LGBTQ+ community members gathered on Tuesday evening for the first Haven meeting after recent reinstated policy changes disallowing romanticised homosexual relationships on campus.
Over 150 students congregated in Multi Media Room 5 on East Campus Tuesday, Oct. 1, to commence the fifth Haven meeting of the semester. Four times the normal number of student attendees gathered to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Student Life Vice President, Shino Simons Ph.D., opened the meeting with prayer for the LGBTQ+ community.
“Give us the ability to see each other in the midst of this conversation,” Simons prayed.
Haven co-leaders Courtney Fredericks and Nolan Croce announced their vision for the meeting: a time of questions and answers for students and Simons. They asked attendees to write their questions on index cards and pass them to the front of the room.
Associate Dean of Students and Haven faculty adviser Bill Fiala, Ph.D., read students’ questions to Simons.
“Again, although the policy has been reinstated, [the Board of Trustees] have acknowledged the fact that they want to see [Haven] continue,” Simons answered in response to questions regarding the Board of Trustees status on the issue. “Part of it is proactive education within our community,” Simons said.
Simons addressed students’ questions regarding the policy change, faculty support, facilities management and campus’ safety involvement. She provided students with her personal anecdote and opinion regarding LGBTQ+ representation on campus.
“Our [Board of Trustees] are committed to sitting at the table,” Simons said.
In response to the meeting’s agenda, Breana Schricker, a senior social work major, said she hopes the university’s processes become clearer for students.
“I know the desire for our meeting was to provide clarity, but I know a lot of people still have questions specifically regarding changing student codes of conduct,” Schricker said. “That process needs to be outlined for students who are interested in changing things about the university; the university shouldn’t hide that process in any way shape or form.”
Schricker explained that LGBTQ+ students need to be made aware of the policy change and conversation surrounding the issue.
“We need to know today, if someone finds out that an LGBTQ+ student has a relationship that is not heterosexual, what happens to them?” Schricker asks. “ [The Board of Trustees] say it’s a conversation, but what does that mean? What punishments does a student have to endure for loving someone?”
After the question and answer portion of the meeting, co-leaders designated time for a student story highlight.
“The greatest gift God has given me is allowing me to experience a queer life,” Haven member Cayla Hailwood said in regards to her Episcopalian upbringing.
“I am amazed and proud of Cayla,” said philosophy professor Terry Merrick, Ph.D., in response to Hailwood’s student story.
Toward the end of the meeting, Fredericks provided the community with announcements regarding a language-change request of the group.
“The Board of Trustees has asked us to create a new name for Haven,” Fredericks announced. “We are no longer an LGBTQ+ pilot program, but a ministry instead.”
Tabitha Parker, SGA president, explained how LGBTQ+ students are feeling after this week’s events.
“There is a lot of hurt and confusion on campus, I think the biggest thing that people are aiming and striving for is to get answers and gain clarity,” Parker said. “People are trying to gain a sense of understanding so they know what position to take and where they stand and how we’re going to move forward as a university.”
Merrick describes how she recognized the emotions of the LGBTQ+ community over the past several years.
“The system has betrayed [the LGBTQ+ community],” Merrick said. “Their response to that is to return compassion and love.”
“I am happy, but I am also deeply frustrated. The board members who are making these decisions needed to be sitting in this room,” Merrick describes. “I am profoundly angry and disappointed in some of my other straight, cisgender siblings in Christ that don’t think they have anything to learn from other members of the body of Christ.”
“I appreciate a lot of you who have been very thoughtful,” Simons said in regards to students’ letters of concern.
If you would like to write a letter to the provost (chief academic officer), regarding LGBTQ+ support on campus, or any questions or concerns, please address Mark Stanton Ph.D., ABPP, firstname.lastname@example.org.