Sit-in over anti-LGBTQ policy surpasses 300 hours at SPU

Students at Seattle Pacific University have crossed the 300 hour mark of a sit-in over an anti-LGBTQ policy.

The sit-in began as a direct response to the school’s board of trustees vote to re-affirm a policy which bans the university from hiring LGBTQ+ employees.

The "Employee Lifestyle Expectations" policy was voted on in late May. However, the fight over banning same-sex employees stretches further back.

Jeaux Rinedahl sued the school in 2021, accusing SPU of rejecting his application for a full-time tenured job because he’s gay. Rinedahl, who was an adjunct nursing professor, has since settled out of court.

Laur Lugos, the student government president – who has helped lead the sit-in, told FOX 13 the battle on-campus started long before Rinedahl. What Rinedahl's case brought was attention, it also led to working groups that hoped to change the university’s stance on it’s policy – when the board of trustees voted to keep it things on campus began to change rapidly.

"The reaction went from sadness to anger," said Lugos. "It feels like we’ve been betrayed because we spent so much time and energy working on these projects for the board to just disregard what we’ve done. To say, ‘No, we don’t want to hire gay people.’"

SPU hasn’t answered direct questions. Instead, they’ve released a statement explaining their connection to the Free Methodist Church USA. Ending the release noting, "The board acknowledges that there is a disagreement among faithful Christians on the topic of sexuality and identity."

The university also created a FAQ section about the decision.

Students say it’s not enough, Lugos said the time for conversations has passed – they hope the trustees resign.

"It’s apparent that the people who are homophobic are not showing up to these conversations," said Lugos. "So, it’s not about trying to talk to them or change their minds, because at the end of the day we don’t owe anyone a justification for our own humanity."

This week the faculty responded, with a majority of the Faculty Senate voting on a resolution formalizing their support for the students.

Signs hung around the sit-in area that has overtaken the space outside the university’s interim president’s office include messages like, "We support our students – SPU is not the board."

What happens next is yet to be determined. Lugos and other members of student government have openly talked about a lawsuit, not for discrimination but a breach of fiduciary responsibility. An online fundraiser has already raised more than $20 thousand for the cause.

All of this is happening as students prepare for finals week, but there’s talk that the protest could continue in some form throughout the summer – and there are underclassmen that have been working with seniors to continue the cause.