Waiting for club status once again

The group Haven’s application to become an ASSP club has been deferred for the second time this year.

In an e-mail sent to Haven leaders on Feb. 26, Kellie Hicks, vice president of campus activities and the Committee for Student Clubs (CSC) Chair, told the leaders that the CSC did not approve or deny club status for the group due to CSC’s uncertainty of the proposal’s relationship to SPU’s institutional values and Lifestyle Expectations.

"We were all in agreement that your desire to encourage learning and discussion aligns with the mission of the University to embrace new ideas and further learning," the e-mail said.

However, "Given that the committee was left with concerns surrounding Haven’s appropriateness [in relation to SPU’s institutional values, Lifestyle expectations and the proposal] as a student led club and because ASSP policy requires that all clubs submit a ‘signed agreement to abide by SPU policies and procedures;’ we have chosen to refer you on to Dr. [Jeff] Jordan [associate vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of Student Life] and Dr. [Les] Steele [vice president of Academic Affairs] for a final determination from the administration."

Haven has been working to become an official club for over a year.

Last spring, as the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), the group applied for and received club status only to have their status revoked a week later due to concerns from the university’s administration, senior Beth Vandam said.

"ASSP knows what happened the last time and they didn’t want to get our hopes up just to be denied again," she said.

In the Feb. 26 e-mail, Hicks wrote, "The committee understands that the recognition of a club requires both the approval of the institution and ASSP leadership, which is why we are asking you first to seek a determination from the Administration as to where to go from here."

The GSA formed last spring after the group Soulforce came to campus.

SPU was a stop on Soulforce’s "Equality Ride" tour in which a group of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people came to address guidelines of the university’s Lifestyle Expectations, which they saw as discriminatory. The group stopped at 32 different college and university campuses across the United States.

The GSA submitted the required forms to become a club to the CSC at the end of last year. CSC approved it.

"Then the administration stepped in and said that they needed to approve it," Hicks said. "Club status was taken away and they were told to work with Dr. Jordan and Dr. Steele on the constitution."

Haven has worked with Jordan and the group has made an appointment with Jordan and Steele to further discuss the administration’s concerns.

"I have been working with three or four students in Haven. I think they have done a wonderful and amazing job," Jordan said. "What I am not sure about is defining the purpose of the club. I cannot tell you if they have narrowly defined that activity."

According to Haven’s constitution, Haven is committed to being a safe space for students who may feel isolated, ashamed or silenced due to their sexual orientation.

"The first and foremost is to provide a safe place for those who feel marginalized on campus," said Kelsey Hudson, the Haven Ministry Coordinator. "This is your life and people are pushing and not letting you be a human being."

The group is open to all students.

"We aren’t advocates for homosexuality and it’s not the only way," she said. "I am a straight person. I definitely feel welcome and I am on leadership."

The constitution and advocacy has been a concern for those responsible for approving Haven as an ASSP club.

"At the beginning of February or the end of January, they turned their new constitution into me and the committee met," Hicks said. "We saw some concerns with the constitution."

To become an official ASSP club, student groups must apply and become registered with the CSC. Registration entitles the organizations to ASSP services, including recognition in student publications and possibly fiscal support from ASSP, according to the ASSP club Web site.

"We can’t have events or advertise through ASSP," said Joey Beckwith, junior and secretary of Haven. "Part of the stalling process has been to see if we will give up, but it has encouraged us even more and this is not only for ourselves but the people after us."

Sophomore Lewis Bellamy finds the situation unfair.

"The school is being really difficult because they think we are protesting and it is really irritating," Bellamy said. "I would like the board to come and see what we do at the meetings."

Haven meets weekly on Sunday at 8 p.m. in Demaray Hall 258. They are also a group on Facebook.com and have 108 members.

"I have given approval for the group to reserve and meet in rooms on campus," Jordan said. "As a university, we have no problem with that."

Aside from funding, being an ASSP club would allow for more publicity for Haven.

"It gives the school an opportunity for them to say yes to something vital and important for the well-being of students," Beckwith said.

Whether or not they achieve ASSP club status, Haven remains open.

"It is a safe place for people who are gay, straight or questioning," Bellamy said. "We don’t teach only about gay things, but about gay relationships and straight relationships."

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Title: Waiting for club status once again | Author: Hillary Ison | Section: News | Published Date: 2008-03-05 | Internal ID: 6372