Evangelical colleges targeted by their own LGBTQ alumni groups

Alumni groups are playing a significant role in challenging evangelical colleges’ and universities’ stances on LGBTQ issues, writes Liam Knox in Inside Higher Ed (July 14). Some of the most prominent evangelical colleges have influential LGBTQ alumni groups aiming to reform their institutions according to their agendas, writes Knox. Among the most prominent is OneWheaton, whose main goal is to help LGBTQ students currently enrolled at the flagship evangelical Wheaton College by “advocating for more accepting policies at the college and supporting unofficial student groups and activists’ efforts on campus.” That agenda is seen as more pressing than ever as the number of out-of-the-closet LGBTQ students at Christian institutions is said to be growing. A survey conducted by the Religious Exemption Accountability Project and College Pulse last year found that 11 percent of students attending Christian colleges identified as non-heterosexual, 22 percent had experienced same-sex attraction, and 2 percent identified as gender nonconforming. Although they were an oddity at Christian colleges 15 years ago, since the late 2000s there has been a proliferation of LGBTQ alumni groups, ranging from loosely organized Facebook groups like Messiah University’s Inclusive Alums to full-fledged nonprofits like Brigham Young University’s the OUT Foundation. Sociologist Jonathan Coley says the growth of these groups is correlated with a rise in LGBTQ student activism at Christian colleges in the wake of the legalization of gay marriage on the state and national levels.

Source: Ms. Magazine.

Coley himself founded an unofficial LGBTQ student group while attending Samford University, a Baptist institution, and is now on the Board of Directors of a newly formed LGBTQ alumni group, Safe Samford. In the past decade, several Christian institutions have adopted permissive policies toward LGBTQ students and even allowed official student groups on campus. Coley adds that more than 60 percent of Christian institutions include same-sex-attracted students in their nondiscrimination policies, and around 50 percent include gender-nonconforming students. But another 28 percent still have what Coley calls “clear discriminatory language” in their codes of conduct and have moved in more restrictive directions in contrast to societal trends. For instance, students expressing support for same-sex marriage can be expelled from their schools. Coley said student and alumni groups serve as a counterweight to the influence of anti-LGBTQ alumni, donors and even university officials, or can even serve as a go-between for LGBTQ students and administrators. Some LGBTQ alumni groups go beyond seeking to make their alma mater more accepting. The OUT Foundation, the nonprofit founded by alumni of Brigham Young University, focuses less on changing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than on supporting LGBTQ students and their organizations on campus.

(Inside Higher Ed, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2022/07/14/christian-college-alums-show-support-lgbtq-students)