Seattle Grads Protest University's Anti-LGBTQ+ Hiring Policy In Iconic Fashion While Accepting Diplomas
Graduating students at Seattle Pacific University gave their university president LGBTQ+ Pride flags when receiving their diplomas to protest the college's recently upheld policy against hiring LGBTQ+ staff members.
Last month, SPU's Board of Trustees decided to uphold a rule that prevents the school from hiring LGBTQ+ employees.
The school's current conduct expectations require employees to avoid engaging in same-sex sexual activity, extramarital sex and cohabitating before marriage.
\u201c"Students graduating from Seattle Pacific University (SPU) were seen giving the president of the school LGBT pride flags as part of a protest against the school's ban on allowing full-time staff to be in same-sex relationships."\nhttps://t.co/9F0HSDyfEE\u201d— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey) 1655230312
The students' demonstration coincided with Pride month, where the LGBTQ+ community and their allies embrace the freedom to be themselves while also speaking out against inequality and the injustices stemming from bigotry.
Around 50 flags were given to students prior to the ceremony. Around 45 students handed the interim president, Pete Menjares, the flags upon receiving their diplomas.
A TikTok video of the moment was shared on The Progressivists Instagram page.
The overlaying text read:
"POV: the president of your university thinks being LGBTQ+ is a 'lifestyle choice' and a 'morality issue' so you decide to give him a gift at graduation."
Seattle Pacific University student and organizer Chloe Guillot told CNN how the idea for their demonstration began.
"It started just as a conversation among students that we didn't really want to shake the president's hand at graduation," said Guillot.
"So, we thought what can we do instead of that? And the idea came up: why don't we hand out a pride flag?"
\u201c@davenewworld_2 This is amazing omg \ud83d\ude04\ud83d\ude04\ud83d\udc4f\ud83d\udc4f\u201d— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey) 1655230312
\u201c@davenewworld_2 Shout out to them and this one \ud83d\ude02\ud83d\ude02\ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\ud83c\udf08\ud83c\udff3\ufe0f\u200d\u26a7\ufe0f\u26a7\u201d— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey) 1655230312
\u201c@davenewworld_2 She went IN for the kill!\u201d— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey) 1655230312
\u201c@davenewworld_2 Gave him allll the shade\u201d— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey) 1655230312
\u201c@davenewworld_2 There are times \nwhen the young people \ngive me hope for the future.\n\nThis is one of them\nWe need more\u201d— Fifty Shades of Whey (@Fifty Shades of Whey) 1655230312
According to the university's website, SPU is a religious educational institution affiliated with the Free Methodist Church USA that "reserves the right to prefer employees or prospective employees on the basis of religion."
The Free Methodist Church USA defines "Marriage, between one man and one woman" as "the only proper setting for sexual intimacy."
\u201c@SeattlePacific is a Methodist university \n\nThey won\u2019t hire LGBT staff\n\nThey don\u2019t think it is line with their beliefs \n\nI thought Christians believed in the teachings of Jesus - the whole judge not lest ye be judged \n\nI guess SPU knows better than Jesus\n\nhttps://t.co/NeGz6uu3Gj\u201d— Really? I'm gobsmacked (@Really? I'm gobsmacked) 1655300615
\u201c@SeattlePacific \n\nYou are giving religion a bad name by refusing to hire LGBT staff because of religion \n\nhttps://t.co/NeGz6uu3Gj\u201d— Really? I'm gobsmacked (@Really? I'm gobsmacked) 1655300851
In response to the SPU Board's decision barring LGBTQ+ employees at the school, Board Chair Cedric Davis said in a statement on May 23:
"While this decision brings complex and heart-felt reactions, the Board made a decision that it believed was most in line with the university's mission and Statement of Faith and chose to have SPU remain in communion with its founding denomination, the Free Methodist Church USA, as a core part of its historical identity as a Christian university."
Davis resigned on May 26.
\u201cFull stop: Any institution that receives Federal funding needs to be barred from discriminating. If they can't operate without taxpayer funding, they shouldn't be in business. I don't like financially supporting bigots.\n\nhttps://t.co/Qo8rZ79uwl\u201d— \u2764\ufe0f\ud83c\udf08Sloth is an LGBTQ+ Ally\ud83c\udf08\u2764\ufe0f (@\u2764\ufe0f\ud83c\udf08Sloth is an LGBTQ+ Ally\ud83c\udf08\u2764\ufe0f) 1655301251
Another student organizing the demonstration, Pamela Styborski, stressed the importance of making a statement "that was very public, visible and respectful" before graduating.
"Going into Sunday, we couldn't go out being silent," said Styborski.
Since the board's decision, SPU students have staged a walkout in protest. They also organized a sit-in in front of the president's office.
The sit-in is expected to continue through July 1, after which students plan to pursue legal action depending on the Board's re-evaluation of their decision.