Azusa Pacific President Jon Wallace wants students on campus to be engaged politically. This is not an empty statement, he has taken initiative to set an example for students of how to be politically active.
On Feb. 2, Wallace teamed up with the presidents of Point Loma Nazarene University and Life Pacific College to write another president, Donald Trump. They sent President Trump a letter concerning the Executive Order that attempted to suspend immigration from several countries in the Middle East, from a Christian perspective.
“Many in our diverse communities come to our campuses on the shoulders of immigrants. Indeed, we all share pages in that American heritage of welcoming the vulnerable, extending hospitality, and inviting participation in the great experiment of these United States,” Wallace wrote in the letter.
“Scripture calls us to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the refugee. It also urges us that we work with respect for the authorities of our nation with fidelity to our Christian identity. We contend that every person bears the image of God and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Wallace said that he felt it was important to share his concern for impacted students with Trump.
“It’s really important to remember that this comes from our Wesleyan Holiness tradition,” Wallace said. “We want to be in the conversations where there may be difference of opinion. We want to stand in those spaces in a God honoring way.”
Wallace said that this wasn’t the first time, that there were areas of disagreement with former President Obama’s administration.
“These are our responsibilities to speak on behalf of our students,” Wallace said.
The letter is not the only way Wallace has been politically active this year. He was vocal when Senate Bill 1146 passed in California, which dealt with the treatment of LGBTQ students at religious universities.
“We, working with a number of other college presidents in California and state agencies, helped to reframe the wording of SB 1146,” Wallace said. “It became a transparency bill, meaning that colleges and universities are required to be as transparent as possible with any standards of conduct or expectations that are directly related to their religious beliefs, or directly related to Title IX.”
The bill was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown and will take effect during next school year.
“We saw that as an opportunity to really tell our story,” Wallace said. “It’s not fully in place yet. It’s required of us to have the wording appear in writing on our website. We’ll make it available so that any person who seeks out information about the university will be able to find this information as we head into the fall semester.”
When asked about how he felt about President Trump’s first few months in office, Wallace responded that he had a unique leadership style, especially when it came to his use of social media.
“His leadership style has been unique to what we have seen previously,” Wallace said. “The Bible tells us to pray for our leaders. The leadership at APU and I regularly pray for President Trump and his administration.”
Wallace noted that historically, college students and young adults are the least politically active age groups. He encouraged students at APU to be more engaged politically.
“What we’re trying to do is train up men and women who engage culture and society, who are the kind of neighbors you want to live next to. We want our students to be that kind of a citizen,” Wallace said. “In terms of engagement, there’s all kinds of stuff like the elections or the political engagement on campus for student clubs and organizations. I think students need to express their voice and encourage conversation with their friends around issues that matter.”
He continued to say how students could be engaged beyond APU.
“All politics are really local” is a famous quote. Engagement in the city of Azusa in the political process would be great,” Wallace said. “I know that the mayor and the city council currently in office and those who will be running for office would love to see student engagement. At the state and national level, I think that students need to inform themselves on what the issues are and follow those issues to some conclusion.”
Wallace was also part of the committee that chose the university passage for next year. He said that he was encouraged by the conversations the university passage created this year and looks forward to next year.
“Micah 6:8 gives core values for how we are to know and be known. Acts 2:42-47 is really a picture of what vibrant and robust Christ centered community looks like,” Wallace said. “I’m really excited to think that we’ll spend a whole year looking at both passages.”