The Falcon   |   Volume 83, Issue 53

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Haven officially recognized

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."

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


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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ChUck said:
Can someone please define "safe place" or "safe space"? These terms are used frequently in every Falcon story about Haven, as if everyone understood what they meant. They have not, however, been defined, as far as I can tell. "Safe" from what, exactly? "Safe" for what? Constant use of these terms seems to reinforce the notion that SPU was an "unsafe place" before Haven came along -- or, now that Haven is here, these terms suggest that only Haven can provide a "safe space" and the rest of SPU is somehow still "unsafe." Brilliant marketing strategy for Haven, if not necessarily accurate. Whether it's accurate, I guess, comes back to the question of what is meant by "safety."
CalebR said:
Safe space refers to an open place for discussion that is free from homophobia, judgment, and non-constructive criticism. We are not suggesting that SPU is physically dangerous but we do know that there is homophobia and misunderstandings on campus that make it difficult to talk about sexual identity. We want to provide a place to talk about this from personal experiences and academic perspectives. It is safe because we agree not to allow harmful statements but talk together from all perspectives to share and grow.
Mark said:
The definition of 'Safe-Space' varies to some degree in different contexts. In the case of Haven, my summation would be that it refers to a space in which individuals will not face harassment, abuse, violence, or judgment. SPU as a nebulous whole has not, largely, presented itself as a place of violence or abuse (thankfully and to its credit), but it does frequently (though not always intentionally) communicate judgment and diminished value to those of Queer identity. Haven is intended to be a 'safe-space'; where sexuality can be processed in an intentionally respectful and non-judgmental fashion. This 'intentionality' is key to producing a safe-space, and it is also the element that is frequently lacking in larger contexts such as the previously mentioned 'nebulous whole' that is SPU. Within this definition, Haven's assertion for the need of a 'safe-space' is quite accurate. Thank you for seeking clarification; I believe that this is a question in many people's minds. If my comments unclear or inadequate, I'd be happy to elaborate.
Falcon4Life said:
Great. Now that this is over, can we hear about the other news thats been happening on campus??
nanny1 said:
I am truly disappointed in SPU. Why do Christians always have to compromise and conform to society. God's word is very clear and yet SPU is now allowing Satan a foothold on campus. I am very disappointed.
Azure said:
I'm ecstatic. Nanny1, this is something interesting about Christians I've noticed: in the past, Christian communities have interpreted the Bible to support things like slavery, sexism, Manifest Destiny, and racism in general; things that we now very much frown upon. Personally, I believe homophobia to be the next on a long list of prejudices the Christian community is not quite used to and therefore refuses to accept. If allowing a Christian university to maintain a student group that promotes the discussion of issues pertaining to sexual orientation is conformity and a "foothold" for Satan, I would hate to hear what the people of Pennsylvania in the early 1800's said about Baptist churches allowing people of color to hold positions of authority within the church. Oh, the scandal! With all due respect, I must disagree with your implication that compromise (read: change) is a bad thing. Although new things can feel awkward and uncomfortable (especially if you weren't raised with the idea of accepting people of other sexual tendencies), this kind of change is indubitably a good thing. We are witnessing the growth and evolution of the modern Christian church, step by step opening up to the rest of the world! As for the gays, the Christian community will learn to accept them as they have in the past with protestants, women and people of color. It's only a matter of opening one's eyes to the bigger picture of the infinite beauty that is diversity, in all of its earthly expressions.
ask2011 said:
Caleb Judgment as defined by the oxford college dictionary means: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. Judgment of what the action or the person? We are not called to judge people. But we should be able to judge between “ok” and “sinful” actions. Also by including people of all perspectives this includes those that would make “harmful statements.” Thus you cannot have both safe place and discussion from all perspectives.

The opinions represented here do not necessarily represent the views of The Falcon or Seattle Pacific University.


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