Updated: Jul 1, 2018
Firstly, I would like to thank Kaleb Turner for such a well-written article on the hectic events of Friday, April 20th, 2018. He was very respectful not only to our organization, but in his communications with me in hopes of getting a few quotes for The Bison. Many of those who know that this is my project have asked me why I have declined to comment. It’s not because I don’t wish to (there were some juicy questions in there I really wanted to answer), but I declined because I could not put my identity at risk. If the administration were to throw their weight around and ask those at The Bison who had to know my name (for validity reasons), then they would be obligated to release that information to them. If I would have felt safe, I would have done that interview in a second. I do wish to work with the Bison in the future to answer whatever questions they may have, but I won’t put myself or my team at risk to do so.
Secondly, I would like to explain my reason for not choosing to go through the office of Student Life to get this approved to distribute.
There would have been NO way this would have gotten through Student Life. Even with the loving, respectful, and tame articles it included, it would have been stopped at the door. There is no doubt in my mind. This is not something Harding wants out, not because it’s obscene, but because it shows an opinion that differs from theirs. Their actions say that they are comfortable letting the queer students suffer in oppressive, and sometimes deadly, silence, rather than changing their attitudes toward queer students and in turn, losing donors.
That brings me to my third point. We are NOT asking the University to change its stances on their interpretation of the Bible, we are asking them to change their ATTITUDES. I was absolutely exasperated reading The Bison article, because it seems as if those higher up have not done the most important thing that we asked them to do: listen to us.
Jana Rucker, vice president of communications and marketing, said this:
“The university’s position on sex and sexuality has not changed. Any student who meets the enrollment requirements is welcome to attend Harding, provided they are willing to abide by the university’s code of conduct. … We continue to affirm that our position on this topic is based in scripture and that sex is the creation of God and is only permissible in the context of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Here’s the thing, when oppressed and hurting queer students speak out and say, “Let us exist, acknowledge us, and protect us,” and the University’s response was, “Well you can’t have sex (which goes for everyone) and you can’t have romantic relationships (which only goes for queer students),” That response is devaluing us to the point where you think that’s what the ACTUAL problem is.
To say that is to assume that’s all we are, sexual deviants who want nothing more than to have an “exception” to the rules, when there is nothing further from the truth. Most queer students I know are single and are in accordance with Harding’s rules and regulations. We are MORE than sex, we are people, and you debasing our voices because you don’t agree with them is sickening. We said, “Let us exist,” and you heard, “Let us have sex,” I will say this, probably not for the last time: let us exist, let us have a voice, and protect us. You want to know how to help us? Reach out to us. We don’t have any “demands”, this isn’t a hostage situation. We’re students who are hurting, extending the first olive branch to make things better.
Lastly is the part that gets me the most frustrated and upset, and that is yet another quote from Jana Rucker:
“We don’t want any student to be made to feel isolated, alone or fearful of fellow students, faculty or staff members for any reason. We are called to love, and that is truly what we strive to do as an institution and as followers of Christ. If any member of the campus community feels unsafe or bullied for any reason, we encourage you to report your concerns to Student Life or a faculty or staff member immediately.”
I can’t imagine how blind one would have to be to think that this is about a lone event of discrimination or bullying. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so heart-breaking. So, let me be perfectly clear:
The danger, isolation, and fear queer students feel is not due to isolated events, but by the environment the University is perpetuating by their attitudes and policies about the LGBTQ+ community.
Why do you think we didn’t go to Student Life? We aren’t afraid of Dean Neal, or any of the other deans. We’re afraid of the institution.
Your professors spew ignorant hate speech.
You blatantly ignore and silence queer voices.
You send healthy individuals to be “counseled” because of their sexual attraction.
You refuse to have healthy and open dialogue about queer rights.
You refuse to listen.
You refuse to change.
You refuse to love.
We may be afraid of a few students, sure. But there is an entire document in my possession full of statements of discrimination that the University has perpetuated by remaining silent. Students have DIED because of the environment this University is entertaining with silence and shrugs.
I’m tired. I’m hurt. I’m scared. I’m emotionally raw.
But I have hope. I have hope that this movement will unite LGBTQ+ students and allies. I have hope that queer students will find us and won’t have to suffer alone in silence like those before them. I have hope that the University will humble and examine itself, and start having open dialogues or even panels about LGBTQ+ persons that is not saturated with straight, white men who haven’t had an honest relationship with anyone different than them.
I have hope, and if there are students to feed the flame after my team is gone, others will hope too. As President Snow said in “The Hunger Games”:
"Hope, it is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective, a lot of hope is dangerous."
A more serious reminder for our University:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” -Desmond Tutu