Between the senior leadership team, the Board of Trustees, the Students’ Association, Voice, and the alumni base, there’s plenty of opinions about LGBT policies floating around the university. All of the jargon can get a bit overwhelming to most students. Terms like “inclusivity” sound appealing, but what does that really mean in a practical sense?
As the university moves forward in considering LGBT policies, the focus needs to be on practical measures. It wasn’t too long ago that the university allowed an on-campus dance, so the fact that we can talk about this already shows the university has come a long way. But we still have to balance a Christian identity, a new generation and a conservative alumni base. If the university wants to balance these, it should focus on practical measures that affect students daily.
Current policy in the student handbook is slightly vague. It prohibits “behavioral expressions” outside of the marriage of one man and one woman. But it doesn’t define behavioral expressions.
This policy could cause those in same-sex relationships or part of the LGBT community to feel afraid to express themselves for fear of expulsion. However, it works as a practical way for the university to handle issues on a case-by-case basis. It allows Mark Lewis, dean of students, and Chris Riley, vice president of Student Life, to exercise wise judgement when handling any issues related to the policy. Making the policy more specific could make it harder for Student Life to use due diligence for each situation.
However, making the policy more specific could help current and incoming students better understand what they are getting into when they sign the student handbook. The handbook gives the university the right to make moral decisions about your personal life, i.e. your sexual stewardship. But let’s face it, most of our personal choices aren’t really the school’s business. What becomes the school’s business are gender issues on campus. Gender affects a lot of different things on campus like women’s and men’s residence halls, women’s and men’s social clubs or taking a date to freshmen formal.
Perhaps the policy could include specific rules about residence life, like questioning whether or not a person in a same-sex relationship should be a resident assistant in a dorm. Can a transgender student live in the dorm that conforms to their gender identity? Specific rules like this could help students understand what they are really signing onto when they enroll at this university. But if the policy were restrictive, it could make some people feel more excluded. If the policy were less restrictive, the university could have trouble adhering to the one-man-one-woman principle.
Perhaps the school’s current vague policy is the most inclusive choice after all.