Goshen College is an institution that takes pride in the development of a close-knit community with a diverse population. We arrive on campus as first-year students unsure of where we will fit within the community and no matter our interests, beliefs or physical appearance; we are accepted with open arms and this place becomes a second home away from home.
In our Identity, Culture and Community classes, we spend the semester trying to answer the question: how do people with diverse identities live together in a vibrant community? We study elements that have the potential to both benefit and test the ties of a community. Some examples of these include religion, cultural differences and conflict transformation in order to become more aware of how our own campus community functions. I’ve always appreciated this institution for teaching me both how community works, but also how to make it stronger.
There is a feeling of unrest in our community, and this feeling has grown more present on campus with the continuing postponement of the GC Board of Directors’ decision over the school’s hiring policy.
The Friday before midterm break, a group of students gathered before the Board of Directors meeting in order to show their support for the hiring policy change. Wearing purple, this group led the Board of Directors through a display of 1,800 Kairos cranes before their meeting. Each crane represented one of the 1,800 GC Open Letter signatures—students and alumni in support of equal opportunity for GLBTQ professors.
The positive purple pep rally was not the first gathering in GC history in which the student body has raised their voice toward change regarding this policy, and I guarantee that it will not be the last. Our student body is full of determined, passionate people who will not rest until they see justice and equal opportunity for all members of the community, things which Goshen College argues already exist here. The intended message of the Kairos cranes display is one that I believe that all members of the community, including those representing the Mennonite church need to be aware of: It is a time for a change.
While I understand that this particular decision, along with decisions like the co-ed living initiative, is one that needs to correlate with the climate of the Mennonite Church, I am disappointed in the lack of persistence of representatives of our institution to advocate for the change our community is fighting for. This hiring policy should not be seen as solely a religious discussion, it is a discussion of whether or not the Mennonite church recognizes the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human race established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
As stated in Article 23 of this declaration, everyone has the right to work, and to equal opportunities without any discrimination based on race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. No matter what influence that the Mennonite Church has on the institutional policy, acknowledging that all human beings are born with free and equal rights is a basic element of faith. The necessity to act toward one another in a spirit of community is something advocated by both this declaration and by the church. So why does our student body continue to advocate for equal opportunity and an inalienable human right, if this understanding is already advocated by the church?
Without the full recognition of these rights as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in this community, the unrest will continue on this campus, and it will continue to strain the ties we’ve worked so hard to develop in our community. The student body will continue to advocate for justice at GC, publications like The Record will continue to reflect their voices, and no one will rest until this injustice is resolved within our community. Until GLBTQ professors are allowed a right at this institution they shouldn’t have to fight for in the first place, the development of this community will remain at a stand-still.