Students go viral protesting their uni’s anti-LGBTQ+ policy at graduation

3 mins
17 Jun 2022
Students go viral protesting their uni’s anti-LGBTQ+ policy at graduation

‘We're not going to stop until the policy changes,’ said the peaceful protest’s organiser

image Stavrialena Gontzou via unsplash

words Hannah Bertolino

Students at Seattle Pacific University (SPU) have gone viral after peacefully protesting their school’s anti-LGBTQ+ policies at their graduation ceremony.

In the TikTok – which has gathered up 1.1 million likes so far – each graduating students can be seen handing over a rainbow pride flag to the university president, Pete Menjares, while they walk across the stage to accept their diplomas, instead of shaking his hand. “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,” reads the video’s caption.

According to CNN, one month earlier, SPU’s Board of Trustees decided to uphold a policy which bans staff members engaged in same-sex sexual activity and extramarital sex from working at the school due to its affiliation with the Free Methodist Church USA. According to the school’s website, employees are expected to “uphold certain standards of behaviour” and to “contribute to the welfare of the group in specific ways.”

In response, students handed over 50 pride flags to the school’s president, as well as staging a sit-in with university alumni at the president’s office.

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“It started just as a conversation among students that we didn't really want to shake the president's hand at graduation,” SPU student and protest organiser Chloe Guillot told CNN. “So, we thought what can we do instead of that? And the idea came up: why don't we hand out a pride flag?”

Guillot also explained that, while handing Menjares her pride flag, she voiced: “We're not going to stop until the policy changes.”

After the protest, Menhares shared in a statement: “It was a wonderful day to celebrate with our graduates. Those who took the time to give me a flag showed me how they felt and I respect their view.”

Until changes are put in place, students plan to continue their protests, including organising sit-ins at the president’s office, filing a lawsuit against the Board of Trustees, and asking those who voted against the policy to call out their colleagues who voted in favour.

Meanwhile, in the viral TikTok’s comments, users are showing support for the students’ bravery and action. “(It’s) simple gesture, but so meaningful to those wanting to be seen and heard,” wrote one user. “May they bring that spirit of change everywhere they go!” Another stated: “It’s these types of protests that bring about change.” We’re here for it.

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