Protests proceed

Public demonstrations continue following board decision

Protestors proudly hold their signs as students, staff and faculty walk out of class and into the sit-in. (Sydney Lorton)

Following Seattle Pacific University’s Board of Trustees decision to retain the current sexual conduct guidelines on May 23, the SPU community is speaking out and sitting in.

The decision comes after years of controversy and discussion over the university’s discriminatory hiring practices and lifestyle expectations, with ex-adjunct nursing professor Jeaux Rinedahl’s 2021 lawsuit sparking new outrage over SPU’s discriminatory policies. 

On May 24, students gathered to demand change. Inside the second-floor of Demaray Hall, students organized a sit-in outside of Interim President Pete Menjares’ office. Senior music therapy major Leah Duff explained the sentiment behind the demonstration. 

“The thought behind the sit-in is that we’re tired of them trying to just get things to quietly go away,” Duff said. “We’re here to call attention to ourselves, we’re here to really say, like ‘we’re here, we’re not leaving, you can’t get rid of us that easily, try as you might.’”

After addressing the protesters, Menjares expressed pride in the SPU community’s efforts.

“I wanted to be sure to commend the students, and commend them for their bravery, their courage, their willingness to advocate for their fellow students and the staff and faculty, and also to acknowledge that the decision that the board made and announced on Monday was disappointing, and change, they’re advocating for change, but change takes time,” Menjares said.

Discussions surrounding LGBTQIA+ rights are not unique to the current generation of SPU students. Kerri Gibbard Kline, an SPU Alumni from the class of 2008, attended the protest with their two children, both of whom were holding their own signs. 

“I showed up today because I want to make sure that our current students feel support and love from alumni who have walked this path before. and to share a bit of the history of the fight from my era back in the early 2000s,” Gibbard Kline said.

Gibbard Kline was part of the group that created the LGBTQIA+ group Haven in 2007.

“In the spring of 2007 [Haven] applied through the official process with ASSP to become an official club, and they accepted our application and gave us official club status,” Gibbard Kline said. “Shortly thereafter, administration came over the top of ASSP and rescinded that official club status from Haven, the fight continued for 7 years until they became an official club in 2014.”

Sophomore theater education major Lia Harper shows her Bisexual and LGBTQIA+ flags and homemade sign. (Gabrialla Cockerell)

Despite progress made by the SPU community, many still feel as though it is not enough. Sophomore theater major Hannah Peek expressed her disappointment in the university. 

“I am at SPU because I am a missionary kid, I am an international student, I could have chosen to go anywhere in the world and I chose Seattle,” Peek said. “I chose Seattle and I chose SPU because I thought that it was an affirming and progressive Christian place, and that, unfortunately, is not what I found.”

Peek, like many, believes the university is not moving in the right direction.

“I am here today because I think that what I deserve and that what this campus deserves and what its students and faculty deserve is a place that is progressively Christian and that is lovingly Christian, and that will start to love its students and start to accept its students and represent students and its faculty,” Peek said. “That is what I am here to do and I am here to fight for, because I think it’s what all humans deserve.”

To allow for conversations to continue, the university has invited students and faculty to Royal Brougham on Thursday, May 26 at 11 a.m. to talk to the board members face to face. 

“I wanted to encourage them to come on Thursday when we will have a significant number of board members in attendance on campus that want to meet and hear the concerns and the questions of the students so they can answer them directly,” Menjares said.

As outrage continues past the Board of Trustees decision, the future of the university remains unknown. 

“As you are facing intense harm, hatred, homophobia, transphobia, as you are facing a culture of oppression and silence, remember that who you are is not dependent on anything that is going on at SPU,” Gibbard Kline said. “Who you are as an individual as a human, your dignity can never ever be even touched by anything happening here, and I encourage people to find others who affirm their inherent dignity and band together in solidarity in that.”