How Wide is Our Welcome Event: A look into an upcoming event featuring a reporter from the New Yorker

By: Jayme Fisher

On Oct. 19, Emma Green, a reporter for the New Yorker, Kathy Lee, a retired university professor and David King, a retired university president will be speaking at Eastern University. Green will be the main speaker, but Dr. Lee and Dr. King will also be speaking. 

Green is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she covers cultural conflicts in academia. She was previously a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covered religion and politics and led a series called “The Atlantic Interview.” Her reporting was regularly featured on “The Experiment,” a podcast collaboration between The Atlantic and WNYC.

Dr. Lee taught political science for 38 years before retiring from her position as professor of political science at Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. She taught at Eastern for 17 years and chaired the department. She earned her Ph.D. in political science at The Johns Hopkins University and her J. D. at Temple University. Her areas of focus included women in politics and American political institutions. She did her undergraduate work at Wake Forest University.

Dr. King served as President of Malone University for 13 years before retiring. He also served at Eastern University for 20 years before moving to Malone in 2012. Dr. King has been an advocate for higher education and served in leadership roles on initiatives with the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, the Christian College Consortium, the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Ohio and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges. He has also served as Chair of the President’s Council of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference and Chair of the Board for the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities of Ohio.

Dr. King and Dr. Lee became friends during their time at Eastern and have continued their friendship since leaving the university. They connected because Dr. Lee shared her sexuality with Dr. King, who had to support her quietly as Eastern’s policies would not have allowed it. 

Dr. Julie Morgan, the Chair of the Communication Department, invited the three to come to campus after reading Green’s article “The Hidden Life of a Christian-College Professor” published by the New Yorker.  This article explores Dr. Lee’s journey of coming out as a faculty member at a Christian college where there was a possibility of losing her job. Over a five-year period, Dr. Lee wrote updates to Green with the potential for the story to shine a light on this sensitive topic. The speech will expand on the article and investigate how wide the Christian higher education community’s welcome is towards LGBTQI people. 

Green will be focusing on Christian colleges, specifically institutions within the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (C.C.C.U.). The council is America’s most prominent association of evangelical Protestant schools and holds a very firm theological stance that is not affirming for the LGBTQI community. 

Most schools within the C.C.C.U have faculty and staff sign an agreement that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, Dr. Lee worked at Whitworth University, which was one of the few colleges that did not require staff to sign such an agreement. Instead, Whitworth did not take a stance on the LGBTQI community. Despite this, Dr. Lee was still unsure of whether or not she could be “fully” out at the university. 

Green takes Dr. Lee’s story and uses it to shine a light on this discussion about the C.C.C.U.  At the event, Dr. Lee will be sharing her story while Dr. King will discuss how a leader of a university has to navigate such a sensitive topic.  On Oct. 19, the three will be speaking in the Warner Library Atrium at 7 p.m. All students and faculty are invited to attend.

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