The Senior Leadership Team last spring initiated conversation in an attempt to clarify the university’s sexual stewardship policy.
Though this was a small step in the right direction, the conversations were not a representative of the entire student body. They were not advertised well, causing low attendance and lack of substantive conversation. The topic and policies are relevant to students as a whole – not just those who are affected by these changes.
ACU should take more seriously the weight their policies hold across Texas, being covered by the Abilene Reporter-News, the Dallas Morning News, and the Texas Tribune.
The new policy changes target certain students who pay the same tuition and often practice the same Christianity as other students on campus. ACU sets a worrisome precedent with its actions, not only for themselves but other Christian schools as well.
Another issue with administration’s approach is the ambiguity and lack of organization in announcing updates.
On March 22, Dr. Phil Schubert sent an email on behalf of administration proposing that all student employees be subject to the Employee Handbook with regard to same-sex dating relationships and premarital relations.
Prior to this proposed update, all student employees were held to Student Handbook standards, which stated that students of all sexual orientations simply ought to refrain from “sexual activity outside of marriage.” The Student Handbook takes a clear stance on LGBTQ relationships, but still does not provide clear action for what students will face if they are known to be in a same-sex relationship.
The administration hosted open forums in late March and early April for faculty, staff and students to participate in discussion about sexual stewardship on campus. And, over the summer, the Board of Trustees met to discuss the proposed changes. The updated policy was released on Oct. 22 in an email from Schubert.
The university’s clarified stance opted to treat most student employees as students first and govern all but Leadership Camp counselors and resident assistants by the Student Code of Conduct. The Employee Handbook standard still applies to occupations considered to be significant in spiritual formation, according to Schubert.
By choosing to make a policy change without more consideration, the university left a lot of questions unanswered. Is it fair to evaluate violations of this policy on a case-by-case basis, and how does this make some students subject to different treatment?
The official statement, issued by the ACU Board of Trustees as part of the sexual stewardship policy states:
“We affirm the dignity and worth of every person as created in God’s image. ACU affirms the full humanity and dignity of all human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. We recognize that there are individuals who identify as LGBTQ or who experience same-sex attraction within our community. We strive to love and welcome all individuals.”
Though it is fair for ACU to actively state its beliefs, the policy directly contradicts the statement proclaiming love and welcome by allowing for discrimination in the hiring process and potential job loss based on active same-sex relationships.
Despite the fact that traditional values are of high regard for ACU, there are still ways to practice beliefs without targeting specific students. There are ways to adapt in love and with grace, even regarding controversial issues such as this.
ACU fails to fully love and treat all students fairly with the new policies by highlighting the issue of sexual orientation, holding it above other issues that are also relevant to student employees.
Spiritual formation by leaders can occur regardless of sexual orientation. Love and acceptance do not have strings attached.
The writer assumes that disagreeing with someone’s behavior is the same as not welcoming or loving him or her. This is a false equivalency.