Students’ Association Congress will vote Wednesday on whether to urge the university to change its sexual stewardship policy to remove punishment for students showing expressions of same-sex attraction.
The resolution being voted on provides student feedback to university administration and focuses particularly on LGBT student conduct with regard to current policy. If passed, the resolution would submit documents to administration to be taken to the Board of Trustees. In addition to submitting survey results, SA will propose to remove the term “behavioral expressions” from the Sexual Stewardship policy and will recommend the board remove punishment or dismissal of students in same-sex relationships or marriages.
SA’s resolution is based largely on results of a student survey regarding LGBT student conduct, as well as small group discussions and town hall meetings related to the policy. SA sent out a survey in late March to gauge the student body’s thoughts on the issue and 1,015 students responded, roughly 25 percent of the student body.
Overall, an average of 79.3 percent of the respondents indicated the university should not prohibit students in same-sex relationships from attending ACU or punish current students in same-sex relationships.
Evan Rodriguez, sophomore management major from Sugar Land and member of Students’ Association and the LGBTQ+ Student Feedback Task Force, said these conversations have been ongoing since the fall.
Rodriguez worked alongside Julia Kennedy, sophomore english major from Lubbock, and Ty Kelley, junior information and technology major from San Antonio, to write the resolution.
“We wanted to be very specific in the response,” Rodriguez said. “In the survey, a lot of students had a lot of questions about what the changes would mean.”
The first half of the resolution details the board’s guidance on the issue and indicates the majority of survey respondents were against the policy as it stands. The last point of the resolution offers three actions: (1) that the resolution and accompanying documents be submitted to SA; (2) that the term “behavioral expressions” be removed from the handbook; (3) that the Board should discuss removing punishment or dismissal of students in same-sex relationships, dating or married.
“The first part of the bill serves as justification and explanation of what things mean, because there’s been a lot of misconceptions,” Rodriguez said. “Some people have thought it’d mean students can do whatever they want in the dorms now, or that we’re trying to get rid of all standards. That’s not the case. We are just clarifying an unclear area.”
The term “behavioral expressions”, what many in SA and on campus are calling the most problematic area of the Sexual Stewardship policy, refers to language in the Student Handbook, which states:
“Abilene Christian University affirms the biblical model, in which sexual relations are experienced only within the marriage bond between a man and a woman. Relationships or their behavioral expressions outside of this example are not condoned by Abilene Christian University and are subject to disciplinary or other appropriate action.”
This portion of the student handbook has been in discussion frequently among the Board and university administration in recent years. In the fall, the university recognized LGBT support group Voice as an official student group based on the Board’s guiding principles for sexual stewardship. No changes, however, have been made to university policy.
The Board of Trustees established guidance in three parts as the university navigates the issue: affirmation of the dignity and worth of all human beings regardless of sexual orientation, belief in the scriptural teaching that God intends sexual relations to be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, and encouragement for all in the ACU community to engage the issue with civility and respect.
If SA’s resolution passes Wednesday, it would be the first of many steps to see change enacted in policy.
“This is a resolution, highlighting the problematic area,” Rodriguez said. “How that change will manifest itself is up to the Board.”
With this proposal up for a vote, Rodriguez said he and the LGBTQ+ Student Feedback Task Force are hoping to garner support from all students on campus.
“When we crafted this resolution, we said we are going to appeal to 100 percent of students, not just the 80 percent who were in favor on the survey. We wanted to craft something that every student can get behind.”
The vote will take place Wednesday at 5:15 SA Congress in COBA 201.
“I feel like that there will be important questions raised,” Rodriguez said. “But I don’t doubt that it will pass.”