Whitworth, in response to our ever-changing society, has evolved over the years. A recent and continuing change on our campus is how Whitworth abides by its morals and responds to diversity. As an institution that holds to Christian values, many conversations on the table are controversial. An issue that I have witnessed being discussed in many interactions around campus is how we treat people who are openly gay. This past year, the student handbook was adapted in response to the progression of gay rights and the legalization of gay marriage. The cohabitation policy included in the Big Three now encompasses all kinds of relationships, not just those that are heterosexual. While the institution has embraced this change, the people on our campus are not always so accepting or accommodating.
I had the privilege of attending a Prime Time in Baldwin-Jenkins this week called “Q&A with the Gays.” Two cultural diversity advocates, Julian Jordan and Maria Felice, hosted this bold conversation. Jordan and Felice showed videos and answered questions from the perspectives of two people who experience daily what it is like to be openly gay on a Christian campus
This Prime Time intended to encourage acceptance and promote “people-first language,” Felice said. The idea behind this language is that the actual person comes first, not his or her sexual orientation being used as an identifier.
“We’re labeling people not as homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual or whatever else,” Felice said. “We’re labeling people for who they were born to be.”
While Felice and Jordan agree that our campus is moving toward acceptance and diversity, they have each seen the flip side of that. They have both witnessed or been victims of persecution and hate crimes. Events have taken place on our campus that are both shocking and appalling. Jordan, who was on the receiving end of a serious bias incident last year at Whitworth, is using his experience to teach others.
“[We are] in the process of diversifying,” Jordan said. “Every day we’re getting closer to that open-minded, friendly community. I know that I can use my negative experience to bring positivity to this campus.”
It is hard to hear that someone has had a negative experience on our campus based solely on his or her sexuality. Someone’s sexual orientation or other difference should not justify hateful acts. Love, belonging and acceptance are basic requirements of each person, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. We are in no place to deny anyone these rights. While we might like to treat this issue as separate from ourselves, we need to take ownership for the community we create on our campus, which is our current home.
“Sometimes we forget that we need to build a community that is accepting of all sexualities,” Felice said. “It can’t be black or white. We can’t blame the faculty or staff; it all starts with students. We need to stand up and go for equality.”
Felice worded it perfectly. We need to accept the challenge that Jordan and Felice bring to our attention and own up to the lack of love and acceptance we show on our campus. Each person can make a difference in this way. Whether or not you have been part of the problem, you can be part of the solution.
Miranda Cloyd Columnist
Contact Miranda Cloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org