By Emma Maple | Editor in chief
On the morning of June 29, 2023, Whitworth University President Scott McQuilkin announced that the Board of Trustees had voted to include “sexual orientation” in the hiring policy’s list of protected classes. Other protected classes in the hiring policy include “color, gender, ethnicity, social or economic class and nationality”.
Including sexual orientation as a protected class means that Whitworth will not consider sexual orientation in decisions made regarding the “hiring, continued employment, promotion and tenure” of faculty or staff.
The announcement said that Whitworth had been providing equal opportunity to staff and faculty, regardless of sexual orientation, even before this decision was made. “The board recognizes that…aligning our hiring policy language with our practice” by explicitly adding this language to the hiring policy “achieves integrity,” the announcement stated.
This decision was made by the board on June 28. It came after over a year of discussion and written input from Whitworth faculty, staff and students, conversations with relevant lawyers and a specially appointed advisory board that met weekly between mid-September 2022 and mid-January 2023.
Factors that were considered when making this decision included relevant Washington state employment law and constitutional law, the “diverse theological perspectives” that exist surrounding this issue and “similar processes at other Christian universities,” according to the announcement.
While sexual orientation will now be contractually protected at Whitworth, the announcement stated that “not all manifestations of sexual expression are appropriate for a Christ-centered institution” and the board upheld the belief that “God’s design for human flourishing is for sexual activity to be reserved for those in a committed and monogamous covenant relationship.” It is unclear what these statements mean practically in relation to the hiring policy.
Although a decision was reached, the announcement acknowledged that this decision did not automatically settle any theological debates regarding the “variety of views” that Whitworth staff, faculty and students hold on “marriage, divorce and sexuality.”
The hope seems to be that Whitworth staff, faculty and students who have theological disagreements regarding sexual orientation will use their differences in opinion as “an opportunity to live, learn and love” rather than an “opportunity to cause division, censorship or oppression.”
“Christ calls us to love one another and to follow his example of inviting all to experience his extravagant grace,” the announcement’s second to last paragraph stated.
The announcement was signed by Brian Kirkpatrick, chair of Whitworth University’s board of trustees, and McQuilkin.
The Whitworthian aims to cover this decision and its impact on the campus community in greater detail through future articles.