Hamline Wesley Award winners request honors be annulled over school's gay marriage stance
Dear President Hanson and Hamline Board of Trustees,
In 2003, I was the recipient of the prestigious John Wesley Leadership and Service Award. I never imagined a day would come when the significance of that award and the institutional values it defined would feel so hollow.
Your decision to not take a public stance against the Minnesota Marriage Amendment is wrong, it is cowardly, and it betrays an intellectual community charged with upholding values of inclusion and social justice.
Enshrining discrimination into the Minnesota State Constitution is not an issue deserving of further inquiry. It is abhorrent. When the human rights of your coworkers, students, friends, family, fellow Minnesotans, fellow humans are debased there is no appropriate response other than unequivocal opposition. That is the teachable moment. Opposing discrimination in all forms is supposed to represent institutional integrity for Hamline.
Unfortunately, such administrative missteps are not new to Hamline. As a first-year student in 2001 I attended a community forum to discuss whether or not the university should partner with the Boy Scouts of America. The fact that Hamline's administration had even put to debate a partnership with an organization that so openly discriminated against LGBT people felt like an act of betrayal. I vividly recall several students and faculty members ending their remarks in tears.
The administration eventually issued an apology but in the weeks that followed, there were several hate incidents targeted at LGBT members of our community. The "civil debate" had grown toxic and a new forum was held to create a working document for responding to hate incidents and hate crimes.
Several years later, a group of students, including myself, called upon Hamline Law School to join a coalition of law schools filing suit against the Solomon Amendment, a federal law that made campus military recruiting a perquisite for receiving federal aid. Under the law, universities began making exceptions in their nondiscrimination policies for military recruiters, despite the military's discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Regrettably, the university chose to remain neutral and missed a historic opportunity.
I am currently a 4th/5th grade teacher at a public elementary school on New York City's Lower East Side, one of the city's most diverse neighborhoods. I am dually certified in special education and general education and co-teach in a classroom with general education students and students with labeled disabilities. My teaching life is about inclusion. I learn from my students every day about the struggles, joy, and empathy wrapped up in that ideal. I am proud to be teaching in a state that has publicly affirmed marriage equality because it makes my pedagogy all the more meaningful. There is no doubt in my mind or that of my colleagues that our students will live in a world in which marriage equality is realized nationwide and the actions and inaction of individuals and institutions during this historic struggle for civil rights will be closely scrutinized.
I have tremendous respect for the students, faculty, and staff of Hamline who continue to pursue and defend the university's values. The missteps of administrative leadership on these issues have been endemic, however, and I fear for the future of an institution that consistently fails to lend institutional support to its core foundational values.
I can no longer stand by a governing body that cannot stand by the same values of leadership and inclusion that the Wesley Award was designed to recognize. I therefore formally request that my 2003 Wesley Award be annulled. Accordingly, I request that my name be removed from all public records of the award. Alternatively, my name may be affixed with an asterisk and footnote reading, "No longer recognizes the integrity of the governing body conferring this award." I will be strongly encouraging fellow award-winners to do the same and to take vocal public stances against your neutrality on this issue. I would like to give you a few days to respond to this letter before I do this.
Class of 2005, B.A. Psychology and Social Justice
M.A. Teachers College, Columbia University
Curriculum & Teaching, Inclusive Elementary Education