SPU comes out

Student body demonstrates for LGBTQIA+ rights outside President’s house

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

At around 2:30 on Jan. 15, a small group of colorfully dressed students began trekking up Ashton hill. As they finished their walk, they began to congregate around a parked car full of pool noodles, flyers, and colorful signs. This handful of students were getting the corner of 5th and Dravus ready for what would end being over one hundred more students, alumni and faculty, who were all set to arrive at 3:30 to protest SPU’s anti-LGBTQIA+ hiring policies which have been recently highlighted by Professor Jeaux Rinedahl’s lawsuit against the university.  

Students, alumni and professors spread out in street in front of President Dan Martin’s house during the Coming Out Party to show their frustration with SPU’s treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community. (Marissa Lordahl)

“We are here in support of professor Rinedahl, with the recent lawsuit against their (SPU) homophobic policies and we are all here to just collectively support all students and faculty who are apart of the LGBTQ community,” Junior Ciarra Choe explained. 

Choe was among the first handful of participants preparing the site for the event. In order to follow social distancing guidelines and protect the individuals involved from COVID-19, the organizers began drawing circles in chalk, that enclosed hearts and smiley faces, all across Dravus street in front of President Dan Martin’s house.

As students began showing up, they were handed a pool noodle of about six feet in length that allowed them to monitor their distance from other people.

“We thought the noodles would be really fun because people could keep them and then use them as a measure of distance to have and it makes everything more colorful,” Choe explained. “We just took some chalk, spaced everything out and made sure everyone was six feet away from one another.”

As the crowd began to grow so did the passion for the intended goals of the event.

“We really want to get this movement going and within the next few weeks, establish a big group who can really push this charge.” Former SPU student Ben Hansen explained. “We want to eradicate the statement on human sexuality and if we can’t get rid of it then we want a statement of affirmation.”

Every participant received an “action card.” This paper contained a QR code that leads to a list with the contact information for every member of the Board of Trustees. According to the protest organizers, getting the Board involved is very crucial for continuing the movement. 

“SPU has this lovely board of people called the Board of Trustees,” Junior Laur Lugos said in a speech to the crowd. “The Board of Trustees has been responsible for delaying policy change every time we have tried to do this in the past. So we are applying pressure to the Board of Trustees by emailing them and by calling them.”

Throughout the day multiple people gave speeches, including Leah Duff who became the de facto MC for the event. They not only spoke to the crowd but led a unified dance movement to colorful songs like “Firework” by Katy Perry and “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor. 

The crowd let out a deafening roar when Duff declared the protest their second coming out party.

Laur Lugos holds up a document explaining the need for continued action beyond this demonstration, students are asked to reach out to the Board of Trustees to make their voices heard in the coming days. (Marissa Lordahl)

“I have expectations now, people and if you don’t meet them, I’m going to be real disappointed. So we are here and I am calling it a party because I love to dance,” Duff exclaimed to the crowd. “But I am angry as hell… this is me coming out again SPU, because you didn’t look at me hard enough the first time, look at me again!” 

Before the event began student leaders were informed by their advisors that they would not be allowed to attend in order to avoid setting a bad example in regards to COVID-19 policies. Duff did not think that was acceptable.

“I know that RAs and other student leaders were emailed not to attend the protest to reduce the number of bodies because of COVID restrictions,” Duff explained. “As you can see we have everybody spaced out… What we have seen is the University encouraging people not to attend, which is especially disappointing because of the nature of the people they encouraged not to attend, which are student leaders.”

The diversity of the group was apparent. Some came because they were members of the LGBTQIA+ community, some came because they wanted to support their friends who are members of the community. Others came hoping to see Professor Rinedahl get hired. No matter their race, orientation, or age all could be heard chanting phrases like, “L-G-B-T-Q, We want Gays at SPU,” or “Love is love.” 

Amongst the diverse crowd were both alumni and current SPU faculty. One alum from the class of 2011, Brandon Hunter actually brought a speaker so that the protest organizers didn’t have to scream through megaphones. He said that SPU’s discriminatory hiring practices leave a bad legacy for the school and it’s alums.

“This is an issue that’s been happening since my school days here,” Hunter explained. “I hope the administration listens, because it doesn’t make any sense. It’s embarrassing for me as an alumni, like I go to job applications, when I’m at the interview sometimes people ask me about exactly this, ‘Like oh you went to SPU, I heard that school is kinda homophobic,’ so it’s like hyper-embarrassing for me”

Students looked out over the demonstration, some with flags and signs showing support. (Marissa Lordahl)

There were about a dozen current SPU faculty present at the protest, all hoping that their employer might change its hiring policies. 

“I was moved to come out here by students who told me this was going to be a happening and asked me to come,” Philosophy professor Patrick Macdonald explained. “I think it’s been a long time coming. We need to change our non-discrimination policy, because it’s now a discrimination policy against people in the LGBTQ community and it’s not necessary.”

As the sun went down and people began to file out, those leaving were encouraged to leave their signs on Dan Martin’s front sidewalk. These signs contained colorful messages like, “Stop protecting D$, start protecting D-human beings” and “There is no sin in love.”

President Dan Martin never came home to face the protestors. He has also declined to comment for this article. OSS did end up removing the signs after the protestors all left. However, still sitting in front of Martin’s house are chalk messages which Ciarra Choe hopes will make Dan Martin and the rest of the SPU administration finally come to terms with their discriminatory policies. 

“I think spreading these messages with chalk is important, because then he just gets a nice little reminder every day he walks out of his house to work and he can just see this is love motivated,” Choe explained. “I know he’s Christian and I hope he understands that God loves all people and accepts all people, and that’s what we are trying to spread here.”