A sign of movement at Seattle Pacific University, which has been hit by a campaign to stop the marginalization of its LGBT student group, Haven.
This morning SPU's Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Les Steele, sent the following e-mail to university staff asking for forgiveness and saying that Haven leaders are now being invited to talk with school administrators about "a way forward."
President Eaton has asked that I write to share with you the reason the student group Haven was asked to no longer meet on campus. Before I do so please let me share my heart. We all love and care for our students and see each and every one as precious in His sight. We all share in the deep trust given to us to come along side our students to educate the whole student. This is our vocation. Where we have failed to do so, we all ask forgiveness.
I ask your forgiveness. I know there are some of you who feel angry and confused and I am sorry if I have contributed to this confusion. I know only too well how it is sometimes hard to understand administrative decisions and apologize for adding to that confusion.
I want to express my deep appreciation for Jeff Jordan and all of the Student Life staff who come alongside our students day in and day out and night in and night out. They are living with these wonderful students in ways that astound me.
Let me share here the reason for the decision.
You may disagree with the decision and I respect that disagreement. My hope is that none of us make arbitrary decisions but do so on principle. This is a key part of how we educate our students beyond the classroom and in the classroom.
The decision was made that after four years of working with various students representing Haven that we could no longer do so due to the continuing inability of the group to abide by guidelines (similar to the expectations of all student organizations) that gave them space on campus for the last four years. We met with last year’s student leaders and advisor, Dr. Kevin Neuhouser, and believed the concerns for the guidelines were understood and we had good conversation and cooperation regarding weekly meetings and programs (e.g. The Day of Silence). However, as this year progressed it was apparent it was not working. The three guidelines, (1) request space through Dr. Jordan, (2) keep him regularly informed of programs and events , and (3) develop a statement of purpose in light of SPU’s Statement on Human Sexuality (was asked for in early October and was received the second week of January) were not being followed. This was a policy decision. We knew there would be confusion regarding the decision but believed the effort to have members of a community agree on basic guidelines was an important teachable moment.
Further, as we spoke with the students last year, we thanked them for their commitment to find “safe space” for meetings to discuss difficult questions regarding human sexuality. They, along with other students and faculty and staff, made us aware of the need to be more intentional with our efforts in human sexuality education. We then organized a “Human Sexuality Advisory Group” to help guide the way on such efforts. The group is comprised of faculty, staff and students. Haven student leadership and Dr. Neuhouser accepted invitations to serve on this group and have done so since last spring.
I am asking that this group meet with Dr. Jordan, the Haven student leaders (not already on the advisory group) and me. I hope to do this as soon as possible. Our goal will be to have a conversation to find a way forward in regard to Haven. We will be asking the Advisory Group to help lead the way. We will ask them to move us forward as we seek to find safe and open space for conversation regarding all of human sexuality. We understand that Haven is not the only such space needed and will seek other venues.
It is our hope that we will soon have some clarity about how the Human Sexuality Advisory Group believes it best to move ahead with human sexuality education in our co-curriculum and in particular to create “safe space” for all such conversations but in particular for those who see themselves as marginalized.
Les Steele, PhD Vice President for Academic Affairs Seattle Pacific University Phone: (206) 281-2125 Web: http://www.spu.edu/depts/oaa/