Professor Rinedahl reacts to Board of Trustees announcement

Update on state of lawsuit and thoughts on Board decision

Aubrey Rhoadarmer, Staff Reporter

Nursing Professor Jéaux Rinedahl, who is currently engaged in a lawsuit with the university, claps while listening to testimonies given Friday night. (Marissa Lordahl)

After Provost and Executive in Charge Laura Hartley announced by email to students that the Board of Trustees would not change the school’s debated hiring policy at Seattle Pacific University Professor Jéaux Rinedahl was saddened, but not surprised.

To him, Hartley’s email sounded eerily similar to the statement SPU released in January when he initially filed his lawsuit against the school.

Rinedahl said he could see that they were trying to maintain neutrality, but said that the message felt very non-committal.

“It’s unfortunate that SPU can try to present it in a way that makes it sound like this is a great decision, or it’s a protected decision, or that it’s non-discriminatory, but we can all clearly see through it,” Rinedahl said.

Although Hartley’s email stated that there would be no change to expectations for students, many students at SPU were still shocked by the Board’s decision. Rinedahl said he felt incredibly sorry for the students who were hurt by the announcement.

“It must really be disappointing to have built a trusting relationship with your academic university, and then to kind of suddenly realize that your voice and your thoughts and what you bring to the school doesn’t matter,” Rinedahl said.

Professor Jéaux Rinedahl speaks in front current students, alumni, faculty and staff at the Candlelight Vigil. (Marissa Lordahl)

Over the past week, both University Ministries and the Student Counseling Center have opened their doors for drop in appointments, allowing students a space to talk and grieve. Rinedahl recognized that SPU was providing students these opportunities and believes that it is important for them to be doing so. Rinedahl attended and spoke at the candlelight vigil in Tiffany Loop on Saturday.

Professor Rinedahl stated that with this decision, the Board of Trustees had an opportunity to instigate important and vital change, but missed their chance.

“It’s sad that (the Board of Trustees) would say, ‘I don’t want to provide the opening for a variety of people who are affected by this, to feel that we are embracing all, that we love all, and that we cherish every single person that we have on campus and in our community’,” he said.

However, Rinedahl says he does not see this hiring policy staying in place for much longer. With the ever changing social and political climate in the United States, he believes that eventually, SPU will have to change its policies in order to continue as a university.

“Ultimately, it’s going to get more and more difficult to harbor feelings of discrimination that are threaded throughout an institution, because survival is going to get more and more difficult as we as a nation and as communities denounce the discrimination,” he explained.

The Board’s announcement came a few weeks after a lawsuit was filed against the United States Department of Education by 25 former students of Christian universities, in which SPU was mentioned. The lawsuit claims that these students were discriminated against due to their sexual orientation while attending these universities, which receive state funding and therefore can not maintain discriminatory policies.

Professor Rinedahl and his lawyer, Daniel Kalish, are aware of this lawsuit and are monitoring it as it goes on.

“I’m really glad to see that people who feel that they’ve been wronged through the department of education are able to come forward. And if there’s some amount of support that we can offer for each other that we do so, because it is a similar situation,” Rinedahl said.

The lawsuit that Rinedahl brought against SPU in January is being processed through the King County Superior Court. Currently, SPU and Rinedahl’s team are in the phase of exchanging information.

“We are now at the process of discovery,” Kalish explained, “Discovery allows us to ask questions, take depositions, and allows them to ask questions, take depositions.”

The trial is currently scheduled for January of 2022.

On top of the lawsuits filed over the past few months, the Board of Trustees decision has left students, faculty, and staff reeling. Rinedahl grieves with them all, but knows that this setback can not stop him from standing up for what he believes is right.

“I’m disappointed and, quite frankly, I’m heartbroken. But I don’t have time to be angry,” he said.