This week, the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) held its annual cabal in Washington, DC. And though we’re sure much of it covered boring academic and administrative minutiae, Inside Higher Ed reports that speakers at one panel made it clear that these schools’ views on homosexuality wouldn’t be leaving the 19th century any time soon.
The media wasn’t allowed to cover the panel, but attendees claim the conversation “dealt not with whether colleges should change their attitudes toward gay students, but how to deal with the controversy that breaks out when students or alumni pressure a college to change,” writes reporter Libby Nelson.
College is where most of us first experienced the sense of liberation that comes with making your own choices and determining your own identity. We can’t imagine any LGBT person choosing to go to an evangelical Christian school, most of which require students and faculty to sign pledges that they pretty much won’t piss on a gay person if he was on fire.
But not everyone gets to go to school where they want—economic realities, family pressures and other factors may make attending a CCCU school a necessity. But more and more gay students at these institutions are refusing to stay silent.
As Nelson points out:
Last year, a group of 31 gay and lesbian Westmont alumni wrote a letter to the college, saying they had lived in an environment of “doubt, loneliness and fear” while enrolled there. More than 100 additional alumni signed on in support, and more than 50 faculty members signed a letter in response, asking forgiveness for causing the students pain.
A few months later, an openly gay student at Messiah College, in Pennsylvania, told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that he planned to transfer after two semesters of bullying. Students had excluded him, he said, a professor had called him an “abomination,” he received death threats on Facebook, and his wallet, keys and student ID were stolen, among other incidents, he said.
While administrators insist they don’t brook outright discrimination and tell their students to respect the dignity of all people, college kids—like small children—practice what they see, not what they’re told.
“It’s important to us as leaders of Christian colleges and universities to promote sexual purity, to exercise good pastoral care and to articulate Biblical convictions,” says Philip Ryken, a panel moderator and president of Illinois’ Wheaton College.
Okay then, Mr. Ryken, which Biblical conviction helps a freshman sleep at night when he’s worried someone might try to kill him for being gay?
Photos: Joseph Kranak, Johns Hopkins University