I have to temporarily emerge from NaNoWriMo to discuss something a little unsettling that I just learned. One of my favorite professors in college recently married their long-time partner and left my alma mater basically around the same time. In most circumstances, that wouldn’t raise a red flag, but I graduated from a Christian university that has a very strict policy against having openly queer faculty and staff. Any faculty member employed at my college must sign what is essentially a code of ethics that aligns to typical Christian stances on moral issues, such as same-sex marriage.
Since any queer professors would risk their jobs by being open, it’s hard to tell how many past professors got fired or left for that particular reason or not. Regardless, I have some kind of odd feeling about the whole thing because this particular professor is someone who I really admired academically. I took about five classes with them in my college career and every single one of them changed me or made me a better person in some way. Some of the material broke me in more ways than one, shattering my comfortable notions of the world and planting the seeds for me to ultimately embrace intersectional feminism, general social justice, critical theory, theology, and cultural studies–basically, this professor’s classes gave me the building blocks that created much of my work on this blog. They were the only professor I ever spent time with outside of class and the only one I ever cried in front of (and I don’t cry in public).
I could write pages and pages about how important those classes from that professor are to me. They were easily among the best professors my college could have and I know I’m not the only student who was profoundly changed by what this professor taught. This professor was among the handful of safe people I would direct queer underclassmen to if they wanted to talk to someone.
Now, that professor is gone because apparently, my alma mater would rather keep a policy that literally has nothing to do with one’s teaching ability than reexamine it and realize that it perpetuates the very injustices that the college claims it wants to teach students to fight. Faith, Reason, and Justice for some groups, but not the ones that make the administration uncomfortable.
It’s sad because college marked the beginning of my unlearning process. I wouldn’t be where I am today or hold the views that I do without the seeds planted from college. I feel that I am a more aware, more compassionate, and more intelligent person because of what I learned and how I was challenged. I would not have held onto my faith so rigidly if I wasn’t taught from this school that there are more ways to conceptualize it than what they teach you in youth group. In many ways, I’m grateful.
But it’s because my college is still dear to my heart that I’m frustrated and saddened by the log in its eye, so to speak. This is not the first time it has let me down on the LGBT+ front and it likely won’t be the last. I’ve seen lately how it treats my friends and mentors alike and I can never feel the same pride I once used to.
I suppose that’s the case with a lot of things, but I really believe that my college could do the work it really wants to do if it, well, took its own advice and stepped out of its own comfort zone.
Who you come home to at night has no bearing on your educational or professional credentials to teach at a university. People are forced to choose between their job and living honestly. It disturbs me that a Christian institution would encourage living in the shadows like that when we Christians wax eloquent about marching in the light of God and Jesus breaking our chains so we can live freely.
However, many don’t see it that way and I and other classmates of mine are left wondering: how many more amazing professors will our college just let go without a fight just because they won’t be good and stay in the closet?