When I first arrived at Simpson College the sense of community and student involvement overwhelmed me. Though Simpson is a smaller private college, the student voice is not a quiet one. But who was listening for that student voice after the Special Session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church?
Several students expressed dismay and frustration after the decision made at the Special Session. With support from 53% of voters, the Traditional Plan passed; limiting the ordination of LGBTQ clergy and the full inclusion of the LGBTQ community within the United Methodist Church. Not only does the Traditional Plan deny full inclusion, it does not accept or celebrate queer or trans individuals as they are.
The LGBTQ community already faces barriers to acceptance and tolerance within the spaces we all share and it is a disheartening realization that the Simpson community we belong to does not embody the values it stands behind. Nurturing values which foster personal worth cannot occur when an affiliation with the United Methodist Church is still present. Queer and trans-spectrum students that already experience lower levels of respect and belonging on their campuses compared to heteronormative peers, according to the Tyler Clementi 2018 White Paper study at Rutgers University. When actions taken in real situations like this further reinforce barriers and loss of respect is it difficult to connect to peers and colleagues and continue the beneficial relationships that make Simpson College a success. Students that are a part of the LGBTQ community experience their voices being quieted, their conversations ended.
Simpson College community, this is a call to have these hard dialogues more often, to include all voices, to welcome all who are present. Continue the tradition of nurturing responsible and diverse student voices- listen, understand, and take action.
For more information on the Tyler Clementi 2018 White Paper study, please visit https://clementicenter.rutgers.edu/news/2018-white-paper/