University settles sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit

Santi Quiroga Medina, News Editor

Seattle Pacific University announced it has settled its ongoing sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit outside of court. 

In January of 2021, adjunct nursing professor Jeaux Rinedahl filed a lawsuit against SPU, claiming he was denied a full-time position due to identifying as a gay man. 

The lawsuit sparked community outrage, resulting in multiple protests, a letter of lamentation, a vote of no confidence from faculty and staff in the Board of Trustees and more in the months following the lawsuit’s filing. 

Rinedahl’s team would then file a second lawsuit on Oct. 27, 2021 focused on an SPU job listing for a full-time nursing professor position. The listing was posted in August of 2021, and SPU claimed it was an error. However, it remained published even after Rinedahl was informed of the supposed mistake. This led Rinedahl to believe he was once again being denied employment due to his sexuality.

However, according to an email from SPU Interim President Pete Menjares and court documents from the King County Superior Court, both parties agreed to settle the issue out of court in what the documents describe as a “confidential agreement” on May 2, 2022.

Court documents indicate that both parties agreed to the settlement on the condition that the Summary Judgment Order ruled on Jan. 5, 2022 be vacated, meaning that oral ruling cannot be used as precedent in any future lawsuits against SPU. 

Court documents also reveal that Rinedahl’s team is dismissing this case “in prejudice,” meaning the same issue cannot be brought back into court by the plaintiff.

SPU provided a statement on the matter at hand.

“Seattle Pacific University and Mr. Rinedahl have agreed to settle the lawsuit out of court. SPU has no other statement about the case.”

The Falcon reached out to Rinedahl’s team for a statement but was not able to receive a comment.

Freshman business administration major Naomi Smith was aware of the lawsuit before entering SPU, and says the settlement was to be expected.

“I’m not surprised that the case settled,” Smith said. “Most cases settle out of court; this one is no different.”

Senior nursing major and Associated Students of Seattle Pacific VP for Intercultural Affairs, Reena Sidhu, expressed mixed emotions about the announcement.

“I’m glad that Rinedahl can get some sort of closure from something that is so crappy to happen to a professor that loves this community,” Sidhu said. “It being settled is kind of disappointing from a student perspective, because there is so much we do not know, and it leaves a lot to wrestle with and that is never fun.”

Senior English major Tobias Sednef expressed curiosity for what the settlement might mean for the university.

“I have not quite had the time to fully read and see what implications the settlement might have, but I wonder what this might mean for the future,” Sednef said. “A lot of students are protesting and having big discussions about the Statement on Human Sexuality and having interactions about those issues, so I am curious to see what happens now and how the Board is going to respond.”

The settlement comes at a time right after SPU’s LGBTQIA+ Work Group presented their findings to the Board of Trustees, after spending months deliberating and working towards a solution to the campus’ ongoing discussions and disagreements. The Board will meet on campus on May 18-20, and the work group still plans to announce their recommendations for the BoT to faculty, staff and students in upper Gwinn. The group will present to faculty at 3:30 p.m. and to students at 6:30 p.m. The meeting for staff will be on in Demaray 150 and streamed online at 11 a.m. on May 12.

Despite feeling disappointed, Sidhu hopes the community stays involved in the issues on campus.

“As a student leader, I encourage students to come to the working group meeting happening next Wednesday, and still be really involved. This can be disheartening and it is disappointing, but that does not mean there still is not work to do,” Sidhu said. “Hold space for that disappointment, but also hold space for so much more that can still happen, stay engaged.”