I said I’d do it...I just didn’t say when
Southern Adventist University puts VP of Diversity position on indefinite hold
I said I’d do it...I just didn’t say when
In February of 2018, Southern Adventist University (SAU) President Dave Smith announced the creation of the Vice-President for Diversity & Inclusion position, but after budget complications due to low enrollment, SAU has officially hit the pause button on filling this position.
Who I am hates who I’ve been
SAU's history is marred by accounts of clear racial insensitivity, including reports from the 1950's of confederate flags on campus and students appearing in black face. In recent years, however, the university has made inclusive efforts to discourage racism, even receiving a $50,000 grant from Lumina Foundation’s Fund for Racial Justice and Equity. In early 2019, Southern was ranked number 2 (tied with another university) in diversity in southern colleges. Since 2017, SAU has not had a single ethnic majority - meaning it has not had any one ethnic group (including Caucasion) make up more than 50% of its student population. Despite this shift in population, in 2016 and 2018, multiple racist incidents on campus caused administration to step up their response. The school announced it would develop the new VP position over the next several months and would list it on the school’s website as an open position.
So, we budgeted for this...right?
After interviews narrowed the field to three final candidates, SAU discovered lower-than-expected attendance numbers, resulting in a freeze in all new hiring. President Smith apologized, saying, “I am sorry I have been unable to fully keep this promise at this time. I assure you that I am still highly committed to implementing all of the efforts that this new position was intended to undertake.” In lieu of the VP position, SAU has appointed two faculty senior advisers in areas of diversity (funded by donors for two years). While schools can budget for expected enrollment numbers, sometimes unexpected shifts in enrollment decisions can lead to a surprise surplus or a deficit in the budget, especially as students graduate or transfer between schools.
Word on the street is...
Many (including former SA President, Phillip Warfield) are disappointed with administration for not keeping its promises, or at the very least, for delaying them. These individuals believe SAU should institute this position since many American universities have cabinet positions relating to “Diversity and Inclusion.” Other Adventists question why the position is needed in the first place (like having a “VP of Honesty,” they believe diversity should simply be an intentional component of every position - not isolated to its own). Those who support President Smith’s decision to freeze all positions, including this VP position, deem this pause necessary to preserve the financial health of the institution.
Associated Students of Walla Walla University fight back to host LGBT+ educational event
When it comes to Pride Month, which group is really the one questioning itself?
Disclaimer: As of the time of writing, no official news publications have covered the following story. We believe this information is important, so we have provided the basic facts and will follow up if/when others cover it. The Associated Students of Walla Walla University (ASWWU) scheduled an LGBT+ education event in partnership with SDA Kinship (the only organization for former/current LGBT+ Adventists). This event was not intended to be about theology or to affirm/denounce LGBT+; rather, it was focused around education and understanding. Shortly after the event was announced, WWU’s administration decided to cancel the event. ASWWU responded by creating a survey which collected more than 400 responses. The survey, entitled “A Stand Against WWU Administration’s Decision to Cancel an Educational LGBTQ+ Event,” was shared by SDA Kinship via their Facebook page and included a space at the end to leave open-ended responses. The pressure of this survey’s responses and public outcry (with stern responses, such as “the school has no right to cancel an event like this”) led to administration reversing its decision and allowing the event to continue. The Scratch reached out to SDA Kinship, who provided us with this statement.
(For more information on the SDA Church’s stance on LBGT+ issues, see last week’s brief on the Church’s response to The Equality Act)
Click here to view in PDF format.
Baby cut from Adventist mother’s womb passes away
Methodists to the rescue
Over the last two months, headlines have featured the story of a young Seventh-day Adventist woman named Marlen Ochoa-Lopez, nine-months pregnant, who was strangled by a mother and daughter in their home in Chicago, IL. In April, Ochoa-Lopez had arranged via Facebook to get some free baby items from Clarisa and Desiree Figueroa, who then murdered her and performed a makeshift c-section to remove the baby. They called 911 the same day to report the “birth” and the child was taken to a local hospital for treatment while the Figueroas attempted to raise funds via GoFundMe for “their” baby. Ochoa-Lopez was first reported missing on April 24, so authorities considered this a missing person case and began the search process. Feeling that the authorities were moving too slowly, the baby’s father and family began seeking justice through other means. The family hired a private investigator, and activists largely made up of individuals and pastors from the Methodist denomination, took to the streets to spread the word, gather information, and find Ochoa-Lopez. May 14, Ochoa-Lopez’s corpse was found by authorities at the Figueroa household after authorities confirmed the baby was Ochoa-Lopez’s through DNA testing and confirmed the Figueroas as the culprits. Unfortunately, on June 14, 2019, baby Yovanny Jadiel Lopez died of severe brain injuries after being on life support for two months. For a full timeline of events, click here. In the aftermath, The Des Moines Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church, where Ochoa-Lopez’s father is a member, began collecting donations to support the family in the wake of this horrific tragedy. Questions have been raised about Adventists in the Chicago area regarding their seeming inaction. Many Adventists are wondering why the Seventh-day Adventist Church (instead of the Methodist Church) wasn’t at the forefront of the community efforts for an Adventist victim. This situation has inspired conversation, especially in the North American Division, among pastors and members about the role and involvement Adventist churches should play in various communities.
U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black named 2019 Canterbury Medalist
There are medals that have nothing to do with completing a 5k?
Seventh-day Adventism’s emphasis on and defense of religious liberty for all is something for which it is well known, but many may not know that within the government itself, the U.S. Senate Chaplain is actually a Seventh-day Adventist. Barry Black, the first SDA and first African-American Senate Chaplain, has served since 2003 and has now been named Becket’s 2019 Canterbury Medalist. Becket is a “non-profit, public-interest legal and educational institute with a mission to protect the free expression of all faiths” and its Canterbury Medal, the organization’s highest honor, recognizes individuals who have shown courage and commitment to defending religious liberty in and outside of the U.S. Many at the gala expressed encouragement and affirmation of Chaplain Black’s hard work. The Senate Chaplain position is a controversial one, as many, including SDA's, question whether it conflicts with the separation of church and state. They argue this goes against the separation of church and state and they struggle with the fact that a government intended to be religiously neutral opens its services with a religious prayer. Others are thankful for representation in the government and are glad there is a voice representing faith communities in America’s government.