Faculty, staff, and students have all found a community here at Eastern, but there are underlying factors which inhibit some of the population’s ability to be authentically themselves. Just the other week, Refuge, along with the Political Activism Club (PAC), held their second Solidarity week to bring light to the complications LGBT+ students, staff, and faculty experience on Eastern’s campus. It was a week filled with discussion, education, and safe spaces for students and others to share what it has been like for them to be immersed in a Christian community. What some members of the community may not know is that some of Eastern’s policies are discriminatory towards the LGBT+ community. What Refuge and PAC hope to accomplish is a more inclusive revision of these old policies that do not reflect the opinion of the majority of the campus. At the Solidarity Stand on April 13, several students shared their personal stories of being LGBT+. Several alum also made an appearance to show their support, as well as advocate for those who are not able to share their voice. Liz Margolis explained what we hope to see change regarding those policies, some of them reflecting what the Sexuality Taskforce passed on to the board of trustees two years ago:
1. Remove the phrase “homosexual conduct” from the examples of “moral turpitude” in the faculty handbook, allowing LGBT+ faculty to be open on campus.
2. Remove the phrase “between a man and a woman” from the definition of marriage in the student handbook.
3. Add a “non-binary and/or transgender” option on the housing card. The following statement should be added to the housing section of Eastern’s website:
“Eastern University is committed to providing Housing to students of all gender identities in a nondiscriminatory manner and provide comparable, safe, and inclusive housing to students at the same cost as to others.
Those with concerns about housing should contact the Housing Coordinator for details about how to request a housing accommodation.”
4. Provide LGBT+ sensitivity training for faculty.
Each of these changes advocate for equal opportunities that current LGBT+ students, faculty, and staff lack. Some of us who have been at the forefront of seeking policy change and preparing the events for Solidarity week,have been open about identifying as LGBT+. Since we decided to come out to the community and advocate for those who are unable to come out, we have lost our ability to come back and work at Eastern. As students, Eastern “welcomes” us into the community and encourages us to succeed and apply ourselves. The day we graduate, we lose Eastern’s welcome and encouragement since the message reflects, “You are no longer welcome.” To friends and faculty, students and alum are embraced, but by policy, we are to never come back. Eastern tells us to get our education, but then they close us off from the opportunities that are available to others. We are encouraged to, and obviously want, to get involved in the community, but when it comes time to graduate, the farewell is harder for LGBT+ students. To us, others are saying “see you soon,” but we are being exiled from ever returning to the place where we found our second family.