Seattle Pacific University graduates protested the university’s hiring policy during their commencement ceremony on Sunday, handing the interim president rainbow pride flags instead of shaking his hand.
“It started just as a conversation among students that we didn’t really want to shake the president’s hand at graduation,” said SPU student and protest organizer Chole Guillot. “So, we thought, what can we do instead of that? And the idea came up: why don’t we hand out a pride flag?”
SPU has a school policy that bars the university from hiring LGBTQ+ people.
According to CNN, about 50 students handed the flags to interim President Pete Menjares.
“We’re not going to stop until the policy changes,” Guillot said.
Distributing the pride flags was a way to be “very public, visible, and respectful” as they graduated, participant Pamela Styborski said, according to ChurchLeaders.com. “We couldn’t go out being silent.”
SPU is a religious university affiliated with the Free Methodist Church USA and thus, “reserves the right to prefer employees or prospective employees on the basis of religion,” according to its website.
Most recently, SPU’s Board of Trustees voted to uphold a rule that prevents the school from employing staff members engaged in same-sex activity and extramarital sex.
“While this decision brings complex and heart-felt reactions, the Board made a decision that it believed was most in line with the university’s mission and Statement of Faith and chose to have SPU remain in communion with its founding denomination, the Free Methodist Church USA, as a core part of its historical identity as a Christian university,” Board Chair Cedric Davis said in a statement released by the school on May 23.
In May, some SPU students protested the decision with a sit-in in front of the president’s office.
Menjares told CNN that he respected the student protest at graduation.
“It was a wonderful day to celebrate with our graduates,” he said. “Those who took the time to give me a flag showed me how they felt, and I respect their view.”
Photo courtesy: Brielle French/Unsplash
Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.