Seattle Pacific University has found itself as the center of controversy when Jeff Jordan, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs/Dean of Student Life (and adjunct faculty for the SDA program at Seattle U. He co-teaches the Law class) announced that Haven, an LBGTQ group on campus, would no longer be able to reserve room space from the university.
This may not seem a big deal, however Haven has existed for four years, but has never officially been recognized as a club by the student government, due to disagreements about wording of the group’s Statement of Purpose. The administration has worked with the group in the past, but has decided to end the partnership. Club leaders (including the faculty adviser) see this move as “defining the club out of existence.” Because the group deals with alternative sexualities at a religious institution, they relied on reserving room space to provide safe spaces for discussion, out of the way of prying eyes. They believe they have been denied a safe space on campus for LGBTQ members.
The school newspaper wrote an article about the affair, which in turn got picked up by The Stranger, which is home to famed gay Sex Columnist Dan Savage, who has pioneered the fabulous It Gets Better project. It’s safe to say that The Stranger is extremely pro-gay, and they haven’t taken kindly to this statement. Eli Sanders, long time news writer and also gay, has encouraged readers to send letters to Jordan in attempt to change his mind, after saying that he did not have any comments for The Stranger. Some of the letters have been quite moving, some less so.
This is a bizarre intersection for me, because I disagree with the university’s action, and I am taking a class from the man who ostensibly is representing the University’s role in this fight. The article outlines some of the reasons the club lost its rights: uncommunicative with Jordan about revising their Statement of Purpose, not being an official club, so they are not entirely innocent of wrong doing. However, I’m a firm believer in LGBTQ rights, and I think that they should be supported where ever they choose to go to college, even if it is a religious institution. Their religion and their sexuality should not be incompatible.
But from a student development standpoint, at what point do you cave at public, but non-university pressure? If members of the surrounding community disagree with your decision and are writing you constantly, should you change it?
I have no idea. Do you?