Seattle Pacific University students stage walkout after board reaffirms discriminatory hiring policy

Seattle Pacific University faculty and students are pushing back on what they say is a “devastating” recent decision by the school’s Board of Trustees to uphold, again, its policy that discriminates based on sexual orientation.

Students walked out of class to rally on campus Tuesday, and the Faculty Council, an executive committee of the faculty, is expected to consider official action to keep pushing for the removal of the policy — and potentially the board.

The SPU’s Board of Trustees voted last week to not make any changes to its hiring practices at the private Christian school in Queen Anne, as pressure mounts from students and faculty to nix the school’s employee lifestyle policy that prohibits employees from participating in “sexual behavior that is inconsistent with the University’s understanding of Biblical standards,” including same-sex marriage. 

Students and staff have also pushed for the school to make changes to its statement on human sexuality which says “sexual experience is intended between a man and a woman.”

Andrew Tedmon, an SPU senior, said the board’s take on sexuality and its hiring policy makes him ashamed to be associated with the school. “I’ve made a lot of wonderful friends and met amazing people here, but to now have my name permanently associated with a homophobic institution … it’s embarrassing.”

Tedmon said it’s especially frustrating because most students and staff on campus disagree with the board.

The board’s vote comes after a campus work group made recommendations for changes this spring.

The group was tasked with exploring options for the school to better address issues around gender and sexual orientation, following a faculty vote of “no confidence” in the board after an adjunct nursing professor was denied a promotion and subsequently sued the school, alleging he was discriminated against because of his sexual orientation.

But before the Board of Trustees could vote on the work group’s recommendation last week, the Free Methodist Church USA, the university’s religious affiliate, released a statement saying the school would lose its status in the church if it removed the hiring policy. 

In a statement following the board’s decision to retain the policy, Board Chair Cedric Davis said members made the choice they believed was most in line with the school’s “historical identity as a Christian university.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.