After 5 months of ceaseless campaigning by students, allies, and alums, the proposals for policy change are all here. I personally apologize –I needed the weeks of rest after LTN Day, but the 95 team under its new leadership has not been idle. We’ve formally submitted our proposals for policy change to the Dean of Students, and calms back from an encouraging and cordial meeting with our beloved President, Dennis Voskuil. While the going has been long, this really is the culmination of your work -as organizers, allies, donors, friends. Short of a brief tally of expenses this semester, we will be taking full advantage of the summer to live it up and rest. But look to your emails come July! We’re ready for the storm. In the meantime, our official proposals are listed below:
Eight Proposals for Our College
We, students of color, LGBT students, and allies of Hope College, affirm our love for our campus and its integration of faith and practice, word and action. As we look to our college’s mission, we applaud the aims of Goal Four of the Hope for the World Strategic Plan, which aims to build a college “strengthened by its diversity…committed to the flourishing of every individual as created and loved by God.” Joining the administration in this shared goal, we affirm that the achievement of these goals is not inevitable, but must come from our own active commitment to its tenets.
We are grieved by the many accounts of violence–physical, verbal, and spiritual–perpetrated against students of color and LGBT students on campus. We recognize that these incidents of cultural racism and homophobia are symptomatic of larger, institutional weaknesses, which must be acknowledged and redressed in an effort to restore reverence for fellow students who bear Imago Dei, the Image of God.
We point to the 95 anonymous, eloquent stories gathered and attached here as witness to the reality that not all well in our college. We look to the changing stories of alumni over time, affirming the truth that student activism can bring tangible change, as it has in decades past. We applaud Hope for beginning the hard work of intergroup dialogue, which allows a polarized campus to come together and humanize one another. We also seek policy that affords minority students dignified places to gather, advocate, protest at need, and seek physical safety. For we must love our neighbors not only with speech but also with action, and just laws that govern both.
We hold these as rational steps we must take to fulfil the Strategic Plan, using effective policy change to counter racism and homophobia. Rooted in the rich and ecumenical Christian tradition of this college, we propose these policy changes that might allow the Hope community to offer tangible support and equity to LGBT students and students of color.
- We call for a larger staff roster and budget towards expanding ethnic diversity, across all departments and faculty groups, including the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. While Hope maintains its goals of expanding ethnic diversity across its departments with new faculty openings, it has historically struggled to recruit and maintain Christian faculty of color in positions, or offer them tangible paths for career equity. Objective 2 of Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan specifically addresses this, and we are heartened by the steps that have already been taken. We propose that a suitable titration point of this include not only a raw percentage increase of faculty of color, but also a staffing of faculty of color in every academic department, as we approach the end of the decade. Furthermore, we propose that administrative staff of color be hired in a variety of support groups on campus as well, including CAPS and Financial Aid office, where their representation and insight would vitally improve the situations of students of color. Likewise, we note that while Hope’s students of color make up 18% of the college’s demographics, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion maintains at this point just two faculty and staff devoted to empowering minority students and fostering campus-wide allyship in a diverse world. If Campus Ministries maintains nearly a dozen chaplains, staff, and faculty members to minister to all students, surely similar organizations like CDI need commensurate staff and funding to maintain their work. While Hope continues to stand by its commitment to opposing racism, institutional support is a vital way it can make good on its promises, by actively equipping students with faculty mentors who can train and support them. We look forward to seeing CDI’s faculty/staff roster increased to at least five positions held by ethnic and/or sexual minorities, offering both academic and personal mentorship to the benefit of all students. (See Stories: #10, #30, #33, #69, #74, #75).
- We request that KPI 4 of Objective 1 in Goal 4 of the Strategic Plan, which calls for intergroup dialogue on campus, be broadened at the end of 2018 to include a direct administrative response to activism and advocacy. This particular KPI is set to be replaced with a long-term KPI in regards to dialogue, and represents an admirable step as Campus Ministries, Student Development, and Academics begin these difficult conversations. Once the goal of cultivating dialogue is accomplished, we ask that the long-term replacement include in campus decision-making not only dialogue and dialogue-based groups, but also activists and advocates of minorities on campus. Organizations like Campus Ministries could gain valuable insights from acknowledging and adapting in response to the insights of movements of advocates of LGBT students and students of color. Moreover, we request that the language of KPI 4’s replacement affirm both the necessity of intergroup dialogue and student activism in decision-making, without assuming either can make meaningful change on our campus alone. (See stories: #84, #85, #86, #94).
- We unreservedly laud and support the brilliant, student-led campaign to raise funds for the Hope Dream Fund, investing in a scholarship for DACA students at our college, and seek to ensure that the generous donation of Hope’s givers can expand the reach of this scholarship long-term. Indeed, as long as the eligibility of DACA students remains threatened by the anti-immigration lobby in Congress and the White House, we ask that our college continue to irrigate and extend the Hope Dream Fund. Accordingly, we as students and alums promise to raise awareness and additional funding for the Hope Dream Fund, and to make this scholarship among the primary objectives of the 95 Stories agenda for the 2018-2019 school year. In an age where undocumented students and first-generation-American students suffer a new wave of reprisal and xenophobia, we can counteract that with good allyship. (#1, #2, #11, #18, #21)
- We propose two changes to Hope’s Policy of Non-Discrimination: (a) that Hope’s Policy of Non-Discrimination include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected identities, and (b) that the phrase “committed to the concept of equal rights” be amended to remove the words “concept of,” so as to better reflect the stated values of Hope College and its constituents. Hope College maintains an extensive roster of legislation under its Title IX statement rejecting discrimination of all kinds. Jennifer Fellinger, a Hope PR representative, publicly reaffirmed to a reporter this year that “[a]ll members of the Hope community are called to honor the dignity and worth of one another; the mistreatment of others is unacceptable.” In short, Hope already stands against discrimination and harassment as defined by Title IX. However, it has yet to include sexual orientation or gender identity among the list of protected identities under its Policy on Non-Discrimination, nor explicitly in passages of the Title IX rhetoric it maintains online. We ask that our statements better reflect Hope’s Christian values by including both gender identity and sexual orientation in the roster of possible cases of hate crime. The Policy on Non-Discrimination further states that Hope is committed to the “concept of equal rights,” a puzzling phrase semantically distinct from a commitment to actual equal rights. We ask that this statement be amended to read that Hope is committed to “equal rights,” better reflecting the values we hold as a campus. (See stories: #8, #38, #39, #40, #46, #47, #54, #55, #64, #68, #95)
- We propose that the Hope College Position Statement on Human Sexuality be removed. While acknowledging the stance of the Reformed Church in America, Hope remains an ecumenical nexus of Christians from across the wide tree of our faith. The position statement, while claiming to express Christ’s love for all, enables a language and posture of hostility to LGBT students–and an administration unable to assuage or counter discrimination. Hope has yet to make a Position Statement on the rise of Neo-Nazism and the Alt-Right in its policy, nor has it made a Position Statement on other hot-button issues of similar heft, like the Pro-Choice/Pro-Life debate. Hope’s choice to make a stand here against the identities of students already marginalized seems to negate the insistence that all students, including LGBT people, are considered equal. The consequences of this statement are detrimental to the health of our LGBT students, and in itself does little to affirm or support even those LGBT students who do seek to live the lifelong celibacy Hope College prescribes. Discriminatory stances, even when spoken in love, still perpetrate violence against minorities whose very existence is denied. The statement’s place on our campus is incongruous at best and a conscious attempt to oppress LGBT students at worst. We propose it be removed. (See stories: #8, #30, #40, #64, #68, #95)
- Accordingly, we propose that Hope College instead draft formal and firmly-practiced position statements condemning all manner of white supremacy, the publication and circulation of alt-right material, and the slogans and symbols of white supremacy, including Confederate flags, KKK symbolism of any kind, and phrases such as “The South Will Rise Again” on campus grounds. Unlike our divided visions of human sexuality, Christian beliefs condemning white supremacy are held much more widely at Hope, and should be put forward and defended in our policy and legislation. Even jokes by students participating in Nazi-style “Sieg Heil!” chants on campus must be formally condemned. We can affirm the value of each student’s cultural heritage without affirming supremacy. (See Stories: #3, #21, #22, #25, #46, #80)
- Accordingly, we wholly ratify and support the work of LGBT students calling for a Gay-Straight Alliance on campus as a full-fledged advocacy group. While Hope-sanctioned organizations like GRACES offer intergroup dialogue on sexuality, we must not confuse dialogue for advocacy. Dialogue is not a safe place where LGBT students who fear physical and emotional violence can find support. We seek the freedom for our LGBT siblings to find a space that affirms and supports them, legally sanctioned as part of the larger Hope family. (See Stories: #44, #54 #55, #58, #59, #60, #61, #62, #64, #68)
- We propose optional, voluntary gender-inclusive housing for trans and non-binary students and their allies. Impressed and heartened by the progress that has been made on other Christian campuses, including our esteemed neighbors at Calvin College, we campaign for several units of Cook Hall to be a welcome place for students of all genders. This move would be a wholly voluntary option, in which students may either explicitly request gender-neutral housing, or check a box that states they are open to living with a trans or non-binary person. Said gender-inclusive units in Cook, operating by request, would be supervised by an RA who has underwent Safe Space Training with GLOBE staff. Even the current Hope College Position Statement on Human Sexuality speaks primarily to sexual orientation and the legitimacy of sexual acts, but speaks little on the matter of gender identity. We argue that an all-gender dorm designed for trans, non-binary, and cis students to live and grow together does not contravene current Hope position statements, and must therefore be considered on its own merits. Trans and non-binary students often face the threat of physical reprisal for being out on campus. Gender-inclusive housing is not a luxury or an extra comfort, but a tangible way of providing not just emotional but also physical safety and security, just as we provide security to the cis women and men of our campus through their housing preferences. (See Stories: #69, #79, #87, #88, #91)
We ask that our college’s student leaders, honorable president, Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel, and board of trustees seriously consider and swiftly implement our proposals. While we would gladly clarify or elaborate on the policies suggested here, we want to remind the college that talk without action is not neutrality, but an active choice to join the oppressor. We assert then instead that the college must consider our proposals holistically–including its intersectional policies regarding race, gender identity, and sexuality. We believe that these different oppressions are not identical, but nevertheless flow from the same systems of privilege that infect the church, violate the image of God in each human person, and sabotage our Christian mission and evangelism. We affirm that just as sexism hurts both men and women, racism and homophobia hurt both the minority students and the health of the entire student body. To borrow from 1 Corinthians 12:20, “[a]nd the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ Many parts make the body of Christ. And while Hope has been quick to represent–and sometimes overrepresent–the beauty of its minority students on admissions and alumni media, these proposed policy changes would represent us also in administrative decisions, and not only the glossy cover of a Hope magazine.
We call for each policy proposal to be seriously considered and effectively implemented within the next academic year. We stand resolute; we will not be divided and conquered. We remain strengthened by our diversity as each other’s allies and accomplices.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages,