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.
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