Editor’s Note: In an effort to be a safe place for responses to Dr. Duffett, OneEastern has decided to accept anonymous and unsigned responses.
Dear Dr. Duffett,
I was previously pleased that you were leading our university during a time of change. Your words in both the Presidential Address and Inauguration speech seemed to encapsulate what Eastern University is (as I see it) ultimately about. You highlighted the minimalist and progressive nature of our doctrinal statement. You highlighted the fact that we speak not of infallibility or inerrancy, and you highlighted our focus on faith, reason, and justice. You seemed to say all the right things and I was hopeful.
Unfortunately, you recently attached our name to a letter requesting exemption from an order that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. I now know where you stand with respect to our LGBTQ community. That we are associated with such a letter (and that you, indirectly, attached the names of all EU faculty, staff, and students to it) has absolutely broken my heart. Where was the conversation that should have occurred before someone in such a position spoke for all of us? As far as I am aware, this decision was made without consulting the community. At the very least, many of us were not aware of it until OneEastern brought it to our attention. Why? Why would you sign such a divisive letter without consulting and engendering an engaging dialogue between administration, faculty, staff, and students? This is the antithesis of the transparency that we’d heard you wanted to promote.
I know you (or someone) will say that you do not speak for the entire university (as similarly occurred at Gordon), but you do and you’ve hurt each of us who believe all should be treated equally with love and respect. Through theresponses at OneEastern, I’ve read opinions (I hope you are reading these as well) regarding the perception of some alum that there is now diminished value of an Eastern University degree. I understand this feeling. Similarly, I’ve seen the looks and read the responses of those outside of our community and they’re not pretty. Those looks used to come (unjustly) when I simply informed another individual that I’m a part of the community at a Christian university (our general track record of being “too Conservative” or “exclusive” has done us no good), but I could always qualify my statement with “…but Eastern is different.” Your actions have made that harder to do.
Faith. Reason. Justice.
The incongruence between our university’s motto and the words of our President is frightening. What is your interpretation of this motto? I do not question your faith and you seem to understand at least some of the reason and justice as evidenced by the Presidential Address and Inauguration, yet are missing the boat when it comes to how we treat (or plan to treat) our LGBTQ students, faculty, and staff. The Gospels implore us to provide equal treatment for all and to fight for the rights of those who are mistreated and maligned. Justice is at the forefront of these teachings and its importance can be no clearer, but this letter has many asking themselves whether Eastern University is truly concerned with the equal treatment of all. Most importantly, requesting the right to practice discriminatory hiring practices (specifically in relation to the LGBTQ community) has left many of our students questioning their value and safety at this university.
I wonder how your stance shows Christ. Where is Christ’s love in this letter? Where is the affirmation that our university needs to show? Where is the reason or justice in signing a letter that requests exemption from an anti-discrimination order? God’s love knows no bounds, Dr. Duffett, and the very thought that a member of our faculty or staff would be considered unfit to show God’s love and be a fruitful member of this community because of their sexual orientation or gender identity is disturbing. Quite simply, sexual orientation or gender identity should have no place in determining the ability of someone to effectively participate or be a role model for our students in this “progressive” community.
One of the things I love about Eastern is this: the student body often comments about the relative ease with which they may converse with faculty about trials and tribulations in their own lives. I find this to be a crowning achievement of our university, but also an achievement that highlights a problem: How safe do our LGBTQ students feel when approaching faculty in the same manner? Has the university created an atmosphere of safety? How confident are these students in their ability to find a faculty or administration member who is affirming, loving, and willing to help them through their formative years? More importantly, how frustrating must it be for our LGBTQ students to not see themselves represented in the faculty? With this letter, are we effectively telling them that onlysome of our graduates are fit to teach here?
The one positive I see here is the united stance that we are taking as a result of these events. Though our LGBTQ loved ones were already in the midst of an uphill battle for inclusion and equal treatment at Eastern, these events have created an even greater sense of solidarity amongst those who are battling for themselves and those who are affirming and simply want to see a level playing field for all of our students, faculty, and staff (both past, present, and future). I hope you can find it in your heart to reconsider your statement and place us back on the right side of history.