Constituent policy

Seattle Pacific administrators sued over anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy

A long-running battle between Seattle Pacific University leaders and other campus voters over an anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy has culminated in a court case filed by students, employees and alumni against six board members, arguing that management breached its fiduciary duties and that the wrongdoers should be removed.

The policy, which prohibits the hiring of openly gay faculty and staff, has been a source of contention on campus since at least the start of 2021. While students, employees and alumni have strongly opposed the anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy, the administration and the board confirmed the policy in several votes.

Now, the lawsuit alleges that the tuition-dependent private university’s management breached its fiduciary duty by clinging to policies that keep prospective students off campus.

The lawsuit, announced Monday, is the result of a crowdfunding effort to file a lawsuit that emerged in May after the board’s last vote to uphold the anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy. That vote — which was replete with allegations that administrators leaked confidential information about policy deliberations to the leadership of the Free Methodist Church, to which SPU is affiliated — led to campus walkouts and protests. , to board members who resigned in protest, and to a student sit-in. which lasted 39 days.

The lawsuit notes that this legal dispute is not about religion but rather about finances.

“The defendants, trustees of an ecumenical and inclusive educational institution, must be held accountable for placing their personal religious beliefs above their fiduciary duties to SPU and its people,” the lawsuit states. “Rather than protect this community, Defendants inflicted trauma on fellow administrators and the entire campus. Defendants chose this path to defend a discriminatory hiring policy that undermined and tore the heart soul of SPU.

The lawsuit is being brought by a group of 16 plaintiffs, who, according to counsel, represent a broad spectrum of Seattle Pacific students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“At its core, this lawsuit is about a group of rogue administrators who refuse to remove a discriminatory and anti-LGBTQ+ hiring policy, even though removing the policy is clearly in the best interests of employees, students, and staff. the SPU campus community,” Paul Southwick, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said via email. “The defendants breached their fiduciary duties to SPU and its people because they placed their allegiance to a religious denomination above their loyalty to SPU.”

Southwick adds that the plaintiffs hope the lawsuit will lead to “the removal of the rogue board members from their positions as trustees and the removal of the discriminatory hiring policy.”

A spokesperson said SPU “is aware of the lawsuit and will respond in due course.”