The Students’ Association will draft a resolution about the university LGBT policies based on feedback from student surveys and a town hall meeting that took place Thursday night.
The meeting included information about current policies presented by Abbey Moses, SA executive president, and Dr. Chris Riley, vice president for Student Life. Attendees were given a survey and the opportunity to ask questions or make statements.
The meeting centered on three questions submitted by the university leadership:
- Should ACU attempt to prohibit students in same-sex relationships (dating or married) from attending ACU?
- Should ACU discipline or suspend students if they enter into a same-sex relationship (dating or married) while attending ACU?
- If yes for either, what practical steps would the university need to take to deny admission or discipline to such students?
These policies are being considered because the university announced its position regarding same-sex relationships in the fall and unveiled policies for faculty and staff last month. The university position states ACU will strive to love and respect those who identify as LGBT while upholding that God intends sexual relations for marriage between one man and woman. Same-sex relationships, both dating and marriage, are not permitted among faculty and staff.
Between 40-50 students attended the town hall meeting, which was more than Abraham Enriquez, SA executive vice president, said he had expected. Several students asked for clarification about the policies and how the policies could be changed, but no one made a statement during the meeting.
“We’re not having a moral argument, but rather looking at what policy would be beneficial for our students,” Moses said during the meeting.
The current student policy 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.”
Legally, ACU can prohibit students in same-sex relationships from attending the university, Riley said. As a private university, ACU could apply for a waiver from the federal government that exempts the school from Title IX and any other applicable anti-discrimination laws. Harding University and Oklahoma Christian University, both also affiliated with Churches of Christ, have such religious waivers. Harding received national attention in 2011 for blocking a student-run gay website.
Moses said if changes are made to the student policies, it would focus on the “behavioral expressions” part of the policy. Because the boundaries are vague, LGBT students who responded to an anonymous survey said they were confused about whether that included going on dates, holding hands or other “expressions.”
Students filled out a survey at the end of the meeting and the same survey will be sent to all students in the next week. Responses from the survey will be used by the SA cabinet and three Student Congress members to draft a resolution to change the policy.