SPU students and faculty gather for candlelight vigil

SPU community comes together to support LGBTQ community

Perris Larson, Staff Reporter

Tiffany Loop was filled with students and faculty on Friday who came together as a community to share their anger, disappointment, and frustration toward the Board of Trustees’ decision to keep the Statement of Human Sexuality.

“We’re at a standstill. It’s not reflective of God, and that’s a huge thing for me,” said Taylor Schmidt, a student majoring in English and Visual Arts.

The decision to keep the statement had an impact on many students, and their grief and desire fueled the event through testimonies, mission statements, music, and prayers.

“It’s a space for the community to come and grieve,” said Leah Duff, speaking at the vigil. “I know for me, I need to be around my people and this is traumatic for queer students. You can’t be alone for that.”

Attendees were scattered all around the loop, sitting on picnic blankets and holding color-changing candles in support. The effect that the board’s decision made on students, especially those who identify as LGBTQ did not go unnoticed by staff and faculty.

“The presence of staff and faculty is really comforting,” said second year Reena Sidhu, who also spoke at the event.

Associate Professor of Nursing Vicki Aaberg attended the event along with many other members of staff.

 “I am concerned for the people that are impacted by this directly. But I do hope that this will make a difference,” Aaberg explained.

After an opening prayer,  ASSP President-elect and the current Vice President for Intercultural Affairs Laur Lugos addressed the people gathered.

“We are here because we want queer professors,” Lugos said. “We deserve to have professors who are able to come out.”

To express their exhaustion and anger with the university’s decision and treatment toward queer students and faculty, Duff read aloud a heated and very emotional open letter.

“To see the place I look up to say they didn’t want me, is heartbreaking. SPU, you broke my heart,” Duff exclaimed. “My question to the Board of Trustees is this: Where do you get off? My second question is: How can I help you get there?”

Throughout the event, expressions of faith and power were present through songs that everyone was encouraged to sing along to.

Music professor Christopher Hanson sang “Beautiful Things,” by Gungor and Duff sang “Power” by Bastille accompanied by Jessica Wetter on the bass. 

Nursing Professor Jéaux Rinedahl, who filed a lawsuit for sexual orientation discrimination against SPU in January, also attended.

“Turnout is absolutely amazing and it shows what people want. It shows that their belief system is different from the board of trustees,” Rinedahl said.

Close to the end of the vigil, ASSP CORE members highlighted their demand that the Statement of Human Sexuality be removed by May 1, and gave a list of action items if it is not, including publicly condemning the university, students taking a leave of absence in the fall, discouraging donations and notifying media outlets.

The vigil ended with a few meaningful words from Professor Rinedahl.

“This fight is bigger than me. This is a fight that Christianity is open to everyone; Christianity is not closed to homosexuals.”