Responses to the Administration

Here you’ll find some written responses to Dr. Eaton and Dr. Jordan from SPU Alumni!

Updated 2.24.11

President Obama

 

Dear Mr. Jordan,

I am an SPU alumni from the class of 1994, and I am writing to ask you to reconsider your decision to deny Haven a place on campus to meet, and to resume working with them again to complete the process of their official recognition as a student organization.

During my enrollment at SPU, I knew a relatively small number of gay students.  Those I knew are instantly memorable to me, even 17 years after my graduation.  Some were my colleagues in my major field of study, while others were my floor mates and acquaintances.  I still remember the cloud under which they lived their lives while on campus. The threat of expulsion or suspension always hung over them, and as a result LGBT students of my class were always hiding in the shadows in some way.  I didn’t know them well enough to hear about what they may have encountered in their private moments.  I never heard about what they went through in the way of either overt or subtle discrimination, but the ones who persevered and completed their educations are among the most tenacious and bravest people I know.

In light of more recent events on other campuses involving LGBT students and the relentless bullying and prejudice that they can encounter, I ask again that you recommit your office to helping Haven find, locate, or create a space on campus where they can meet in safety and find the affirmation that comes from a shared spirituality and a shared identity.  Grant to them the same recognition as a legitimate student organization that others enjoy. The students of Haven have, I think, demonstrated good faith in continuing to rework their mission statement to satisfy the requirements of your office and of the University.  They have done so for several years and are clearly willing to continue to do so, so I ask you to please extend your own good faith on their behalf.  Gay and lesbian students have always been a part of student life at SPU.  Clubs like Haven will create an environment where they can participate in the life of SPU openly and in safety.  No Christian or follower of Christ should be ever be forced to be less than they were created to be by a procedure or rule. That was never the example of our Savior, and should never be the policy of institutions who are committed to serving Him.

Thank you for your consideration,

Sincerely, Michael Crowley, alumni, SPU Class of 1994

Letter to The Falcon, February 16, 2011

To the editor,

As a Seattle Pacific alumnus, I am happy to see that The Falcon has continued its coverage of Haven. I am equally sad to see that Haven is still disenfranchised among SPU student groups. “Engaging the culture and changing the world” has a hollow ring to it when what constitutes the “world” is predefined by sexual orientation. Students seem to understand that some Christians are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, and some LGBTQs are Christian. This is not a moral claim, but just a statement of fact.

Administrators still do not understand that Haven is not advocating a secularization of Christianity vis-a-vis gay culture, but rather an opening of dialogue that allows students to discover what the issue of homosexuality is about, and how Christian ethics are worked out on the ground. Gay culture and Christian culture often clash, but that does not mean walls should be put up.

Perhaps The Falcon’s next article should focus on why SPU students seem too eager to accept cultural definitions of sexuality, rather than try to exegete a normative position from Scripture and the Christian tradition that does not revolve around the hermeneutic of the world.

If those discussions were happening, then perhaps students would not be making trite arguments advocating a complete revocation of sexual conduct. If administrators would provide an environment of openness, discussions like this would be more productive and students would be more informed.

Andy Scott,

2008 Alumnus

Letter to The Falcon: Mark Ableidinger, guest writer

Where does the soul of Seattle Pacific University reside?

Is it in the students — the ones who pay tuition and the ones whom the university exists to serve?

Or is it in the administration — the ones who make sure the school stays open from year to year?

When I examine this question in light of the current situation of Haven, it seems as though there are two SPUs at war with one another.

From what I have heard from students, most of us have trouble reconciling the ban on Haven with our conception of what this university represents — I know I do.

To me, and to many others who love SPU, the university has been a place of belonging; I feel as though I have a family here. It is a place where individuals are built up, rather than torn down.

But I simply cannot reconcile the idea of SPU as a “grace-filled community” with its ban on Haven. An SPU that tells a portion of its student body that their opinions and lifestyle simply do not belong here is not the university I know.

Seattle Pacific has also been a place of Christian intellectual freedom.

In other environments, to fit in as Christians, it feels as though we must abandon our intellectual capabilities and our unique opinions. This is not the case at SPU — here, they are embraced. Here, we can question the text of the Bible. We can challenge the doctrines of the church. We can form new ideas on our own and not be persecuted for them. Our intellect is embraced and encouraged for the glory of God.

Or, at least, that is what I thought.

That appears to be the consensus of the faculty and students, but there remains an unfortunate truth: Since the SPU administration has chosen to ban Haven, the entire university seems to be bathed in a different light.

I cannot help but feel that, by accepting the label of “SPU student,” I am agreeing to keep some of my opinions quiet. I cannot help but feel that I am taking part in a judgmental system in which I want no part.

Now, I know the people who made this decision were not trying to be hateful or bigoted; they do not want to turn this university into the Westboro Baptist Church. They simply have a different conception of what SPU should be. I cannot speak for them on what their vision truly is, but I am fairly certain they have their students’ best interests at heart.

As a campus, we need to realize that there are two visions of SPU confronting each other in this conflict. We need to have an open conversation between the two parties so we can all truly understand what we think Seattle Pacific should be.

We should not have to let a statement on human sexuality speak for us, nor should we have to sign petitions in indignation to be heard. What we need is a chance to try to see eye-to-eye and to reconcile different views about who we are as a university. I doubt anything will change unless we accept this.

Still, I hope those who made the decision to ban Haven will come forward and tell us their rationale, without simply saying that the Statement on Human Sexuality speaks for itself. And I hope those against the ban will be able to express their concerns without name-calling and anger.

If we really want to find any reconciliation as a campus, we need a dialogue.

-Mark Ableidinger

Updated 2.23.11

Dear President Eaton and Professor Steele,

First, let me say that I appreciate your willingness to respond to the Haven leadership, and to your faculty and staff. I understand that to even consider making room for Haven feels like pushing back against conventional Christian views that have long dictated university positions; and I understand that many people, including many of your largest donors, may be pressuring you to hold fast to those conventional views. I am also certain that you are brave enough to take a new position, as many of your faculty, staff, and students are already doing.

I am writing to respectfully ask you both to clarify your language, and the university’s position on Haven, and on the rights available for students who identify as LGBTQ.

Professor Steele, in your letter, you write that the Haven leadership had been asked to develop a Statement of Purpose “in light of” SPU’s Statement on Human Sexuality. “In light of” is figurative, abstract language, and given President Eaton’s professed desire to avoid vagueness, I am asking you to say precisely what you mean.

Both of your responses so far have avoided using any specific language, i.e., terms like gay, lesbian, and homosexual; nor does the Statement on Human Sexuality make use of these terms. Homosexuality can be the basis of loving, committed relationships. If the university believes that these relationships do not exist, or that such committed relationships are sinful, then you need to make that perfectly clear. In terms of Haven and its purpose, do you require Haven’s Mission Statement to assert that homosexuality is a sin? Or that the SPU administration believes that homosexuality is a sin?

This is extraordinarily problematic, because the university administration gives every appearance of trying to control students’ beliefs and thoughts, as well as their behavior. Haven is not a gay sex club. I can find no indication that it has ever presented itself as such, or held activities designed to encourage promiscuous behavior among students. If you are concerned about activities that might promote such behavior, then I suggest that you publicly state that the various co-ed dorm activities (raids, roomies’ date nights, dances, etc.) are ended, or at least, that they can no longer take place on campus grounds.

You have the right to ask students to sign the Statement of Lifestyle Expectations, and to abide by your rules about abstaining from cohabitation and sexual activity on SPU property. But identifying as gay or lesbian is not in itself promiscuity. Believing that homosexuality is acceptable in God’s eyes, or that it is worthy of respectful conversation is not tangible behavior, or behavior that can or should be regulated at all. It’s faith, and a matter of profound personal identity.

When I was at SPU, one of the cadres which gathered particularly large attendance was the Skeptics’ Cadre, in which students who were non-Christian, atheist, or agnostic were welcomed with open arms, and given a safe space to discuss their views. I don’t know whether that cadre still exists, but your treatment of Haven suggests to me that you don’t especially care whether or not students believe in Christ as savior, as long as they don’t claim to be queer. It seems like a strange position for a supposedly Christian university to take. But then, it also seems strange to me that President Eaton would claim that the Statement on Human Sexuality has been in draft for “many years,” when the version on the SPU website dates it from November 14, 2005.

That same statement includes the following language: “Because the issues surrounding human sexuality are controversial, as a community of learning we recognize that our discussions and considerations regarding sexuality, whether in writing or in the classroom, must be treated with personal and spiritual sensitivity and with scholarly care.”

I am asking you to maintain the standards you set yourself in regards to your claim for the importance of sensitivity, and to respond publicly to the students and alumni who have written to you on behalf of Haven. The alumni supporting Haven have asked you for a space for a public forum for dialogue, and I am joining them in asking for that as well.

I respect your adherence to scripture as authority as an aspect of your faith, but no scholar with reputable standards would rely on one source alone, or even two (scripture and Bishop N. T. Wright). Considerable scholarship has been produced on the effects of discrimination on marginalized populations, and on the harmful consequences that result when institutions are lax in protecting those populations. I have no doubt that your university faculty and staff could suggest several appropriate sources, as could members of your current student body. Both of these groups continue to impress me with their support and care for their students and classmates.

As a graduate student, my finances have not allowed me to contribute to SPU, except through attending occasional ticketed events. I hope to complete my Ph.D. soon, and with a job, I am likely to have more resources available — but until the administration reconsiders its stance on Haven, and adopts practices that work against discrimination, rather than promoting it, my income will go elsewhere.

Sincerely,

Paige Morgan (class of 2000)

February 16, 2011

Dear Dr. Eaton, Dr. Steele, and Dr. Jordan,

My name is Kate Steensma, and I graduated from SPU this past spring. I am now attending graduate
school on a full-tuition assistantship at Michigan State University, and I truly believe that I would
not be where I am today without the pristine education that I received at Seattle Pacific. Thank you.

A significant part of my attraction to SPU was their claim to “engage the culture.” Indeed, I had
many opportunities to engage in learning from a variety of different cultures over the past 4
years. Some of my most memorable experiences at SPU include long conversations with Seattle’s
homeless during Urban Plunge, spending 7 weeks in Indonesia on a SPRINT trip, and studying
tropical ecology in Ecuador. I was also thankful that SPU gave me the opportunity to start SPACE,
an on-campus organic garden that grows produce for local food banks. At SPU, I learned that
engaging the immediate culture is just as important as engaging foreign cultures.

When I meet fellow graduate students or professors, a common question they ask me is where I
earned my bachelor’s degree. In all honesty, I am ashamed to admit that I graduated from SPU.
Despite the positive experiences I had at SPU, I am truly embarrassed by the administration’s
treatment of the student group, Haven.

I was a freshman at SPU when the Soulforce Equality Ride visited our campus, and after attending
the forum, I began regularly attending Haven meetings. At that time, I was impressed with
the openness exhibited by the SPU community, and proud to attend a university that was so
progressive among Christian institutions. Over the next 4 years, Haven fostered nothing less than a
safe and welcoming environment that allowed many of my friends and I to participate in engaging
the LGBT culture in honest and objective discussion. Over those 4 years, I became increasingly
disappointed as Haven was denied official student club status, again and again. For a university
that claims to engage the culture, it seems awfully backwards of you to refuse to recognize a group
of students who seek to do just that.

I had a few openly gay friends while I was at SPU, but since graduating, I have learned that I
actually had many gay friends during my time there. It is unfortunate that some students do not
feel comfortable enough to be open about their sexuality on SPU’s campus. I believe that the
presence of a student group like Haven is vital to provide a safe space for students of all opinions
and backgrounds to converse about these issues without feeling marginalized or threatened. The
simple fact that Haven exists is an encouragement to LGBT students on campus, even if they never
attend a meeting.

Please know that I cannot, in good conscience, recommend SPU to prospective students, or offer
any financial contributions to SPU, until you agree to offer Haven official club status, and consider
revising your statement on Human Sexuality. I look forward to your demonstration that SPU can
indeed be the grace-filled community that it claims to be.

Sincerely,

Katherine Steensma, 2010 alumna

Dear President Eaton,

I recently read the letter you sent out to SPU’s colleagues and friends regarding the recent issues surrounding the continual denial of club status to Haven, and the more recent cessation of any cooperation with Haven.  In that letter, one of your main points is that you want to be clear, stating that you don’t want to be vague on the whole topic of human sexuality.  You said that you don’t want to dodge the specifics in some fog of abstraction.

With that in mind, I have a few questions about your letter: first of all, why is Haven never mentioned by name?  It is glaringly obvious to anyone familiar with the current situation that you are directly responding to the recent actions of the administration towards Haven.  There are no other “current issues around club status and human sexuality” that I am aware of.  And I can’t help but note the irony of stressing the need to “address very clearly and openly the issue of club status” without ever mentioning which club’s status we are addressing.

And it is not only the name of the club around which there is a fog of vagueness in this letter.  It is also very unclear what exactly your position on the matter is.  In your fourth point, you make reference to Paul’s venturing into the “tough part” of his letters.  I can only assume, given that homosexuality is the matter at hand, that this is a deliberate reference to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10.  You specify that these are lists of things that we must put off, that are “harmful for us, destructive to our communities of faith, hurtful to our world.”  You repeatedly note the importance of living lives that are flourishing.  You allude to the “new way of living” that Wright outlines, the ancient text to which we adhere, the image of God, and the good and beautiful.  But you never actually state that homosexuality is one of these things that must be put off, or that being gay goes against that which is good and beautiful.

I point that out because I see no conflict between these principles – these things we must put off, this new way of living – and a loving, committed relationship between two people of the same gender.  I indeed believe that the scripture and principles that you mentioned are compatible with being openly and actively homosexual.  Reading your letter, I can only assume that you are trying to imply otherwise.  Being very familiar with both sides of the current debate, I can guess what you are trying to hint at.  But despite your admonitions towards specificity and clarity, you never once actually specify how homosexuality contradicts or opposes any of the aforementioned principles.  I think our student body, faculty, and the public at large deserve more clarity and openness than that.

So in the spirit of clarity, openness, and directness, I would ask that you at least mention homosexuality if you believe that it opposes these scriptures and principles.  Because I know that I am not alone in being able to support both the principles you allude to and homosexuality without conflict.  Ask someone in the Episcopal Church, or any of the pastors that bothered to respond to Haven’s invitation to the pastor panel, for instance.  You allude repeatedly to the ancient scriptures, as if they can be used to unambiguously condemn homosexuality, but again, never directly state that they do so, and there are many prominent Christian figures – including entire denominations – that would disagree with you.

Taking only the text of your letter, there is nothing that restates or depends on the university’s position in the Statement on Human Sexuality that “sexual experience is intended between a man and a woman.”  This avoidance of clarity contradicts your stated goal to not be vague, and dodges the actual issue at hand.  It is an excellent public relations piece, as it leaves plenty of room for the reader to infer their own views and predispositions.  But the ambiguity of language and avoidance of directly addressing these issues does nothing to foster openness, sorting things out, or discovering what is right and good.

I do not ask that you agree with me or the Episcopal Church about the role of homosexuality within the Christian church.  I realize that our views may differ, and I respect that.  But I do ask that in future statements and correspondence, you adhere to your admonitions of clarity and openness.  While your letter makes many overtures to avoiding vagueness, it distinctly avoids mentioning Haven, homosexuality, or directly addressing the “the important, even contested issues of our day.”  The conversation around Haven and homosexuality would benefit greatly from true clarity and honesty from the administration, which has been sorely lacking up to this point.

Respectfully,

Joel Bradshaw

SPU Class of 2011

Updated 2.20.11

From The Falcon:

To the editor,

I have always admired the fact that Seattle Pacific considered community outreach a large enough priority to put it in their mission statement: Engage the culture, change the world. This desire to make an impact on the world around me is one of the greatest lessons I took from the halls of my alma mater, and I am extremely disheartened to learn that this institution no longer believes it to be true.

I graduated from SPU with majors in art and theater and a concentration in K-12 education. I am profoundly grateful for my education from this institution; I use it daily in my work with The New Teacher Project and the New York City school district.

However, I do not consider myself proud to be a graduate of SPU.

The refusal of the administration to grant club status to Haven, a group whose purpose is grounded solely in the mission statement of the university, is unacceptable.

While I am deeply disappointed in SPU’s response to Haven, I must admit I am not surprised.

During my tenure at SPU, their policy on acceptance and inclusion of LGBTQ students is something that, outside of a few departments, was unwelcoming at best. I had hoped, however, that such issues would have been addressed in time.

Unless Haven is allowed to engage the culture and change the world as they have been called to, I will not support Seattle Pacific in any way, and encourage my fellow alumni to follow suit.

Please understand that engaging the culture and changing the world starts at home, on campus, in Emerson and Ashton Halls, in Gwinn Commons and the Library; and most importantly, with allowing Haven to exist.

Chelsea McCollum,

2007 Alumna

Updated 2.16.11

Dear President Eaton, Vice President Steele, and Dean Jordan,

My name is Jonathan Cook. I attended Seattle Pacific University from 2000 to 2004, graduating with a degree in visual communications. Since graduating I have volunteered with the St. James Cathedral ESL program and with Volunteers In Asia, teaching English at a Islamic college in East Java, Indonesia for one year. I currently work as an interactive designer for a small business in downtown Seattle whose clients include Microsoft, T-Mobile, and Windermere. 

It saddens me to write this letter because of the positive experience I had at SPU as a student. While attending SPU I was fortunate to go on a SPRINT trip to South Africa, to work for KSPU for three years, and to take part in many other extra curricular activities on campus. I appreciated the breadth of activities, clubs, and events that seemed to always be happening at the school. As the station manager for KSPU my senior year, I came to value and advocate for the presence of the radio station on campus because of the outlet it gave students who didn’t feel at home there. One critique of SPU I have is that it is not always a welcoming place to students who fall outside the demographic majority. This, I believe, is something the school has struggled with for a quite some time, and is clearly an issue that is still being grappled with today.

I’m genuinely disappointed in your decision to sever communication with Haven and to refuse to recognize Haven as an official and equal ASSP Club. What I find most disheartening from this action is that it is an attempt to end the dialogue regarding LGBTQ issues at SPU and in the church at a time when that dialogue is greatly needed. By not allowing space for Haven to meet, SPU is sending a message to the LGBTQ community (at SPU and in Seattle) that some people are not welcome here. This is both dangerous and untenable. Dangerous, because, as a discriminatory measure, it makes future discrimination plausible, whether unintended or not. Untenable, because that sort of isolationism, from a school who’s motto is “engage the culture, change the world,” is so in contrast to the open dialogue in Seattle, that without action, the response from alumni and others concerned in Seattle will only grow.

I cannot at this time recommend SPU as an institution to attend or support financially. As a concerned alum of the school I intend to help spread the word about SPU’s reluctance to engage in dialogue with the LGBTQ community in hopes that the administration will reconsider its policy. SPU needs to recognize that it cannot stifle the dialogue surrounding LGBTQ issues. This is neither a helpful, nor Christian response, and it is one that has the potential to have a profound negative impact on the experience of students at the school and to reverberate into the greater community of Seattle.
I hope that you will reconsider your decision and grant Haven club status. That small gesture, to engage and re-open the dialogue surrounding these issues, would be a positive step towards the reconciliation that needs to take place for SPU to remain relevant in Seattle and in the world.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Cook

Seattle Pacific University  Alum, 2004

Dear President Eaton,

I am writing in response to Jeff Jordan’s decision to refuse Haven official club status and meeting space on the Seattle Pacific University campus. I graduated cum laude from SPU in 2005 and am currently in my third year of studying for a Ph.D in English at the University of Washington, where I also teach 100-level composition to first-year students. Before starting graduate work, I taught English in East Java, Indonesia, for a year and volunteered with St. James Cathedral’s ESL program in Seattle. As a student and educator who credits SPU with instilling in me a deep commitment to service, I am deeply disappointed with the administration’s decision to cut Haven off from the official SPU community.

Refusing recognition to Haven not only alienates LGBTQ students and friends from SPU but also potentially disables students who believe they do not need to recognize or engage those who identify as LGBTQ. As I am sure you know, a first-year student at Rutgers University, Tyler Clementi, took his own life early in the 2010-11 academic year after experiencing bullying and alienation from his peers because he was gay. While it is unfair to assign blame for his suicide to his peers, Tyler Clementi’s death tragically illustrates the failure of an academic community to reach out to someone in need of psychological and emotional support. I believe that as Christian educators, we have a crucial responsibility to confront  and discuss the types of ignorance in our communities that have the potential to lead to dehumanization and hatred. While I was student at SPU, I witnessed innumerable instances of intolerance directed toward LGBTQ identities. Outside of Emerson Hall one morning, I watched a group of women pick up a bundled stack of Seattle’s local newspaper The Stranger and drop it in the trash, denouncing it as the “gay and lesbian magazine.” I listened as a gay friend, who was afraid of being openly “out” on campus, explained how SPU staff counseled him to change his sexual orientation or live a life of closeted celibacy.

Despite the administration’s, staff’s, and faculty’s positions on the morality of homosexuality (which are diverse), the refusal to confront potential hatred and isolation at SPU has negative consequences for the entire SPU community. Outside of SPU, students will be in positions where they will need to collaborate, live, and work with those who identify as gay and lesbian. By foreclosing open discussion of sexuality and gender identities on campus, SPU is doing all students a disservice by leading them to believe that LGBTQ issues are not even worth discussion or that gays and lesbians are not valued members of the university. Students will not be prepared to live in, let alone “engage,” any broader community beyond SPU if they are led believe that certain discussions are “off limits” to Christians. Furthermore, through Jeff Jordan’s actions the student body is shown that if LGBTQ students desire to be official members of the SPU community, it is okay to turn a blind eye and refuse. This sanctioned ignorance defies the goals of an academic culture that is unafraid to learn as well as the Gospel message of acceptance and warmth demonstrated by Christ.

At this point, I cannot say I am proud to be associated with SPU. Instead of completely dissociating from SPU, however, this letter has been an attempt to engage with you. I hope you will choose to do the same for Haven by officially recognizing its students as valuable members of the SPU community. In the meantime, I am withholding monetary contributions until SPU makes an effort to demonstrate the type of true engagement it espouses.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth C. Brown

SPU Class of 2005

Dear Dean Jordan and President Eaton,

My name is Nicole Beges. I graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2009 with a B.A. in Philosophy. I moved from California to Seattle in hopes of pursuing a higher education by means of a supportive community.

In less than two years since graduation, I have consistently volunteered at the Washington State Reformatory in Monroe, have held an extremely challenging job at a Law Firm downtown, and been accepted to Law School. I am proud to say that I have and will continue to engage the culture and change the world. But I want to engage the whole culture, not just the culture the largest donors decide matter. At SPU, I never heard the phrase “Engage the heterosexual culture, and change the world (except SPU, because that of course does not need to change!).” I was unaware that our mission statement was contingent upon subjective factors such as politics and money. I have been recently made aware of that reality by the Administrations reaction and decision regarding the Haven club. I have come to realize the mission statement of Seattle Pacific University is empty, and it’s claimed importance by the Administration now seems hypocritical and unethical.

Engage is an active word, it calls us to participate and become personally involved. Which culture is SPU trying to engage? Among the fifty largest cities in the United States of America, Seattle has the second highest percentage of residents who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. I think most would consider that statistic significant. How can SPU engage the collective culture of Seattle when it blatantly expresses not only disapproval, but disengagement from this part of our community?

Most of my life-long friends are people who I met while attending SPU. A few of these life-long friends are gay individuals. I witnessed their transformation at SPU. They started out trying to hide their sexuality, not due to embarrassment or shame, but due to the fear of lack of acceptance and hatred. I remember when Haven set up the day of silence display in front of the Library which commemorated individuals who were slain or persecuted for their sexual orientation. I remember more vividly the students who threw water balloons at this display. I cannot imagine how that made my friends and the members of Haven feel. Where was their supportive community? I remember seeing the signs people put up in their dormitory room windows which read, “NO HAVEN CLUB!” I now realize that at my four years at SPU, I was in the middle of a civil rights movement. But these events did not quiet my gay friends, they empowered them. They also empowered other members of the SPU community who observed the overwhelming need to discuss sexuality and rectify the walls being built in our own community.

Then came the Equality Riders. How proud I was of SPU for embracing this event! Upper Gwinn was at maximum capacity and small group conversations continued late into the night. What a testament to the need for students of the SPU community to discuss sexuality and equality. Haven was born out of this event. The members of Haven complied with the school’s request to change their name, change their mission statement, etc. What has the school and the Administration given them in return but a constant cycle of acceptance and rejection? How hard must this group fight to stay alive? The perseverance this club has showed over the years is empowering. This is obvious by the very apparent Alumni reaction to SPU’s most recent decision regarding the Haven club, as well as the recognition of this decision by local news sources such as the Stranger and Seattle P.I.

Seattle Pacific University has the capacity and the means to do wonderful things in this world and in our community. It is quite unfortunate that it is putting its footprint in the Seattle general public by squashing a group of young adults who merely want to come together to discuss their identity. I am aware that the Administration is not going to budge anytime soon, no matter how many letters and petitions it receives and throws away. I would be naïve if I thought that anything other than money and politics drive the decisions surrounding Haven. Where is the administrative staff looking out for the best interest of its student body? I am proud of the students, alumni, and faculty who have come together to publicly denounce this recent decision. I urge you to make decisions that allow myself, the student body, faculty, and alumni to be proud of our administration and of our University.

Until Seattle Pacific University recognizes Haven as a club with equal status and privilege as any other on campus, I will not be able to contribute financially or in any other way to the University. I will, however, continue to contribute to the efforts put forth for Haven to exist and succeed. Seattle Pacific University took one step forward with the Equality Riders but has undoubtedly taken two steps back, and I fear that is where it will remain.

Dear President Eaton, Vice President Steele, and Dean Jordan,

I am a former student of SPU. I only stayed one quarter in 1997 becuase I was dissappointed at the lack of diversity and lacking rigerous intellectual dialogue. You may recognize my last name becuase I have a few cousins that went to SPU and worked there for a number of years.
I am extremely disappointed in your decision to sever communication with Haven and to refuse to recognize Haven as an official and equal ASSP Club. As you may be aware, there have been many recent reports of gay teenagers committing suicide. If you are not aware, please allow me to name them:
It breaks my heart that these people did not think they could live being who they are. It makes me so sad that they thought they were not worthy of life, and could not endure life becuase they were gay. These are people, and I grew up Christian, so I know that everyone is sacred in the eyes of god. As a university, one that truly cares about their students, I am so dissapointed that you are not recognizing Haven as an official and equal ASSP club. Children are hurting, and I urge you to please help SPU students who are coming into their own at your university, by providing them with Haven. I also urge you to revise your Statement on Human Sexuality, which is exclusive in its affirmation of only binary concepts of gender as well as heterosexual marriage and sexual relationships.
Until SPU takes radical steps to reconcile with the LGBTQ members of its community, I refuse to donate time, money, or resources to SPU.  I will be honest with prospective students about my disappointment with SPU’s treatment of their LGBTQ students. I am not currently a donor, but I pledge to donate money to SPU if you recognize Haven as an official and equal ASSP club and revise your Statement on Human Sexuality, which is exclusive in its affirmation of only binary concepts of gender as well as heterosexual marriage and sexual relationships.

Intolerance is not the message of the Gospel and SPU must act on its commitment to model a grace-filled community by practicing the kind of radical reconciliation it so strongly endorses.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Kimi Kawabori

Former SPU student

Dear President Eaton, Vice President Steele, and Dean Jordan,

My name is Dan Caster. I graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2005 majoring in communications.

While attending your University, I took full advantage of any leadership position I was granted. I served as Hill Hall President, 3rd East Emerson Peer Advisor, member of Centurions and was honored to be a part of our Junior Class Homecoming Court.

I am extremely disappointed in your decision to sever communication with Haven and to refuse to recognize Haven as an official and equal ASSP Club. While attending I was not fortunate enough to be involved with a group like Haven, but I am confident it would have been beneficial for someone like me. It completely worries me that such a phenomenal school, as Seattle Pacific University would restrict a group like Haven from being an official school sponsored organization. As an extensively involved student I met some of my most inspiring life long friends, but I was scared and worried to express my sexuality.

Post- University I admitted my sexuality and now live openly gay, and I strongly believe this journey would have been worlds easier, and less destructive if I had a group such as Haven to lean on. With LGBTQ issues at an all time cultural relevance, it is a shame Seattle Pacific University isn’t a leading platform of acceptance and awareness. Not only as Christians, but also as moral beings it is our obligation to teach this. Due to SPU’s lack of support and I must be forced to refuse donation of time, money, or resources, until SPU takes radical steps to reconcile with the LGBTQ members of its community, I will be honest with prospective students about my disappointment with SPU’s treatment of their LGBTQ community.

In closing, I urge you to reconcile with Haven and to offer them full club status.

Intolerance is not the message of the Gospel and SPU must act on its commitment to model a grace-filled community by practicing the kind of radical reconciliation it so strongly endorses.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Daniel Caster

Seattle Pacific University, Class of 2005

Dean Jordan,

My name is Eric Hoff. I graduated summa cum laude from Seattle Pacific
in 2005 with a B.A. in Latin American Studies-Spanish.

SPU encouraged me to “engage the culture – change the world.” I took
that message to heart. During my studies, I spent time teaching in a
small village in Romania, studying in Europe and Latin America, and
actively pursuing matters of social justice in the Seattle community.
Directly following graduation, I joined the AmeriCorps as a VISTA
Volunteer with the Martin Luther King, Jr., VISTA Corps, facilitated
by Solid Ground (formerly Fremont Public Association). My volunteer
position was with Amara Parenting and Adoption Services. I served as
their community outreach coordinator, with a focus on undoing
institutionalized racism. My year of National Service led to a
position with the Human Rights Campaign as a field organizer, covering
a ten-state region in the American Southwest. During my time with HRC,
I served as a full time staff member on Congresswoman Gabrielle
Giffords’ 2006 Electoral Campaign. I recently returned from slain
Congressional Aide Gabriel Zimmerman’s memorial service in Tucson,
where I honored Gabby’s commitment to social justice and equality with
a candle at the UMC Memorial. These are all things I’m very proud of.

I feel I have done an admirable job in my years following graduation
to engage the culture and change the world. I seek a world of peace,
inclusion, and equality.

I feel strongly that SPU has dishonored the challenge to engage the
culture and change the world, particularly in its exclusion of Haven
from official campus recognition. As an openly gay student on campus
at SPU from fall of 2001 to spring of 2005, I sought to engage my
peers and professors in dialogue about issues pertaining to human
sexuality and the need for open dialogue with SPU’s much-oppressed
LGBT minority. I approached numerous faculty members in the attempt to
begin an on-campus discussion group. Each faculty member denied my
request to sponsor such a conversation group, not because of any
anti-gay sentiment, but because of fear of retaliation from SPU’s
administration. I approached the counseling center, and while
individuals within the center were supportive of Equality for LGBT
students, they too felt that their jobs weren’t secure if they voiced
support for their LGBT clients.

Just after I left Seattle, the Soulforce Equality Ride arrived at
SPU’s campus, and found a relatively welcoming reception. I am proud
to say that friends of mine got off that bus and had good, open
dialogue with students and faculty at SPU. Haven was born from that
dialogue. SPU was on the path of peaceful dialogue and inclusion,
values that Christ espoused.

Now, years even later, we understand from The Falcon that your office
has chosen to no longer entertain the idea of recognizing Haven in any
official capacity. SPU is taking a giant step away from justice and
equality in this decision. Regardless of how members of the
administration feel about human sexuality, to specifically ban a club
that fosters open and safe dialogue furthers the notion that
Christians in America are exclusive, which is in direct conflict with
the gospel.

I urge you to carefully reconsider your decision regarding Haven’s
recognition on campus. History will show your decision to be on the
side of exclusivity and injustice.

I also must inform you that because of SPU’s inability to remain in
open dialogue with Haven and others in marginalized minority groups, I
will not contribute financially to SPU. When discussing my alma mater
with colleagues and/or students currently considering their education,
I must admit I discourage them from attending SPU until it makes steps
in the right direction on issues pertaining to LGBT equality and
inclusion.

Should SPU revise its position and move toward justice and equality, I
will proudly write my first check in contribution to my alma mater.
Til then, I remain frustrated with SPU’s choice to remain disengaged
and unchanged in this world and in this culture.

Sincerely,
ERIC HOFF
SPU, Class of 2005

To Whom it May Concern,
I have always admired the fact that Seattle Pacific University
considered community outreach a large enough priority to put it in
their mission statement:  Engage the culture, change the world.  This
desire to make an impact on the world around me is one of the greatest
lessons I took from the halls of my alma mater, and I am extremely
disheartened to learn that this institution no longer believes it to
be true.
I graduated in 2007 from Seattle Pacific University, with majors in
Art and Theatre, and concentration in K-12 education.  I am profoundly
grateful for my education from this institution; I use it daily in my
work with The New Teacher Project, and the NYC school district.  I am
asked daily to engage the culture around me in my fight for education
reform in the largest, most diverse school district in the nation.  My
college education has shaped who I am and how I live my life, and I am
proud of who I have become.  However, I do not consider myself proud
to be a graduate of Seattle Pacific University.
The refusal of the administration to grant Haven, a group whose
purpose is grounded solely in the mission statement of Seattle Pacific
University, club status is unacceptable.  As Christians, how can you
refuse to mentor and support your brothers and sisters in Christ,
different as they may be?  How can you engage the culture when you
will not acknowledge a huge part of the population?  If there is no
dialogue, how can there be inclusion?
While I am deeply disappointed in SPU’s response to Haven, I must
admit I am not surprised.  In my tenure at the school, SPU’s policy on
acceptance and inclusion of LGBT students is something that, outside
of a few departments, was unwelcoming at best.  I had hoped, however,
in the time I have been absent from campus, that such issues would
have been dealt with, responded to, addressed.  Haven’s desire to do
so, and the administration’s refusal to let them exist is evidence
that the mission statement at Seattle Pacific University is a
statement in name only.
While I appreciate my education from this institution, I unfortunately
will be unable to contribute financially until this campus decides to
come out from behind its mission statement and act upon it.  I enjoyed
much of my experience at Seattle Pacific University, yet I will be
unable to recommend or expound upon said experiences until this
college ends its informal policy of discrimination toward the LGBT
community.  Unless Haven is allowed to engage the culture and change
the world as they have been called to, I will be unable to support
Seattle Pacific University in any way, and encourage my fellow alumni
to follow suit.
Please understand that engaging the culture and changing the world
starts at home, on campus, in Emerson and Ashton, in Gwinn and the
library; and most importantly, with allowing Haven to exist.
Respectfully,
Chelsea McCollum

Dear Dean Jordan and President Eaton,

Whenever people find out that I went to a Christian college, an image
comes immediately to mind.  It is an image shaped the Jerry Fallwell’s
and Pat Robertson’s of the world that have skewed the public image of
what a Christian is and should be.  With the word Christian they hear:
Conformist, Narrow-minded, Judgmental, Ignorant and Intolerant.  When
talking about SPU, I have always made an effort to steer people’s
preconceptions away from this image.  But maybe I’ve been wrong.

The refusal of the Administration to acknowledge the existence of
Haven is an act of fear.  Fear that dialogue will lead to
contamination; fear that compassion might lead to compromise; and fear
that we might have to face the undercurrent of hatred that exists
within our culture of Christians.

I encountered so many people at SPU that challenged my faith, that
lifted me up, and pushed me to think bigger than myself.  I wouldn’t
be the person that I am without them.  Faculty took the challenge to
“Engage the Culture, Change the World” and ran with it.  They pushed
us to think for ourselves, when many of us had been raised in
environments where challenging our beliefs was akin to blasphemy.  SPU
was a safe haven for me.  A place where I could come with my doubts
and fears and struggle with them in the open.  That is a rare thing,
not just for a Christian school but for any school.

But I was lucky.  I could struggle with my faith, my place in society,
my gender, out in the open at SPU.  Others have not been so lucky.
Countless students have tried to bring their true selves to this
school only to be told daily that THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU.
Not just your behavior, not just your attitude, but that there is
something fundamentally broken and warped inside of you — that God
made a mistake.  Those students have come and gone: many losing their
faith, others miraculously holding onto it, but all of them worse off
because of SPU.

So when I heard of the progress that was being made by Haven, I was
thrilled.  I thought that maybe things were changing and that SPU,
that if it couldn’t be a leader in inclusion, it would at least try to
catch up — to wake up.

It’s not too late.

I don’t want to give up on SPU, but until it realizes that, on this,
the most important test of our generation, it’s been on the wrong side
of history, I will have to give up.  I will not attend any SPU event.
I will make no donations to SPU.  And I will stop telling people who
assume that I went to a backward, intolerant school, “No, no.  It’s
not like that.”

Sincerely,

Thaddeus P. Shafer
Class of 2005

February 10, 2011

Dean Jordan,
My name is Brooke Hills. I graduated magna cum laude from Seattle
Pacific University in 2004.
I am deeply disappointed to read that SPU is not supporting Haven as
an official club on campus. It is difficult for me to fathom the
reason why students should have to fight for recognition and their own
human rights,  instead of focusing on what SPU considers the higher
purpose of “Engaging the Culture – Changing the World.”
I am now an actor in New York, seeking to teach and open the eyes of
audience members through storytelling on stage. Giving another
perspective than what an audience might have had and judged by
beforehand.
I am ashamed to be associated with a University that is putting
blinders on to avoid opening its arms to those who are marginalized in
our society. This is most certainly not what Christ taught us by how
he lived his life. By making the decision to ban a club that would
provide a safe and supportive environment for its members is making a
statement that this University is not the open, welcoming, supportive,
Christian school that it was meant to be.
When discussing my alma mater with family, friends and prospective
students, I will find it necessary to tell them the awful truth about
the decision made, and my disapproval of the University.
Until I learn that SPU has revised its position and reopened a
dialogue with Haven, I cannot contribute       financially to SPU.
Should the current position towards Haven be revised, I will proudly
write a check out to show my support of the decision to Engage the
Culture and Change the World.
Sincerely,
Brooke Hills                                       SPU, Class of 2004

Dear Dean Jordan,

I am a 2006 summa cum laude graduate of SPU with a degree in
International Affairs and Latin American Studies.  I was also a
recipient of the Roy Swanstrom Award for Character, Scholarship,
Service and Global Understanding, and I continue to be grateful for
that award and the instruction I received at SPU promoting those same
values.  I was, therefore, distressed to learn of the school’s recent
decision to deny official recognition to the student group Haven.  I
respectfully urge you to reconsider.

Faith communities such as SPU strive to be defined by their values.
SPU’s values of “engaging the culture” and “changing the world” are
not reflected in this decision – quite the opposite.  This decision
demonstrates an unwillingness to engage, and more importantly, is
unloving.  I understand that human sexuality is a much debated topic
at SPU, but I urge you to err on the side of being too loving, of
engaging too much, of trying too hard to understand another’s
perspective.  Your students will learn from your example.  How you
treat minorities, those who are marginalized, people who are
different:  this will define your engagement and equip your ability to
change the world.

All students at SPU are ill-served by the administration’s decision
not to engage with Haven. Students will graduate from SPU and live all
over the country and, indeed, the world.  Like me, they will have
neighbors from different countries, with different values and
perspectives, and be surrounded by diversity.  This is the world we
live in, and it is becoming ever more complex.  Not engaging with this
complexity is simply not a viable option for adults wanting to lead
successful lives.  They will have gay co-workers and Muslim
care-givers.  They will be surrounded by non-Christians.  And they
have an opportunity at SPU to learn to effectively navigate these
complexities with love and grace.  Unfortunately, in deciding to not
recognize Haven, the university is teaching fear and isolation.  Your
students deserve better.

This is a justice issue, and I am deeply saddened that students at SPU
continue to be taught that their value is based on sexuality, gender,
or anything other than their humanity.  I hope that the administration
will reconsider this decision.

Sincerely,
Kristina DeMain
SPU class of 2006
Washington, DC

February 11, 2011

Dear Dean Jordan,
It has come to my attention that Seattle Pacific University will not
allow Haven meeting space on campus, or recognize the group as an
official student organization.  Please take the time to ask yourself:
Why discussion is so scary?
There is an obvious need for a safe place for students who feel
completely alone.  There is a reason why self-identified homosexual
students are five times more likely to commit suicide than their
straight counterparts.   As proud as SPU is of its psychology program,
I am sure you know, it is well documented that hidden shame leads to
dire outcomes.
I am a 2006 cum laude alumni of Seattle Pacific University. I consider
my time there to be transformative.  I graduated with a degree in
Nursing and had strong ties to many communities.  I participated in
University Players, representing SPU to youth across Washington.
Through the SPU ministries program I volunteered for Hope House, an
orphanage in Idaho for special needs children.  We were allowed to
openly discuss our faith struggles and ideas on a daily basis.
With the endorsement of the Dean of SPU’s nursing program, I am now
starting my Doctorate in Anesthesia.  Part of my studies will take
place in the Yale University Hospital working as a part of the Yale
School of Medicine Anesthesia team.  The communities allowed to me at
SPU have helped me achieve my goals.
Allowing community to exist is the foundation of love.  I am
heterosexual and I struggled with my own hidden fears in college as I
tried to understand how the gospel applied to my personal choices and
to the culture.  I was allowed to share my fears with people who
understood and empathized during school sanctioned meetings.  Those
years of discussion shaped my idea of Christianity, scholarship,
community and eventually the acceptance of my own identity as I
entered adulthood.  I came to those safe spaces feeling scared,
guilty, confused, and above all alone.  I left feeling understood and
hopeful.  You will not allow the same for Haven.  This passive
oppression is cowardly if not abusive.
Allowing a safe time to be honest and vulnerable is the difference
between a cold gathering of necessity and a warm, rich community where
learning is exciting, and spiritual truths are made real. The
discussions I had with my peers and mentors are the core of what made
my experience at Seattle Pacific rich.  It is because of these bonds
that I was able to feel the kind of love I believe God intends for all
humans to experience.
Through my last four years as a nurse, I have had opportunities to
share comfort with people while they face the hardest things life has
to offer.  I hugged a mother who lost her only child to a drunk
driver.  I held an elderly woman’s hand while she looked at her
husband of forty years for the very last time.  I have also cried with
gay men and women who are facing the loss of their partners.  There is
no difference in their grief.
They need community, and they need God’s love the same that I do and
the same you do.  They need to be able to meet with people who
understand what they are going through.
I am truly embarrassed to be associated with a University who is so
scared of the things Jesus called us to be: accepting, loving and
unafraid.  I am also uninterested in contributing financially to a
place that does not live up to God’s calling of community.

Sincerely,

Sarah Jane DeVoe

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One response to “Responses to the Administration

  1. Pingback: Seattle Pacific University Alumni Call for Recognition of LGBT Campus Group | LGBT Human Rights. Gay News, Entertainment, Travel

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