Walking out to inspire action

Mondain Sesay

Featured image: Haven lead the walk out, starting at Martin Square. The protesters were filled with both students and faculty.

Haven, Seattle Pacific University’s LGBTQ+ club, organized a walkout on Tuesday to protest the administration’s current stance on policy that directly affects LGBTQ+ students on campus.

Earlier this school year, a petition was passed around to students, staff and alumni, calling for the administration to change the terminology in SPU’s Statement of Human Sexuality to be more affirming of students of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientation.

For Haven President Emma Seely, the statement “absolutely terrified me when I was first admitted to SPU, and I don’t want any more incoming or current students to have to deal with the anxiety or pain those policies cause. I don’t know a single LGBTQ+ person on campus who has not read the Statement on Human Sexuality and been overwhelmed with fear.”

The petition and proposal were passed through the student senate and it was then sent to SPU’s administration and the president, Dr. Dan Martin.

The walkout was organized because students like Mikayla Borromeo “believe the school is trying to sit on the petition so that the school year ends and we have to start over with the process.”

Haven’s vice president, Drew Cortez, who identifies as a gay, gender non-conforming person, stated that “the administration has not let the authors of the proposal discuss their demands with the board of trustees. They have been taking action to change practices, but they absolutely will not budge with any policy changes.”

Students walk out to pretest SPU’s statement on human sexuality. Alex Moore | The Falcon

The walkout started in Martin Square at 10:50 a.m. and students and staff gathered with signs with various phrases like, “Homophobia is killing me” and “En-gay-ge the culture.”

Haven leaders believe this protest was necessary because, “The little progress they are giving us is not an effective long-term solution if the institution itself doesn’t reflect what it’s trying to put into practice. … If we are expected to wait patiently and work with their standards, then we want to push back on that and show that there will be consequences.”
The crowd joined in chants such as,“Hey, ho, homophobia has got to go,” and “No justice, no peace,” as they faced Martin’s office and then marched to Tiffany Loop. There, people were invited to voice their experiences on campus or offer votes of confidence and support. Students talked about how they’d been made to feel unwelcome or unsafe.

Others, like Andrea Diaz, said that they’d always be there if people wanted to talk. Andrea Diaz, a lesbian Latinx womxn, came to the walkout “because I do not want queer students of color to continue being ignored by this institution.”

Diaz, like many others are hoping that SPU’s administration stops to consider the marginalized students who want to feel safe on campus, but don’t because of current rhetoric.

SPU students aren’t the only ones who are not happy with the school’s current policy. According to a staff member at the walkout, alumni have also signed the petition, and some are refusing to donate to the school until their policies change. SPU also won’t receive funding from big corporations that alumni are a part of because their hiring practices — such as not hiring any LGBTQ+ staff and professors on a basis of faith — are considered discriminatory.

Emma Seely, Haven President, leads the march throughout campus. Students walk out to pretest SPU’s statement on human sexuality. Alex Moore | The Falcon

The crowd chanted “LGBT, we deserve equality,” as they walked to 3rd Avenue across from First Free Methodist Church, right as chapel finished. Most people who passed by, chanted along with the crowd and passing cars honked in support.

There was a sense of pride within the group, for the leaders who put the walkout together, for those who attended, and for those who shared “pieces of their stories.” The protest ended back at Tiffany Loop with a moment of silence for the people who have been killed by anti-LGBTQ+ violence and a final cheer written by activist Assata Shakur.

“It is our duty to fight for freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”