary and insulting to the dignity of every LGBTQ+ student (and professor) at Seattle Pacific University; it also sends a strong message to prospective students that while SPU will accept their tuition money, it does not welcome or affirm them as their whole selves. As part of a high-quality liberal arts education, I feel I should be able to see myself in the people I am learning from. Your homophobic policies deny students that chance, and I do not believe that your continued exclusion of LGBTQ+ people and voices from our community reflects the nature of a loving God. If there’s one thing my theology classes have taught me, it’s that faithful study of the Christian texts should lead us to challenge and expand our own understanding—and that Jesus turns no one away.
If SPU values its reputability as a university or the personhood of its LGBTQ+ students and staff, it’s time to rewrite these policies. As you choose how to respond in this moment, know that your queer students—current, future, prospective—are listening, and anxious to know whether there is truly a place for them at SPU.
Claire Conway