Students graduating from Seattle Pacific University (SPU) were seen handing the president of the school LGBT pride flags as part of a protest against the school’s ban on same-sex relationships for full-time employees.
The video was uploaded to TikTok on Monday by the account @EngaygeTheCulture, which is run by the Associated Students of Seattle Pacific (ASSP), which is leading the SPU protest.
The video, which is simply a montage of students handing over flags and receiving diplomas, has nearly 2 million views and is captioned “POV: the president of your university thinks being LGBTQ+ is a ‘lifestyle choice’ and a ‘morality issue,’ so you decide to give him a gift at graduation.”
“It was a wonderful day to honor our graduates. Those who took the time to give me a flag demonstrated their feelings, and I respect their point of view “Interim President Pete Menjares of SPU told Newsweek.
The protest does not end with handing out LGBT pride flags to Menjares. For the past 19 days, ASSP has also led a sit-in at the school’s administration building. According to The Seattle Times, the organization is fighting a policy that was recently reaffirmed by the SPU board of trustees, which prohibits staff from having a same-sex relationship.
The policy is unpopular not only with students, but also with faculty. The policy was upheld again last year by the board of trustees, despite the fact that SPU had been sued by an adjunct professor who claimed he was denied a promotion because he was gay, according to the Times. As a result of that decision, the SPU Faculty Senate voted “no confidence” in the board. The case was resolved out of court.
However, repealing the policy could be difficult. According to KIRO-TV, SPU is affiliated with the Free Methodist Church USA and has been since its inception in 1891. The Free Methodist Church USA threatened to withdraw its affiliation if the school dropped the contentious policy.
“We want the community of SPU to know that this was a thorough and prayerful deliberation,” Board Chair Cedric Davis said in a statement released by SPU on May 23. “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.”
Protesters are calling for the board to reveal how each member voted on the policy, for those who voted in favor to resign, and for those who remain to publicly condemn those who voted for it. ASSP President Laur Lugos told KING-TV that students want SPU to cut ties with the church as well.
“Students are also calling for the Free Methodist Church to be disaffiliated because if our affiliation is causing them to discriminate, then why are we affiliated?” Lugos said.
While the school is on summer break, Lugos says the sit-in protest will continue, with alumni joining the effort. In addition, the ASSP has set up a GoFundMe, currently at $27,420 out of a $50,000 goal, in order to raise funds for a lawsuit against the SPU board of trustees for breach of fiduciary duty, alleging that the board is not acting in the school’s best interests.