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Headline Opinions — 05 March 2014

By Dan Myckowiak

Most students don’t know the identities of the Albion College Board of Trustees until one of them is thrust into the spotlight. There are plenty of eyes on Bill Schuette right now as he defends Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban in court.

The trial for Deboer v. Snyder is being held in U.S. District Court this week. A lesbian couple is challenging the Michigan constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage. As Attorney General for the State of Michigan, Schuette has taken it upon himself to defend the ban in court.

Schuette is also a member of the Albion College Board of Trustees. He has held that distinction for over 15 years. Trustees are responsible for many important functions, including the recent selection of Dr. Mauri Ditzler as our school’s next president.

The Board of Trustees also approved Albion College’s Mission Statement and Diversity Statement. They are the core principles that define Albion College as an institution. As members of the Albion College community, we should embody the values outlined by those statements. That includes students, faculty, staff and alumni.

The Board of Trustees belongs on that list, too. After all, they are the ones that established those statements as the guiding principles for our school in the first place. As prominent representatives of Albion College, they should reflect our school’s values as well.

With that in mind, does Schuette’s very public defense of Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban conflict with his role as a Trustee of Albion College? It wouldn’t be the first time this question has come up.

Albion College’s Diversity Statement contains the following declaration:

“We seek therefore to foster an environment of mutual respect, acceptance, appreciation and caring for all members of our community. To this end, Albion College condemns all forms of discrimination and harassment, while reaffirming our commitment to academic free speech.”

That includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. We reject it out of principle. Our school doesn’t just protect its LGBT members from discrimination. It actively promotes their role as members of our community.

As an employer, Albion College does not show any preference on the basis of sexual orientation. Student groups sponsored by our school are not allowed to deny membership to individuals based on their sexual orientation either.

LGBriTS is one of the most popular student advocacy groups on our school’s campus. Each year during Coming Out Week, they sponsor a parade and numerous other community events with support from the college.

To be fair, education and marriage are separate issues. On top of that, Schuette’s responsibilities as attorney general are separate from his responsibilities as a trustee. But that doesn’t mean they can’t come into conflict.

Albion College’s stance against discrimination is black and white. All members of our community are extended the same rights and privileges regardless of their sexual orientation. We think it is important to celebrate our differences.

As attorney general, it is perfectly reasonable for Schuette to defend Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban. It is his duty to defend Michigan’s constitution, and I respect Schuette’s role as a government official.

However, we cannot ignore the conflict that these circumstances have created. Schuette is still an ambassador for Albion College. Even in his elected capacity, he represents our school.

We need to be asking ourselves: what do Schuette’s actions as attorney general say about Albion College? This is a high profile case, and Schuette is right in the middle of it.

Think about prospective students and their parents who are considering joining our community. Consider donors, who make generous contributions to our school without fail. What do they think about Schuette’s defense of the same-sex marriage ban?

At Albion College we are fundamentally opposed to all forms of discrimination. Schuette’s actions are a blatant violation of that principle. His responsibilities as attorney general are in conflict with his role as an Albion College Trustee.

We must not be associated with Schuette’s defense of Michigan’s same sex-marriage ban. His actions no longer reflect the core values of our school. With that in mind, Albion College should consider ending our relationship with Schuette as a member of the Albion College Board of Trustees.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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About Author

Dan is a senior Political Science major from Detroit, Michigan. He loves Detroit sports, and his favorite team is the Michigan State Spartans. Dan currently serves as editor of the Opinion section, and is formerly a managing editor, and editor of the Sports section for the Pleiad. Follow Dan on Twitter.

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(11) Readers' Comments

  1. Extremely disappointed in the Trustee choice. It really makes apparent the distinction between the students and (in my experience) the professors as compared to the policy-makers and head positions of the old school. The (socially) liberal and open as opposed to the (socially) conservative and limiting. I do not know a ton about trustees, but they don’t seem uniquely important, and perhaps he could “step down” and be replaced with one more compatible with the Albion College ideals.

  2. Dan Myckowiak maintains that defining marriage as between one man and one woman is “discriminatory,” and therefore conflicts with Albion’s principals. I see no conflict, and neither does the United Methodist Church: “We affirm the sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman. We believe that God’s blessing rests upon such marriage, whether or not there are children of the union. We reject social norms that assume different standards for women than for men in marriage. We support laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.” The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church – 2004.

    Holding that belief apparently now makes you morally unfit to serve as a trustee of Albion College. I assume Mr. Myckowiak will also be pushing for Albion to cut all ties to the United Methodist Church?

  3. Richard, based on the evidence that you provided, the real problem is that Albion’s Core Value’s are in conflict with The United Methodist Church. Shouldn’t that be more alarming to you?

    Moreover, why are you putting words in Mr. Myckowiak’s mouth? He made no mention of The United Methodist Church, nor did he suggest or intimate in any way that Albion should “cut all ties” with The United Methodist Church. That is an inflammatory remark made without any evidence. Inflammatory, if you were unaware, is defined as: “arousing or intended to arouse angry or violent feelings.”

    Congratulations. I am sure there is also something in your Book of Discipline about that. I’ll let you look it up.

    Richard, if I were to assume that you are, indeed, an Albion Alum or current student (hey, since you are allowed to make assumptions, why can’t I?) then I would expect a better argument than that.

  4. I’m not going to argue with Richard about the official statements of the UMC. It’s an obvious extrapolation of what Dan is saying… and maybe the UMC needs to hear from institutions like Albion College that it’s discriminatory stance is no longer the way to be the church of Jesus Christ. Either way, what I want to say, to anyone reading who feels that discrimination, is please know that not all United Methodists agree with the Book of Discipline and a lot of us are working very hard to change it. Please know that God loves you and recognizes that our human understanding of love and commitment is very narrow and soon… very soon… all committed, loving relationships will be seen as equal in the eyes of the state and the church will follow.

  5. Given the bizarre choices designated by Schuette as “expert witnesses” in this trial, I’d think Albion would be concerned to be represented by someone that incompetent rather than be concerned by his religious beliefs. The defense in this trial would make for an entertaining piece of performance art if it weren’t an actual legal defense paid for by the taxpayers of Michigan.

  6. Part of Scheutte’s role as Attorney General is to defend the State’s Constitution, including Michigan’s ban on gay marriage, from legal challenges.

  7. Elizabeth–my argument is perfectly logical. If Bill Schuette is unfit to be a trustee because he is defending the provision of the Michigan Constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and if the United Methodist Church also “support[s] laws in civil society that define marriage as the union of one man and one woman,” then it follows that the United Methodist Church should have as much say in the running of Albion College as Bill Schuette, i.e., none. Q.E.D.

    Albion’s core values prohibit discrimination. Dan Myckowiak assumes that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is discriminatory. That’s not the way I see it, and that’s not the way the United Methodist Church sees it, or the Catholic Church, or the Orthodox Church, or (I dare say), the way Albion’s founders would have seen it. (Gay “marriage” was essentially unheard of 20 years ago.) Today, holding traditional Christian dogma makes you unfit to be a trustee of a Christian college. Lovely.

  8. Richard, here’s the definition of discrimination for you from Merriam-Webster: “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.” So you’re telling me the Michigan government isn’t treating a group of people differently than another group of people? Come on. And Dan isn’t assuming it’s discriminatory. By this definition, there’s not exactly any grey area that this is discriminatory.

  9. “So you’re telling me the Michigan government isn’t treating a group of people differently than another group of people?”

    No, Kurt. Your dictionary defines discrimination as unfairly treating one group of people different than another group. Defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman has been the norm though out recorded history, except for polygamists. The fact that participants to a marriage had to be of the opposite sex from one another was universally regarded as the central defining point of the whole institution, among both monogamists and polygamists. No one thought this was the slightest bit “unfair” until about 20 years ago.

    Gay marriage advocates have simply decided that every civil legal code and Judeo-Christian religion has been wrong about the nature, meaning, and purpose of marriage for the last couple millenia. Then they moved on to ruling that if you disagree–if you are attached to the ancient and (until recently) universal understanding of marriage– you are a bigot unfit for public office. For that matter, you are unfit to be a trustee of a small liberal arts college–even one affiliated with a Christian denomination that holds to the traditional definition of marriage.

    All this in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity” of course.

  10. Richard,

    It becomes unfair treatment when certain legal (and other) benefits are denied by the government to some, while they are available to others. By not allowing marriage, and the benefits that come with it, based on a different sexual orientation, it is unfairly discriminating against those who do not find their pursuit of happiness in a traditional marriage between a man and woman.

    Yes, marriage has almost always been viewed a religious institution. However when it becomes a legal matter that involves advantages and benefits, religious beliefs no longer hold precedence in determining who should be allowed to be married.

  11. Arguing with you (Richard) is essentially a lost cause. If homosexuals get married, it literally has no effect on my life and there’s no reason it should have an effect on yours. The only thing it will do is allow the gay community to live a happier life, so I just can’t understand people not supporting that. How many people in the gay community do you think are currently living with their partner? What difference would it make in your life if those couples were actually married? Absolutely no difference, but it would make a world of difference to them.

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