Seattle Pacific University was founded in 1891. Looks like their policies are still stuck in the same time period, too.
That's because Seattle Pacific University recently ruled that a group of LGBT students and straight allies could not meet on campus, and could not be recognized as having official group status. The group, known as The Haven, hoped to be a place where students could go to discuss issues surrounding the intersection of sexuality and religion. Seattle Pacific University, after all, is a Christian college affiliated with the Christian College Consortium.
Yet instead of allowing students with The Haven the chance to discuss issues with one another and create a safe space for all Seattle Pacific University students, the Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Jeff Jordan, ruled that the club was no longer allowed to be given meeting space on campus, and would not be considered an official campus group.
The decision has led students with The Haven to say that college administrators are trying to define LGBT students and straight allies "out of existence."
Send administrators at Seattle Pacific University a message that denying LGBT students and straight allies the chance to meet on campus, sends a damaging message about the school's priorities. Is Seattle Pacific University the type of place where speech and ideas related to sexuality and religion are censored? So much for academic freedom ...
Moreover, is Seattle Pacific University a place where when it comes to discussions about creating safe spaces on campus for all students, administrators shut the conversation down? That appears to be so, and it does a huge disservice to the reputation of the school.
As one student put it in the school's student newspaper, “They can define us out of existence all they want, but Haven will continue to meet on campus because there’s a need for Haven on campus."
The group of students, known as The Haven, have tried in the past to apply for group status on campus, yet have consistently been refused such status by administrators at Seattle Pacific University. In the most recent coverage of this controversy, by The Falcon newspaper, Dean Jordan even goes so far as to say that he will no longer discuss the legitimacy or the existence of LGBT students on campus.
This is unfortunate, and paints a reputation of intolerance at Seattle Pacific University. As these students make clear in the news article, and in their mission statement, all they are looking for is a forum to discuss issues related to the intersection of religion and sexuality.
Yet instead, as the students put it, administrators at Seattle Pacific University are trying to "define them out of existence." That's tragic, and shows that at Seattle Pacific University, administrators are a lot more interested in silencing discussion about sexuality, than embracing academic freedom and the safety of all students, regardless of their sexual orientation.
I am deeply troubled by Dean Jordan's decision to squash this organization. I'd also like to draw your attention to some letters that have poured in chastising Seattle Pacific University for this decision (http://slog.thestranger.com/blogs/slog/mobile/2011/02/11/dear-dean-jordan). One woman wrote saying, "I am a Seattlelite, a Christian, and a post-undergraduate student in the process of researching quality graduate programs in Seattle ... Unfortunately, I cannot consider attending SPU for graduate school because of its appalling stance on disallowing Haven to become a recognized student group."
You are on the wrong side of history in your stance on allowing the Haven to meet on campus, and this decision will significantly impact the reputation of Seattle Pacific University in the eyes and minds of potential students. I urge you to reverse course and allow the Haven to not only use classroom space for meetings, but to become an official campus group.
Thank you for your time.