At a time when protests often devolve into violence and mayhem on both sides of the political spectrum, the students of Seattle Pacific University have shown a better way to try and change the world.
Through a coordinated and peaceful campaign of civil disobedience, these students are doing their school and their community proud.
The controversy centers on the school’s employment policy that discriminates against LGBTQ+ people.
The SPU board of trustees voted in late May to uphold the school’s “Employee Lifestyle Expectations” standards of conduct. Faculty and staff are expected to “refrain from sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University’s understanding of Biblical standards, including cohabitation, extramarital sexual activity, and same-sex sexual activity.”
On the school’s website, the board issued a statement that read in part: “While the board has landed on a decision that reflects a prayerful and sincere commitment to the well-being of SPU’s identity as an orthodox, evangelical, Wesleyan, and ecumenical institution of faith and learning, there is also sober acknowledgment of how this news will be received.”
Indeed, it was not received well by a good number of students, alumni and advocates.
Protesters of the policy organized an ongoing sit-in inside the school’s administrative building, and are raising money for legal action.
According to a story by Times education reporter Jeanie Lindsay, they have three demands: first, for the board to reveal how each trustee voted on the employment policy last month; second, for members who voted against keeping the policy to condemn those who voted to uphold it; and third, for board members who voted in favor of keeping it to resign.
So far, the board hasn’t budged. A GoFundMe page soliciting money for a lawsuit admits the protests hit a wall: “At this point, groups within SPU have taken almost every measure they can to hold the Board accountable, with no success in changing SPU’s discriminatory policies.”
This is a struggle for the soul of a faith-based institution, one with local roots that go back to 1891. To change fundamental beliefs in favor of a more tolerant, welcoming community, it takes dedication, fortitude and an abiding belief in the goodness of humanity.
SPU students and their allies have demonstrated all three. May they succeed in achieving an outcome that benefits all.