Edits to the Community Covenant’s language regarding LGBTQ students may be formalized as early as May according to Vice President of Student Life, Rob Pool.
The language in question in the current community covenant reads, “We believe that Scripture clearly prohibits certain acts, including drinking alcohol to excess, stealing, speaking or writing profanely or slanderously, acting dishonestly, cheating, engaging in occult practice, and engaging in sexual relations outside the bonds of marriage (including premarital sex, adultery and homosexual behavior).” Last year, students began a petition to review this language, specifically “homosexual behavior.” President of the LGBTQ student group Philip Maenza ‘17 said this phrase “sexualizes LGBTQ students”.
The petition stalled at the end of last year, though the issue was put on the Student Government Association (SGA) agenda this past fall. A committee was formed by Student Life staff to rewrite the paragraph in question. The revision was then presented to the SGA for approval. In part, the revisions read, “…We also believe that sexual expression should be confined to marriage between one man and one woman as legally assigned at birth. Therefore, we expect members of the Houghton College community to refrain from engaging in premarital sex, adultery, and same-sex sexual behavior or dating relationships….”
The proposed edits were rejected by voting members of SGA after two weeks of public discussion. SGA then formed its own committee to propose another version of edits. The edits proposed by the SGA committee read in part, “We [Houghton College] affirm, endorse, and teach traditional marriage as between one woman and one man.Practicing Christian hospitality we remain an open and welcome community of friendship and shared Christian learning to LGBTQA+ community members. We value and welcome all individuals, and the perspective and gifts they bring to Houghton College, while committing to live within Scriptural and Wesleyan ethics together. We expect that all community members refrain from pre-marital sex and adultery….”
SGA President, Joanna Friesen ‘17, said this language was purposed to reflect “the suggestion from a number of students that ‘no pre-marital or extra-marital sex’ be the common community standard.” This edition of revisions was approved by SGA on November 21.
For any edits to be codified in the official community covenant, they must by approved by faculty, President Shirley Mullen, the president’s staff, and the Board of Trustees. Three drafts of edits have been presented to the faculty, according to Pool. “One is the original draft from the Student Life Council, one from the SGA resolution passed in the fall, and the third is a draft proposed by a faculty member that blends a bit of both. The drafts were presented before February break for discussion and again last Thursday. The faculty moderator took a vote to narrow the options from 3 to 1 (via consensus) with plans during the next meeting to discuss any edits.”
He continued, “I expect we’ll have a faculty approved draft to then be shared with the staff cabinet and then the President’s staff. With [the President’s staff] approval, it goes to the Board.” While May is the earliest the board could encounter proposed revisions, Pool said he “would not be surprised if it was an October board agenda item.”