After years of controversy, media attention and petitions, the announcement came in quietly that Haven would be recognized by Seattle Pacific University as an official club on Facebook Monday night.
Haven — a group devoted to discussing sexuality and LGBTQ issues that was once banned from meeting on campus — has gone through several stages of both rejection and recognition by the university.
Junior Adam Hutchinson, co-leader of Haven, said over the past few years, the group has focused inwardly on what they wanted Haven to be for the student body, and on growing the community within the group.
Junior Sierra Williams, another co-leader of Haven, said she and Haven’s other leaders thought they were ready to try becoming a club again.
“Times are changing, and we wanted to be that area where you could come and talk, whether you’re in the LGBT community or not,” she said. “It’s starting to become something that students wanted to be more involved in, so we wanted to show them that we are involved.”
Haven first formed in 2007. In February of 2011, its right to meet on campus was revoked, sparking attention from local media, an online petition and many letters written to the university. A month later, Haven became not a club, but an officially recognized group, with the right to reserve space and advertise on campus. Its status as a group has continued to the present.
Haven was approved as a club by the Committee for Student Clubs. CSC is a group composed of student leaders and administrators. Williams said their application was first passed to administration because of Haven’s past controversy.
Hutchinson said their meetings with administration eventually led to an approval.
“The administration rightly wanted to understand that Haven, as part of the institution, wasn’t going to do anything contrary to what SPU formally promotes,” Hutchinson said. “It was important for us to have the conversation that Haven is here to have the discussion about those types of things, not to promote one side or another.”
Vice President for Student Life Jeff Jordan and President Daniel J. Martin declined to comment on deadline Tuesday night, but both expressed a desire to discuss the decision at a later time.
Hutchinson said that in the past there had been different views of what Haven was and what Haven was trying to do. He said it was important for them to clarify that Haven is not an advocacy group.
“We’re not trying to change anyone’s minds,” he said.
Williams said having club status allows them to reach students easier and early in the year.
“One of our biggest things was Involve-o-Rama,” Williams said, explaining that only official clubs can attend the event. “Now we can show people that we are on campus so much earlier, and that’s what we were really looking for.”
In 2011, Haven leaders at the time claimed a university leader asked them to leave Involve-o-Rama. The university denied that claim, saying Haven left on their own.
Hutchinson said Haven’s weekly Sunday meetings wouldn’t be affected by the change.
“I don’t think it’ll change our weekly discussions, because we don’t want it to, but I think it’ll change how our relationship with the university is,” Hutchinson said. “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve always done, but hopefully now we can do it for more students, and more students can be a part of it.”
Associate Professor of sociology Kevin Neuhouser, Haven’s faculty adviser, expressed his excitement over the approval in an email, saying he was grateful for the support of Haven from administrators, faculty, staff, and alumni through the years.
“I believe that SPU, in taking this courageous step, is a model for other Christian colleges and universities,” Neuhouser said. “It’s my prayer that the recognition of Haven makes clear that at SPU we believe that all God’s children are fully and equally loved.”