"Please don’t turn this university...into a place in which we more liberal Christians know that we are not welcome"
Dear Dr. Westmoreland,
Until I was given a platform to write anonymously, I was hesitant to send you this letter. I am a current faculty member. I have spent most of my career here, and I love Samford. When people who know me - who know that I vote progressively, and that I am an LGBTQ ally – ask me why I work here and why I love this place, I have said:
· I love the rigorous coursework that happens at Samford. Samford is a true university environment in which ideas are explored without fear for anyone’s faith. Or,
· I love the way the administration at Samford cares about the students and their individual needs. Or,
· I love the freedom Christians (of all types as well as those of other religions) feel at Samford to explore science, philosophy, art, literature, whatever they choose.
I don’t know what to say lately. Your decision on Samford Together makes this university feel much smaller and much less like an institution of higher learning. It feels less rigorous, less caring, and less free.
Samford is now a university that can’t come to terms with gender and sexuality even so much as to allow a discussion group. It’s a university that once again takes the wrong side in a defining civil rights issue. It’s a university that stifles some of its most vulnerable students at a time in their lives when they may feel most desperate and in a place that may already be causing them anxiety and fear. And it’s a university that makes faculty afraid to speak up.
I don’t really know what you intended to happen. I could speculate on your reasoning, but I won’t. Regardless of your intentions, what matters most is what you did. You drew a line and told the students who wanted Samford Together that they were not worthy of your support. You made them even more isolated on campus than before. You demonstrated to faculty that our overwhelming support of a student group means nothing next to your personal beliefs.
This makes me very concerned about the environment you have created for our returning or new students who don’t happen to fit your idea of the norm. Using your power you have reinforced the idea that they are “other,” that they don’t deserve a normal voice on campus, and, more broadly, that there are views Christians cannot hear and discuss here.
Please show them and me that I am overreacting to what you’ve done. Please care for our LGBTQ students with more than just words. Please don’t turn this university, this place of free ideas and discussion, into a place in which we more liberal Christians know that we are not welcome. Samford Together deserves a place as a student group alongside all the rest.
-A faculty member