Provost answers senators’ questions about statement on human sexuality

Says ultimate decision rests on board of trustees

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

Rachel Regner attends the zoom Senate meeting regarding Human sexuality on campus led by Dr. Laura Hartley on Monday night, February 15th. (Calvin Quisumbing)

Provost Laura Hartley joined the ASSP senate for a town hall on Feb.15, marking the first time a member of administration has spoken publicly on the statement of human sexuality, since adjunct nursing professor Jeaux Rinedahl sued the University for sexual orientation discrimination on Jan. 11.

One of the first topics discussed at the meeting was Seattle Pacific’s hiring policies. Hartley explained that SPU does have a lifestyle expectations section in their faculty handbook that does disqualify members of the LGBTQIA+ community from holding full time faculty positions on campus.

“There is one section in that handbook that’s called the lifestyle expectations section and that particular section states that SPU employees are asked to make certain lifestyle choices that are consistent with moral integrity, social consciousness and effective Christian witness,” Hartley explained. “It includes not committing illegal or unethical acts, not drinking alcohol at University sponsored activities and then not engaging in sexual behavior that is inconsistent with biblical standards.”

According to Hartley, the faculty handbook and the statement on human sexuality, the only sexual behavior that would be deemed consistent with Biblical standards at SPU is between a man and a woman in a married relationship. This policy has been the subject of intense debate over the last month.

Hartley says that different biblical interpretations and debates are to be expected.

“Christians read and interpret the bible in different ways,” Hartley said. “Because an important part of our statement of faith is that we are an ecumenical community … we disagree on a number of issues … this is one of those issues we disagree on.”

Despite SPU’s policy of not hiring LGBTQIA+ individuals to full time faculty positions, Hartley believes that the University has made progress on supporting LGBTQIA+ students.

“A few years ago there was a request to remove language about sexual orientation from the student standards of conduct and we did that, so now we essentially hold all students, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity to the same standards of sexual activity,” Hartley said.

Throughout the entirety of the meeting, Hartley stressed that she has no role in the ultimate decision on whether to keep or remove the statement on human sexuality. That decision belongs to the board of trustees. Hartley did say that she expects a decision to come from them fairly soon.

“The board has been in conversation about issues relating to human sexuality for quite a few years now,” Hartley explained. “They are going to have to decide in relatively short order whether or not we are going to change our policies.”

If a change is made, Hartley says that her and President Dan Martin will probably create a task force to help implement the new policy.

Hartley never laid out her personal opinion on the issue, but she did offer advice to those in the SPU community who disagree with the Statement on human sexuality.

“Whenever I’ve bumped against some practice of an institution that I may have not liked. or may have not aligned with, what I’ve done is to take a step back and ask whether or not I believe in the mission of the institution and whether I can see evidence of the positive impacts of that mission,” Hartley explained. “I’ve been able to do that in my career over any number of issues.”

Hartley claimed that since she is still new to the University she does not have a full grasp on if members of the LGBTQIA+ community feel accepted in the SPU community. She said that she hopes students reach out to her and share their experiences so she can get a better idea of the campus’ attitude.

“I again have not been here necessarily long enough to know the stories to hear the issues about how our LGBTQIA+ students are feeling here, and if they aren’t feeling welcome I want to know that. Because President Martin and I along with other members of leadership really do need to hear and know if this is a place that does not feel hospitable,” Hartley explained.

ASSP Senator for Intercultural Affairs Laur Lugos announced at the meeting that she is helping put together a Google Form to gather stories from LGBTQIA+ individuals about their experience at SPU.

“It will be read by ASSP and organized to pass on to the board of trustees and pass on to anyone in upper administration who may need to have this information in order to make informed decisions on what it means to have an inclusive environment,” Lugos explained.

Throughout the entire meeting, Hartley explained that she hopes SPU will become a place where all students, no matter their background can succeed.

“I want SPU to be a place where all students can thrive,” Hartley said. “I do want us to be a place where people who hold different perspectives can be together, can work together, to carry out our mission.”