“[The Vice President of Student Development at PLNU] told me that administration will shut down any club centered around sexual orientation that makes it through the club chartering process, ” the ASB Advisor told me, who has been working and advising me on how to give BridgePointLoma its best chance on getting chartered. I was slightly caught off guard since all my other conversations with the VP left me feeling optimistic.
An ally and I had a couple meetings with the VP throughout the semester. It never seemed that she gave us the flat out no-this-is-not-going-to-happen response. When we brought our vision and purpose statements, she said that it would be a difficult task. We asked her what roadblocks we may face, and she picked out the line:
BridgePointLoma is a nondiscriminatory community dedicated to the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gendered, queer, and questioning students at Point Loma Nazarene University.
and talked about how she thought it would bring some problems, even though she could agree with us that the LGBT community is a suffering community on campus.
“So you’d don’t actually care about the well-being of these students,” I thought to myself.
After her critique of that sentence, my ally and I had the impression that although chartering this club would be difficult, it wasn’t impossible — the club chartering process is student led after all. It didn’t even seem like she said a roadblock, nor did she say she would flat out reject us if we continued. She just told us how difficult it would make her job as an administrator to uphold the name of Point Loma Nazarene Univerity, as she brought up coming out of the ASB spiritual life director almost two years ago. Instead, she offered that we do a book discussion group on Andrew Marin’s Love is an Orientation, which seemed like a good compromise. Residential Life would sponsor the event (providing us with advertising), the VP would order the books, and we would have the first meeting in three weeks.
As we neared the first book discussion group meeting, my ally and I became slightly skeptical. We hadn’t publicized very well and the timing didn’t seem right. It was too close to the end of the semester and split up between homecoming week and thanksgiving break.
“We keep forgetting about chartering. Maybe we should focus on that till the end of the semester,” she said. I couldn’t agree more. We wanted to focus on the group that will last, for the sake of students to come because in May, we’re graduated.
The ASB advisor provided me with the ASB mission statement:
The purposes of ASB shall be (a) to provide for meaningful, student-sponsored educational, social, cultural, religious, and service opportunities for member students; (b) to foster constructive communication and interaction between the members and the administration and faculty; (c) to foster good relations between ASB members and the university’s surrounding community; (d) to establish rapport with other student associations with similar objectives; and (e) to provide opportunities for members to develop leadership qualities.
And I continued to work on trying to form a vision and purpose statement based around it. I wanted to keep it open and inclusive yet welcoming:
BridgePointLoma hopes to have non-Christian LGBTs (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-gendered), gay Christians, celibates, ex-gays, liberal and conservative straight Christians and straight non-Christians willfully enter into a place of constructive tension, intentionally forming a community that peacefully and productively takes on the most divisive topics within the culture war that is faith and sexuality. We are aware that LGBT students are a suffering population on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU), and we have realized that the common exclusiveness of the Christian community can overlook the spiritual and interpersonal needs of LGBT community. Through entering this place, we hope LGBT students at PLNU can share their neglected stories, lingering questions, and increasing trials with their Christian comrades, and together, we can learn what it means to practice listening to and dignifying your political or theological enemy and actively learning to live and love in real-time. We hope to seek reconciliation not based on a change of belief system but rather from a commitment to live in relationship with opposing worldviews while seeking to understand and dignify the humanity of the “other”. We know bridge cannot be built from only one side. Let’s start building.
After submitting this to the ASB Advisor, she affirmed me, “You’ve made it farther than any student I’ve known,” as she sent if off to the administration.
Later that day I had to meet with another staff member whose office was nearby. As I walked by her office, she called me back in.
“The responses I’ve been getting from administration haven’t been positive,” she frowned. “As your advisor, I can’t tell you to continue working on this.” Not wanting me to waste more time trying to make BridgePointLoma official, she told me that they were saying there cannot be a club that is centered around sexual orientation.
My hopes weren’t completely crushed, so I continued to wait. As I waited a couple weeks, she sent me an email to set up a meeting.
We set up a time, I went it, and she broke the bad news to me.
I was devasted. “It’s student-led,” I thought. “That’s why I continued to work.”
Her words brought clarification: “administration will shut down any club centered around sexual orientation that makes it through the club chartering process.”
“Continue with the book discussion group,” she advised. She told me to get together a planning committee. Get it started as soon as possible next semester. Take advantage of all publicizing we can do (chapel slides, campus email, posters). “That will be the time to do administrative ear bending. Make her [the VP] hear.”
So friends, that’s where we are. Although it may seem we lost this semester, we have still accomplished so much. We waited, trying to not offend the administration in hopes of giving BridgePointLoma the best official shot it had. No chance in becoming official, so now, we will continue our own way, not fighting for this club but fighting against this discrimination.
This is an ongoing topic that Point Loma Nazarene University is continuing to brush it under the carpet. The book discussion group can only take us so far. Students will continue to not feel comfortable talking about their experiences because they don’t feel they are welcome. I fear PLNU will continue to leave them where it left me my sophomore year, in my struggle with faith and sexuality: faithless, godless, and broken.**
We will continue to push forward. Our voice will be made known. We don’t stop here.
** see my blog post titled the road to love