By Phillip Carlisle
On Thursday, March 19, Albion College’s faculty voted in favor of a resolution presented by the Faculty Committee on Diversity (FCD). The resolution, titled “Implications of Albion’s United Methodist Affiliation,” was presented with the purpose of addressing Albion’s relationship with the United Methodist Church (UMC), and, specifically, the UMC’s stance on LGBT sexual ethics.
The resolution was divided into three proposals, all of which passed. Proposal one stated the faculty’s support of Student Senate’s resolution from Nov. 4, 2013. Proposal two quoted Senate’s resolution, stating the faculty’s desire for “‘Albion College to ensure that its stance on LGBT rights (for those on or off campus) is made plainly known and readily available on Albion’s website.’”
The most contentious proposal, proposal three, aimed “to clarify the difference between Albion’s neutrality on LGBT theological issues and United Methodist teaching.” The resolution went on to state, “By clarifying the meaning of its affiliation with the United Methodist Church, external audiences may become aware that the faculty does not officially endorse (or reject) Methodist social teachings about these or other matters.” Throughout the resolution, the FCD chose to use the word “neutral” to reflect their stance.
Just because the resolution passed does not mean that Albion College endorses what was voted on; the resolution only reflects the stance of Albion College’s faculty. In discussing the language of the resolution, Dr. Bradley Rabquer, assistant professor of biology, said, “These are suggestions coming from discussions with the administration, with [Marketing and] Communications.” As a result of those discussions, Rabquer felt confident that there would soon be language on Albion’s website regarding the faculty’s stance.
Some, like Dr. David Reimann, professor of mathematics and computer science, weren’t in favor of the methods being used by the FCD: “One of the concerns I have about this proposal is that we, as a faculty, by engaging in this type of dialogue with the church, in some way draw ourselves closer to the UMC.” Reimann went on to say that, in doing so, Albion’s faculty “make it seem like our ties to the church are stronger than they actually are.”
Many of those present, like Dr. Allison Harnish, assistant professor of anthropology and sociology, disagreed with the notion that the resolution was bringing Albion closer to the UMC, noting that, “the use of the word ‘neutral’ makes it clear that a stance is not being made.”
Dr. Nels Christensen, professor of English, saw the passing of the resolution as an opportunity to guarantee prospective students that Albion’s faculty do not endorse the Church’s social teachings: “We need this to clarify — in at least this one respect — if for no other reason, to assure students who are coming to Albion.”
Others simply saw it as something that Albion’s faculty ought to be doing. “I think it’s essential for us to do it in this climate,” said Dr. Trisha Franzen, professor of women’s and gender studies. “It’s careful, it’s precise, it’s what we should be doing.”
The resolution passed 47-6.
The Pleiad has previously reported on Albion’s relationship with the UMC, in the wake of an Albion College Student Senate resolution titled “An Invitation for Discussion.” The resolution called for a dialogue among various groups, including faculty, in regards to clarifying what it means to be a college with ties to the UMC. This discussion is still ongoing.
The FCD is comprised of two de facto members: Interim Provost Dr. Beth Lincoln, and Director of Global Diversity and Chaplain Rev. Dan McQuown. Other members include chair Dr. Brad Rabquer, Dr. Brad Chase, Dr. Dianne Guenin-Lelle, and Dr. Tammy Jechura. According to the faculty handbook, the FCD “works to create a campus community that is welcoming, respectful, and supportive of all faculty, staff, and students.”