The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Published 5/29/13 | Log In
Seniors and Haven co-leaders, Caleb Richmond, Becky Jennings, Joy Bethune and Aaron Roberts converse about the outcome of Haven after a Jan. 25 meeting with Jeff Jordan, associate vice president of academic affairs.
Photo credit: EMILY STOCK/The Falcon.
University will not discuss club status, mission statement for LGBTQ group
By MELISSA STEFFAN, Editor-in-Chief
Published: February 2, 2011
To read the complete version of Haven's revised Statement of Purpose, click here.
“Haven no longer exists.”
That is how Haven leaders are interpreting the results of a Jan. 25 meeting with Jeff Jordan, associate vice president for academic affairs.
At that meeting, Jordan informed Haven leaders that they will no longer be granted the right to reserve rooms on campus for group meetings. In addition, Jordan told the student leaders he will no longer discuss the possibility of official club status for Haven, a group dedicated to discussing sexuality, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer issues.
Haven has never been an officially recognized student club or organization, Jordan said. As a result, he said, Haven’s current state is not significantly different from the way it has always been.
“I don’t know that a lot has changed, in one sense, other than access in my working with (Haven) and the expectations that have been set forth,” he said.
Yet, Haven leaders said they feel as though Haven is in the process of being “defined out of existence.”
“We were not a club before that meeting and we’re not now, but we still exist,” said senior and Haven co-leader Caleb Richmond.
On Jan. 20, a similar meeting occurred between Professor of Sociology Kevin Neuhouser, Haven’s faculty adviser, and Jordan and Les Steele, vice president for academic affairs.
“What I was told is that, in terms of a formal group, Haven did not exist,” Neuhouser said. “The university did not recognize Haven as a group and, since they weren’t a group, they couldn’t have the rights and privileges that recognized groups have.”
Technical definitions have plagued Haven since it formed four years ago as a result of the Equality Ride movement that came to campus. Since that time, Haven leaders have sought official Associated Students of Seattle Pacific club status, and have always been required to work with Jordan regarding on-campus Haven events, Jordan said.
Previously, Jordan provisionally authorized Haven leaders to reserve space, such as classrooms, through Conference Services. Haven leaders no longer have that right, Jordan said.
They are still allowed to meet informally and unofficially in public spaces, such as Weter Lounge. Yet, senior Haven co-leader Becky Jennings said the personal nature of Haven discussions necessitates privacy.
“Since our main goal is to be a safe place for discussion on campus, when we don’t have a safe place that is our own, it compromises our ability to be a safe space,” Jennings said.
In October 2010, Haven was approved to use a room in Demaray Hall as a private meeting space for the month, said senior sociology major Aaron Roberts, Haven co-leader. In return, Haven agreed to keep the university informed of the group’s activities and provide a revised Statement of Purpose.
Following Haven’s Pastor Panel event on Nov. 7, 2010, though, the situation changed.
“There was concern about the makeup of the panel,” said Kevin Neuhouser, professor of sociology and Haven’s faculty adviser. “Haven had worked very hard to try to have a broad range of pastors. For a variety of reasons, the only ones who were willing to come and be on this panel were the ones who were more affirming.”
The Pastor Panel was the last time Haven was able to reserve university space for a group meeting or event.
However, the Pastor Panel was not the sole factor behind this decision. At that time, the group still had not submitted a revised Statement of Purpose, Jordan said.
“We were operating without an idea of (Haven’s) purpose -- at least the administration didn’t have (one),” Jordan said. “So there was a good faith effort that I felt like I was doing on behalf of the university and administration to say, ‘We will give you space, but we also need this to be worked on.’”
Haven began to revise its mission statement later that month, Roberts said. The group met and decided to scratch the old document and begin anew, focusing on Haven’s core values, he said.
Haven’s previous mission statement contained excerpts from SPU’s Statement on Human Sexuality. Leaders had hoped incorporating university views would enable the mission statement’s approval, Roberts said.
Yet, previous mission statements that used such language were never approved, Jordan said.
This time, Jordan said, he asked leaders to address the Statement of Purpose not just in terms of what they wanted to be as a group, but to connect their statement to the university’s position on sexuality.
“Where I was trying to head was, ‘I understand that you can use bits and pieces, but really, can you agree to the university’s statement, and where do you have issues?’” Jordan said. “That’s the point we hadn’t gotten to up to this point.”
In the new Statement of Purpose, Haven removed all direct quotes from the Statement of Human Sexuality. Still, the goals and the mission of Haven to promote open discussion stayed the same, Jennings said.
However, the group’s statement stops short of taking any specific position on the Statement of Human Sexuality.
According to its Statement of Purpose, “Haven recognizes that SPU has a Statement on Human Sexuality that defines the university’s position. Haven will ensure that the content of this statement is clearly presented in our activities. Because Haven exists to promote safe and respectful conversations, however, Haven will ensure that all views, even those in disagreement with SPU’s Statement, are presented fairly and treated impartially.”
Haven submitted its new mission statement in January, but never discussed the document with Jordan, said senior sociology major Joy Bethune, Haven co-leader.
“The discussion about it is over,” she said. “We don’t know why the administration didn’t even address the new mission statement.”
The university’s Jan. 25 decision to stop working with Haven is a setback for the group, which has set a long-term goal of making SPU a safe community for all students, Neuhouser said. Being a club and providing a particular space was one step toward that bigger goal.
“We don’t seem to be making progress toward a place where our students can be safe,” he said. “I would love the day when Haven is no longer necessary because the whole campus was safe for all our students.”
Until that time, Haven will not disappear, Roberts said.
“They can define us out of existence all they want, but Haven will continue to meet on campus because there’s a need for Haven on campus,” Roberts said.