The Falcon | Volume 83, Issue 53
Seniors Joy Bethune, Becky Jennings, Aaron Roberts and Caleb Richmond, co-leaders of Haven gather Sunday night to inform Haven supporters and students of the recent change in Haven's on-campus status and to discuss the future of the group. "The group is not about us four; it's about the students of Haven," Richmond said. "That's what this meeting is about."
Photo credit: CURTIS SIMPSON/The Falcon.
LGBTQ group will work under HSAG
By MELISSA STEFFAN,
Published: March 2 2011
To read "Moving Forward with Haven and Conversations Regarding Human Sexuality," click here.
Senior Becky Jennings, co-leader of Haven, stood at the front of Demaray Hall, Room 150 on Sunday night and read aloud the words from a single sheet of paper.
“Haven becomes (a) formal group with full rights to reserve space and advertise on campus,” she read.
The audience of over 130 students, alumni and faculty erupted into applause.
Following a meeting Thursday with the Human Sexuality Advisory Group, Haven leaders announced to their supporters that Haven is now an officially recognized registered student organization with rights to reserve on-campus meeting space and advertise. Haven is SPU’s student group devoted to discussing issues of sexuality.
“What we’ve gotten to is a new beginning,” said Associate Professor of Sociology Kevin Neuhouser, faculty adviser of Haven. “Where that goes, none of us know.”
Until now, Haven leaders have always worked exclusively with Jeff Jordan, associate vice president for academic affairs, for the right to reserve space on campus. Haven has never been allowed to advertise meetings or sponsor events without Jordan’s approval.
Now, however, Haven, will receive more recognition than it did before. It will operate as a formal student organization under the Human Sexuality Advisory Group.
The advisory group is comprised of students, faculty and staff members from administration and Residence Life, said Vice President for Academic Affairs Les Steele.
Steele formed the advisory group last spring after a conversation with Haven leaders, who stressed the importance of creating safe spaces on campus, he said. The group’s purpose is to oversee human sexuality co-curricular programming.
“We started playing with this idea of a cross-campus group that could help guide that,” Steele said. “We didn’t want to tell them they had to do the programming, but at least it could be advisory from multiple perspectives.”
The advisory group has not played much of a role in advising this year’s programming, Steele said. However, its focus now is to help create safe spaces for conversations about sexuality on campus, he said.
“They are still trying to clarify their role and what they’d like to see accomplished,” Steele said.
Because the advisory group is new, its permanent role is still in flux, said senior Caleb Richmond, co-leader of Haven. More specific details will be ironed out in future meetings, such as the one scheduled for next Tuesday, he said.
Haven leaders have not yet discussed what kind of protections they will be granted under HSAG, Jennings said. What is clear, though, is that this is the furthest Haven has ever come, she said.
The decision to recognize Haven came less than one month after the university banned Haven from meeting on campus. In the intervening weeks, however, criticism from students, alumni and faculty shifted the playing field, Neuhouser said.
Haven is riding a bit of a media swell right now, Richmond said. The size of the “SPU Haven” Facebook group has nearly tripled in size over the last month, and an alumni blog formed to support Haven has a contact list of over 300 people.
Many of those alumni attended Sunday’s meeting, including six founding members of Haven.
“This is a whole movement and they have to deal with it in a very different way now,” Neuhouser said. “That was very clear in our meeting; they understand that things have changed.”
At Thursday’s meeting, Steele gave Haven leaders and HSAG members a sheet of bullet points, titled “Moving Forward with Haven and Conversations Regarding Human Sexuality,” Jennings said.
It did not seem to be a proposal from the university for Haven leaders to accept or reject, Richmond said. Rather, it was a set of starting points for discussion about Haven’s future.
“This was not an easy decision for (the university),” Neuhouser said. “Rather than trying to control what’s going on, they have realized that they have to work with (us). They’re negotiating, rather than telling. And that changed in four weeks.”
Faculty on the committee seemed to not want a supervisory role when it came to planning the content of Haven meetings, Neuhouser said. They saw their role as facilitators, he said.
“There’s optimism, some hope, that this could be a good relationship rather than adversarial,” he said.
Still, some audience members expressed concern that HSAG’s ambiguous role could end up limiting Haven’s influence in the long run.
Yet, Mark Dailey, a 2007 alumnus and one of the founding members of Haven, said having HSAG is a step forward. While club status should still be a goal, many student groups gain more institutional support than clubs, he said.
“Perhaps Haven has a … potentially larger role than clubs,” Dailey said. “Many clubs are almost invisible.”
Club status is still a long-term goal for Haven, said senior Joy Bethune, co-leader of Haven. At this point, however, Haven leaders have prayed about it, and decided not to press the issue immediately, she said.
Club status is an issue of visibility, Bethune said. Now that Haven has the right to advertise on campus, the only thing the group lacks, as a non-Associated Students of Seattle Pacific club, is funding.
ASSP President senior Allen Klein said HSAG will give Haven more power than a club would have. And like other registered student organizations, such as university ministries and media, Haven now has legal rights to attain funds through ASSP even though it is not a club, he said.
But the funds Haven would get from ASSP are of little importance, Neuhouser said. The importance of what is happening now is largely symbolic, he said.
“The goal was to make SPU a safe place, and we couldn’t get there by defeating those who opposed us,” he said. “The only way we could get there was by asking them to join us, and by asking them in a way they could hear us … And I think that has finally happened.”
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