Protest on the stairs

Emotions run high during most recent protest for LGBTQIA+ representation

Audrey Oscarson, Staff Writer

Many students, faculty, and staff members stood outside of Upper Gwinn where inside, the Board of Trustees were holding a meeting regarding the university’s controversial lifestyle expectations and the statement on human sexuality. (Audrey Oscarson)

A number of students stood outside the windows of Upper Gwinn on May 19 holding signs and flags. Inside, the Board of Trustees deliberated, behind covered windows, about the controversial issue of the lifestyle expectations and the statement on human sexuality.

Word of the protest was spread at the protest on May 17 through slips of paper and word-of-mouth. After meeting in Martin Square at 11 a.m. and handing out flags, posters and noisemakers, the group moved to the window closest to Upper Gwinn.

The group of students stood outside for a little under an hour, chanting slogans and sharing their own experiences with Seattle Pacific University’s policies regarding human sexuality.

Leah Duff is a senior in the music therapy program and was one of the organizers of the protest.

“Our ask is for disaffiliation with the Free Methodist Church since they have threatened to disaffiliate if we change the homophobic hiring policies at SPU and the statement on human sexuality,” Duff said.

After about an hour of the protesting, the group had begun to disperse, and the board members that were present inside the building and not participating virtually came out to talk to students. 

Board member Deborah Wilds was the first to address the students and acknowledged that the board is trying to listen to the students.

(Sharli Mishra)

“We love you and we’re trying to make decisions that we believe will be best for the campus,” Wilds said. “We wanted to come out and acknowledge your presence and acknowledge the concern.”

The conversation however quickly became emotional, as students shared their experiences of harm and discrimination that happened in the hands of the school and church. 

Many students, including Sierra Leibovitz, a junior sociology and social justice and culture studies major, were frustrated that this issue still hasn’t been resolved.

“I’m really frustrated at the fact that we are in a place with the institution where they’re picking this issue as a hill to die on when we don’t need to have a statement on it,” Leibovitz said. “The fact that they’re taking a specific stance on this one thing is just absolutely ridiculous.”

Lou Bridges, a second year history museum studies major and a queer disabled student, was also frustrated that this conversation took such a long time to happen.

“It’s extremely frustrating and horrible that even as we’re having this discussion outside on the steps, members of bard are saying, ‘yeah we need to be working and talking and collaborating,’ but we’ve been trying to do that for years,” Bridges said. “It should not have taken this long for these conversations to happen, and the only reason it did finally happen is that we literally camped out their meeting.”

(Shianne Heeraman)

Many of the students who attended were Christian members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and a lot of conversation focused on how a Christian university should approach the issue, with many students believing that the current policies are not in alignment with Christ.

“We are pushing people farther and farther from God. If it wasn’t for other queer Christians who cam to SPU before me looking back to me and saying, ‘no, you can be queer and you can be Christian’ I don’t know where I would be,” Leibovitz said.

Last week, it was announced that the Free Methodist Church made an announcement that any Free Methodist University that changes their hiring policies will no longer be able to be affiliated with the Free Methodist Church, prompting many to call for SPU to disaffiliate with the Free Methodist Church. However, not even the board members know what disaffiliating would mean for the university.

“What the church would do to SPU – we haven’t had those discussions,” Wilds said. “We haven’t explored it as an option.”

The board is set to make their vote on Friday, May 20.