Problems Cited at Gordon College Working Group

Kilian Melloy READ TIME: 5 MIN.

Jesse Steele, an openly gay Gordon College student, resigned from a working group that was formed last fall in response to criticism about the Christian college's anti-gay policies. Steele posted his resignation letter online on February 2.

Last July the Wenhem MA Gordon College president Michael Lindsay endorsed the "Hobby Lobby" plan which allowed organizations to seek religious privilege a plan from federal regulations that prohibit hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Salem, MA officials, in reaction to Lindsay's decision, terminated an agreement allowing Gordon College to use the city-owned Old Town Hall. Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscollsaid Gordon's policies violate a city ordinance prohibiting Salem from contracting with entities that discriminate.

New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) gave Gordon College a year to review their policies. The working group was formed to disucss the issues.

Here is Jesse Steele's letter.

To Whom It May Concern:

This letter is written with the understanding that I am under no confidentiality. I do not intend to reveal any specific comments made by members of the working group, rather I will just be making statements about general conversations that occurred and the overall issues that were not considered.

I would like this letter to be respected as my formal resignation from the working group. I understand that today, Monday February 2, 2015, is the last meeting of the group and that me not attending will not make that much of a difference. However, I hope that the content of this message will be able to reveal some of the pitfalls that have not been shared through the emails shared by President Michael Lindsay.

To preface, this is not to take any shots at the working group, even though that may appear to be the reason. Rather I am trying to set a larger precedent for the request I submitted to Gordon College administration to dissolve the working group, so that the report that is meant to be generated by the Trustees during their retreat in the near future, because of the lack of representation of sexual minorities, as well as unreasonable tactics set forth in the structure of the working group.

First, the only voices represented during the entirety of the working group were those of 100 percent hetero-, or 100 percent homosexual. The only mentions of transgendered or transsexual individuals were through my critiques of the current conversation. The label of this group was regarding treatment of LGBT individuals. If this were meant to be an all-inclusive acronym, which I would assume be the case through a recent conversations, it would then include all individuals who identify as queer or non-heteronormative.

As of where it stands, there are no provisions to be offered to anyone outside of a binary spectrum of sexuality (meaning either 100 percent hetero- or 100 percent homosexual). This is not to say that Gordon College must respect the decision of sexual minorities to perform sexual acts, although this still needs to be more clearly defined, rather they need to observe that some sexual identities intend to find purely romantic relationships with people of the same sex. Along with this, there is no conversation of provisions or procedures for individuals who are non-cisgendered or gender queer, which can lead to personal turmoil if there is no safe space for these identities to flourish.

Outside of this major issue there has been an unfair power dynamic from the first meeting. The individuals in charge of this working group are the very Trustees who will take all the dialogue material into account during their retreat as they consider the current stance of Gordon College's policies and procedures. Within the group are four trustees who are tasked to take their firsthand experience onto the retreat with them. While I find it extremely valuable to have personal conversations with those in charge I have noticed power-biases within conversations. I have been disregarded for my claims even though they have been rooted in fact or objective experiences, however this has not been respected.

Along with this there is an unequal representation of sexualities within the group. There is no one to represent perspectives outside of G and Q. On this campus there are people who identify as asexual and pansexual, yet these voices are not portrayed in membership to the working group or in readings that were assigned. When I brought this up I was questioned for not mentioning it when I was originally given the reading list. I do not find it to be my responsibility as a student and member of the working group, rather a task for the facilitator or Trustees in charge to ensure that the curriculum is all-inclusive.

More importantly, the student body, faculty, staff and any other individual with connection to Gordon College has not been given the full picture of the situation. Following each meeting emails were distributed to the "community" (I use this word as a grouping sense and not to provide any portrayal of the interpersonal feelings) that were extremely positive, even though there were rarely any meetings that I did not cry at. We members were given the opportunity to edit the content of the message, and I will be candid to say I never sent my edits in, however that does not excuse the writers for their inaccurate portrayal of the happenings within the meetings.

Finally, I would like to address the accreditation rumors that have been stirring. It is widely debated whether Gordon College is at risk for losing its accreditation and we have been told by administration that we are fine. This is true, for the present time. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) did not take any accreditation away from Gordon College for this year, however they are expecting a report from President Lindsay in the near future regarding what the college will be doing about its current policies and procedures. We are being watched by those with the power to take away the accreditation, and while we say that this working group is only meant for dialogue and learning it will have an effect on the report sent out.

I do not mean to endanger any jobs or fulfill some sort of vendetta against those who have offended me. I am doing this to protect my brothers and sisters, both who identify as heterosexual and non-heteronormative, because to allow any report to continue is to do a disservice to both parties.

I will conclude with a reiterations of my request to President Lindsay and the Board of Trustees of Gordon College: please dissolve the working group and not allow any of the findings to create a report that will be submitted to NEASC or considered for any procedural and practice changes. Rather, please reconvene a new working group that will have a better representation of sexual minorities, with a diversity of opinions (including race, class, gender, etc.), and include an intersection of literature before submitting any report or findings.

Jesse Steele

Class of 2015

by Kilian Melloy , EDGE Staff Reporter

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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