Black History Month

The following are two excerpts written by Spring Arbor University (SAU) members sharing their feelings about Black History Month:

I believe that it’s important to intentionally expose our community to African American culture and achievement throughout the year and not just during the month of February.  We are working to do that through various events and chapel speakers throughout the year.  During the month of February, we want to educate our campus community on the history and achievement of African Americans in the United States. It is also a time for us to recognize Spring Arbor’s African American alumni and their achievements and contributions to society and the building of God’s kingdom. –Kevin Brown, Chief Diversity Officer 

I believe Black History Month is the one time of the year where education, celebration and inspiration of black culture is a given. Black people embrace the culture to its fullest in February. For other racial groups learning about black culture may end at the end of February, if it even was talked about to begin with. However, for Black people we are always black and we try to celebrate our melanin as much as possible or even allowed. We need to always remind ourselves that we can achieve, that we are beautiful and that we are Kings and Queens, because we live in a world that tells us otherwise. Black history continues for us in conversations, affirmations, celebrations and more. Here at SAU it may seem like we haven’t done much for Black History Month, but our Black population has celebrated it every day this month in the form of community celebration and self-love. Office of Intercultural Relations wanted to take this month to educate others on black experience, but in reality we do that every day of our lives in and out of school. As I said earlier, the month may be another month to everyone else and it ends for them March 1st. But for Black people we are making new history to be learned.            Australia Smith, Sophomore Student 

SAU Hosts Art Exhibit of Refugee Mementos

By Jasmine Harper

The traveling exhibit “What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria” opened in the Ganton Art Gallery at Spring Arbor University (SAU) on Feb. 9. The art pieces were on loan from the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. Photographer Jim Lommasson said his goal with the exhibit was to personalize objective statistics about Iraqi and Syrian refugees.

Lommasson initially photographed veterans, and later Iraqi and Syrian refugees to depict the conflicts of war. He then decided to photograph items the refugees took from their homes before fleeing their countries, including mementos like a woman’s teddy bear and a child’s Barbie doll. The refugees wrote personalized descriptions of the objects on the photos, and the Arab American National Museum translated the messages from Arabic to English.

“The refugees’ photographs had the most impact on me. I see my friends and family regularly, but for some refugees, a picture is all they have to remember their families,” senior art major Erin Karafa said.

In the exhibit’s introduction lecture, art professor and Ganton Art Gallery director Jonathan Rinck said 140,000 Iraqis have come to the U.S. since 2003, and one-half to one-third of Syrian refugees are children.

Rinck said he felt passionate about bringing this project to SAU because it aligned well with the university’s global focus.

For college students wanting to learn more about events in Arab nations Rinck suggests The New York Times, The Economist and BBC News rather than social media websites.

“Pretty much everything I own is expendable. The objects refugees took are not worth much in monetary value, but they’re the kind of things that really matter, like family,” Rinck said.

The Ganton Art Gallery will continue to host “What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria” until March 22.


Thrift Shopping on the Rise

By Kaelyn Hale

The second-hand shopping industry reached a record high of $24 billion in 2018. Sales have been on a steady climb from $11 billion in 2012 and are projected to reach $51 billion by 2023 according to ThreadUp, the leading online resale company.

The modern-day ‘thrift shop’ is a relatively new concept which emerged after the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). Until the past few decades, most people had only a few articles of clothing and used them for as long as they could.

Blanche Hale, born in 1947 said, “When I was a kid I probably never had more than 10 to 12 things to wear. I usually had two pairs of shorts, two church dresses, one pair of shoes… I didn’t have jeans.”

As clothing became more mass-produced, it became more affordable. This allowed people to buy more clothes and get rid of clothes they did not want, therefore creating a market for thrift shops.

Screen Shot 2019-04-26 at 4.21.33 PM.png

In 1879, Salvation Army came to the US and in 1902, Goodwill was founded. In 1919, the term “thrift shop” was coined and the 1920s saw the rise of consumerism. During the Great Depression (1929-1941), Goodwill opened almost 100 stores. In 1995, eBay and Craigslist were founded. During the Great Recession (2007-2009), resale stores saw sales increase 35 percent. In 2009, ThreadUp was founded followed by many other online resale companies.

“I can’t even remember a thrift store when I was a kid,” said Hale. “We didn’t have Goodwill or anything like that. Heck, we didn’t even have yard sales!” Hale said in the ‘70s they had stores called boutiques, which sold second-hand goods, but they were not very big and did not have much merchandise.

Time Magazine writer Olivia Waxman, said when thrift shops first came out, “there was a stigma attached to wearing used clothes… The items themselves [were] a sign of a lack of money.” Hale’s first impression of thrift stores was that they were “confusing and not very clean.”

Perceptions of thrift shopping have changed. Now people of all socioeconomic classes shop second-hand. Spring Arbor University (SAU) student Caitlin Ackermann said she likes to thrift shop “just for fun, for the thrill of the hunt.” According to ThredUp, luxury shoppers buy second-hand more than value chain shoppers do. In 2018, 26 percent of women either bought or were willing to buy second-hand.

Hale said people have become more accepting of thrift shopping throughout her lifetime. “I know people now that brag about finding something at Goodwill. It has become a status thing if you can shop and find good stuff.”

Thrift shopping is gaining popularity fastest among Millennials and Gen Z. According to ThreadUp, 18-37 year olds are adopting second-hand apparel 2.5 times faster than other age groups.

Many young people buy second-hand online instead of going into traditional thrift shops. SAU student Celeste Fendt said she buys second-hand more than she buys new clothing and does most of her shopping on a resale app called Poshmark. She also sells some of her own clothing on this app. “It’s cheaper, it leaves less of a carbon footprint, and on Poshmark you’re buying from an actual person so you’re helping them,” said Fendt.

SAU student Beth Kulaga started her own Instagram thrift store called Reverie Thrift where she sells clothes she buys at thrift stores to SAU students. She said she started the mini-business because she has always loved thrifting. “People would compliment my outfits and I would say I found them at a thrift shop,” said Kulaga. “They would say they can never find things at thrift shops, and I thought ‘I could find things for you.’”

Kulaga goes shopping about three or four times per month and usually buys about 20 items. She sells about 12 of them as soon as she posts them. “It’s a good way to make a little extra money,” she said. “I sell each shirt for $8 and I get each shirt for about $1 to $3.”

On March 21, the Resident Assistants (RAs) of the women’s dorms at SAU hosted a Ladies Clothing Swap where students gave clothes they did not want to their RAs, the RAs put the clothes on tables, and students took the same number of clothing items as they had donated.

One RA, Kaylee Clayton, started the event last year in her dorm. This year she got the other RA’s together and made it a campus-wide event. Clayton said “It’s a good way to recycle and inform people about the effects of the textile industry.” More than 750 items were donated and about 50 people participated. Clayton said they plan to keep doing it even after she graduates.

Clayton said she is committed to the zero-waste movement and recycling. She said buying second-hand is good for the environment because it creates less demand for clothes. “Just one shirt takes more than 700 gallons of water to make,” said Clayton. Buying second-hand is also good because “you’re not creating demand for or supporting companies that use bad practices like human trafficking, poor treatment of workers, and hazardous working conditions,” said Clayton.

Thrift shopping reuses garments instead of throwing them out, reducing the amount of textile waste produced. According to, the average American throws out about 82 pounds of textile waste each year, most of which ends up in landfills where it produces toxic greenhouse gasses as it decomposes causing global warming.

Recycling is Not the Solution

By Kaylee Clayton

Until 2018, the United States shipped roughly 7 million tons of plastic to China each year. In China, the plastic was sorted, broken down and reused to create new materials. Paper and aluminum was also shipped over from the U.S.

Not just the U.S. but about 70 percent of the world’s plastic waste went to China according to NPR writer Christopher Joyce. Many Chinese people became millionaires with new recycling businesses that bought the world’s trash and made money from processing and selling it. Joyce said this aided in making China the second wealthiest economy in the world.

At U.S. West Coast ports, empty Chinese shipping containers that had delivered goods to American consumers were sent back full of plastic and paper recycling. While American recycling machines often struggled with breaking down certain types of plastics, China had the capacity to handle the plastics with enough cheap laborers to sort the recyclable materials.

About five years ago, the Chinese government began to worry about the amount of incoming plastic. Much of the plastic was contaminated, which made it difficult to recycle and unprofitable. In 2017, the Chinese government implemented stricter regulations and began to cut down plastic trash imports. In January 2018, China banned almost all imports. “That means a huge amount of plastic is looking for a place to go,” said Joyce.

This left American recyclers with three options: pay a higher price for recycling, send it to different countries, or send it to the landfill.

“Plastic is getting separated at paper factories, dumped in neighboring communities, and the only way to get rid of it is to openly burn it,” said environmental activist Stiv Wilson. “Air, water, and land are all affected.”

Many smaller cities that feel they cannot afford to pay more for recycling choose to incinerate their recycling rather than pay for recycling, which results in harmful toxins being released into the air. Keefe Harrison who runs the nonprofit Recycling Partnership, said “more plastic in the U.S. is ending up in landfills or getting incinerated, which creates pollution.”

Shipments of plastic waste are now diverted to Southeast Asian countries instead of China. These shipments have increased exponentially since 2018. According to Laura Parker from National Geographic, exports from the U.S. to Thailand jumped almost 7,000 percent in one year. Malaysia’s increased several hundred percent. Those numbers have begun to decrease since those countries have cut back on imports.

Alana Samuels reported in The Atlantic that waste-management companies across the country are telling towns, cities, and counties there is no longer a market for their recycling. Recycling is ending at a time when the United States is producing more waste than ever before.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the total amount of municipal waste was 208.3 million tons in 1990 and 262.4 million tons in 2015. According to Frontier Group, “The U.S. produces more than 30 percent of the planet’s total waste, though it is home to only 4 percent of the world’s population.” A Columbia University study estimated Americans throw out seven pounds of materials per person every day, which is 2,555 pounds of materials per year.

The Zero-Waste Movement proposes an alternative to shipping waste to other countries and landfills. This idea started 20 years ago when Daniel Knapp, Ph.D., CEO, Urban Ore, Inc., a Material Recovery Enterprise in Berkeley, California, shared his research around the world on his idea of “No Waste.”

The Zero-Waste Movement encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so all products are reused. By eliminating single-use items, plastic water bottles, Ziploc baggies and plastic straws, one can live a lifestyle of reducing and reusing. The goal is for no trash to be sent to other countries, landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Of the 260 million tons of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean, according to a Greenpeace report. Plastic Oceans reported that “more than 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the oceans every year.”

The Zero-Waste Movement encourages people to take responsibility for their product consumption and only use materials that can be reused. Some individuals have managed to keep

all the waste they have created for several years in a 16 oz. mason jar. Lauren Singer, environmental activist and CEO of Simple Co., kept all the trash she made in four years in a 16 oz. jar. She began with eliminating single-use plastic, analyzing what her trash consisted of, composting raw materials, making her own products, and investing in sustainable and reusable alternatives.

Spring Arbor University (SAU) junior and environmentalist Madilyn Nissley said “the Zero-Waste Movement is a good thing, but if someone cannot commit to changing everything in their life then it

feels overwhelmingly impossible.” The Zero-Waste Movement could be the answer to America’s current recycling dilemma.

Concluding the composition: chair of the music department to retire after 34 years

By Libby Koziarski

After 34 years of teaching, Dr. Jonathan Bruce Brown, Spring Arbor University’s (SAU) music department chair, is set to retire. 

His first encounter with SAU was 44 years ago on March 31, 1973, when his sister was married on campus. Ten years later, he heard about a job opening, “and the rest is history,” he said with a smile. 

Dr. Brown. From SAU’s website.

Dr. Brown has taught several classes at SAU, with some of his favorites being Intro to Fine Arts and Music Theory. He also started and directed the string orchestra, helped set up the computer music lab, and composed a brass piece for the kick-off dedication of the campus library in 2002. 

“It is a real blessing to be here [at SAU],” he said. “I just hope people feel like I tried to be helpful.” 

According to sophomore Rachel Lawrence, “Dr. Brown is just a really great guy to talk to… and he does such a good job laying down the basics and making complex concepts easy to understand.” 

Dr. Brown is not only an accomplished professor at SAU, but he is also a nationally-recognized composer. His performances have been showcased from Washington D.C. to Honolulu, Hawaii, garnering annual awards from the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) since 1992. 

34 years later, Dr. Brown’s career at SAU comes full-circle as he plans his farewell concert.  The concert is on April 27th, 7:00p.m., in the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church chapel. 

Kicking Off Spring Semester

By Caralyn Geyer

On Thursday, February 1, 10 students dodged punches and blocked kicks as they attended the newly emerging kickboxing club at Spring Arbor University (SAU) for an hour-long session of fight training.

The club started in the fall of 2016 when two students in associate professor of physical therapy Mitch Zigler’s HPR101 class expressed interest in learning techniques he taught one day in class.

Now that school is back in session for the spring, this new club is “kicking” it into action for the year with the hopes that the new semester will bring in some new recruits to help the group come out of the shadows.

The group meets every Thursday night from 5:30 to 6:30 and is led by Zigler in the Physical Therapy clinic. Zigler said that he instructs by his history of Krav Maga and Filipino fight training.

Mitch Zigler and Bethany Ulrich, assistant professor of HHPR. Photo by Rachel Merchant.

“Just training in Krav Maga offers your body cardiovascular exercise,” Zigler said. “It is also mainstream combative, so we get to have fun all while working on these very direct techniques, making it the most effective way to defend yourself.”

Zigler also said he would like to focus on Krav Maga techniques.

“It’s the most movement-efficient, and is proven combatively effective because it’s used by the Israeli army and is taught in our police and army systems as well,” Zigler said. “I think that all SAU students should learn how to handle any combat situation.”

Student Conner Williams attended for the first time this past Thursday.

“My favorite part of the class was being there with my friends and learning something new together,” Williams said. “We’re constantly learning new information in an academic sense, but it’s nice to learn a new way to use our bodies, too.”

Regular attendee Celeste Fendt said, “it’s a casual, fun way to get some cardio in and learn important self-defense skills.”

The class is free, welcomes beginners, and is for anyone looking to have some fun and learn how to protect themselves.


The Art of Spoken Strength and Celebration

By Caralyn Geyer

Three judges, two poems, one microphone. What’s at stake? Two movie tickets to the Jackson 10 and 50 dollars in cash. On February 24, Spring Arbor University’s (SAU’s) Office of Intercultural Relations (OIR) held the semi-final and final performances of “The Spoken Word” in the White Auditorium at 7:00 p.m. to finish out the school’s celebration of Black History Month.

Five students gave performances of their best spoken poetry, but only one took home the grand prize. Sophomore English and Psychology major Kayla Kilgore was the winner, with her two poems entitled “Ode to My Chicks” and “Am I Not My Brother.” She was followed by runner-up Ryan Manuel and second runner-up Liz Pence.

Kayla Kilgore, the winner. Photo by Caralyn Geyer.

Kilgore said her poems were based on personal experiences and focused on topics of homosexuality and technology as a god.

“I know other people struggle with these things and I want to be a voice of peace on the other side of it so that I can help someone else,” she said. Through the performance aspect of the night, she said, “I hope it attracts a diverse audience. It’s not just for the people who like poetry. People should come for the experience and for a different way to hear a story.”

According to Lowell OIR representative Mandeep Kaur, “The Spoken Word” is not just a contest or about poetry, but it is a chance to share beliefs and help students have a voice.

“SAU students live in a bubble and this event is an opportunity for them to talk about issues more comfortably than on any other platform,” Kaur said.

Alongside Kaur, Eric Beda added, “This is a time to reflect on the history of people, reflect on the past, ponder the current time and hope for what the future may bring.”

In addition to the students, OIR welcomed special guest Jamaica West, a spoken word artist from Chicago. West gave several of her own performances throughout the night, while also playing the role of ‘host’ for the contestants. West said that the spoken word of poetry brings together poetry, creativity, imagination and creates an opportunity to hear the hearts of artists.

“It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of your peers and share your heart,” West said. “Today that is why we refer to them as artists.”

Illumination and Administration: SAU admin on their hopes to foster dialogue with LBGTQ+ students

A worn green armchair sits in the corner surrounded by shelves of encyclopedias, devotionals and Biblical commentaries. Papers, reading glasses, three used mugs and a ping pong ball are scattered on a desk across from it.

By Kayla Williamson

A worn green armchair sits in the corner surrounded by shelves of encyclopedias, devotionals and Biblical commentaries. Papers, reading glasses, three used mugs and a ping pong ball are scattered on a desk across from it.

Some consider it a safe space to talk about their sexual identity.

“I don’t know how, but some [students] have chosen to come talk to me about it,” University Chaplain Brian Kono said. “As they sit in that chair and talk, I try to never make my opinion or my belief stand above the person or my relationship with them.”

The bulk of their conversation is not about what the Bible says about sexuality, but how they are processing this with their family, what shapes their identity, why they think God made them this way.

It is a conversation full of questions and listening.

It is a conversation an estimated 9.5 million Americans have had, according to a study by the Williams Institute in 2014.

It is conversation the Spring Arbor University (SAU) administration is trying to cultivate.

Living on a school campus that prohibits homosexual behavior creates a student perceived barrier to cultivating an environment of welcome conversation and loving support. Bridging that gap while maintaining student handbook rules is a challenge administrators like Kono are trying to overcome.

[It] was very revealing to me that a student didn’t think they could come out to me or an administrator without there being some sort of response from us. – Kim Hayworth, VP for Student Success and Calling

Whether the attempts land successfully or not depends on the level of trust at an individual level.

“I hope that it’s because they trust me,” Kono said. “They know my heart. It’s not unique to me. You know those that you trust because of the good conversations you have with them.”

The role of community standards

In a meeting with students, a girl asked Vice President for Student Success and Calling Kim Hayworth if someone has ever come out to her.

Her answer: absolutely.

“She was shocked, and her shock shocked me,” Hayworth said. “That was very revealing to me that a student didn’t think they could come out to me or an administrator without there being some sort of response from us.”

For Hayworth, the challenge was realizing student perception of administration—that if someone came out to an administrator, unknown concequences await. She realized the effort she and other administrators will have to do to overcome urban legends or the label of “administration.”

Both she and Associate Vice President for Student Development and Learning Dan Vanderhill emphasize the difference between identifying as LGBTQ+ and participating in LGBTQ+ behavior.

The Student Handbook states, “All students, regardless of age, residency or status, are required to abstain from cohabitation, any involvement in premarital or extramarital sexual activity, or homosexual activity (including same-sex dating behaviors). This includes the promotion, advocacy, and defense of the aforementioned activities.”

“I hope people understand that it’s not against the rules to be LGBTQ any more than it be against the rules for someone to want to have sex outside of marriage,” Vanderhill said. “It’s against behaviors which are clearly stated in the handbook. I think they’re fair expectations even if there’s room for disagreement on them.”

I don’t believe we should interact with, like this calculus in my mind of how I should interact or approach you. To me that is very unhealthy. It’s like a false reality that we create when we affiliate with each other in that manner. – Kim Hayworth, VP for Student Success and Calling

How will we engage with the other?

A group of administrators and faculty started meeting at the beginning of fall to brainstorm how to be intentional with conversations.

It is both the school and an individual’s responsibility to create safe spaces where students can feel comfortable approaching someone, Hayworth said.

“I don’t believe we should interact with, like this calculus in my mind of how I should interact or approach you,” Hayworth said. “To me that is very unhealthy. It’s like a false reality that we create when we affiliate with each other in that manner.”

This “thinktank” as they call themselves, has met with students to tell their own stories and the stories of others. By listening to these students, they hope to create more events and opportunities to cultivate community engagement with each other. Next Monday’s chapel speaker, Adam Mearse, and the following dorm talks that night are efforts to “elevate” the conversation.

Yet there is a barrier between the LGBTQ+ community and the non-affirming. SAU is built on the Free Methodist heritage, which does not affirm the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. So how can the SAU community engage with each other without forgetting that heritage?

I see both students and staff faculty just get into this comfortable rut. When we’re in stressful day-to-day things, we just want to sit with people we know at the DC instead of meeting someone new and taking time to listen. – Anna Tabone, Career Advisor

“I don’t have a good answer because I think it can be interpreted as a very painful thing to be non-affirming, but I do believe there’s ways to be so loving and non-affirming,” Tabone said.

Kono is still wrestling with how to best advocate for the other on campus.

“This is a difficult conversation to have,” Kono said. “The weight of the tension that comes is something that I feel very greatly. It becomes a weight. Yes, it can become a negative thing, but I feel it because of the weight of importance that we, as a community called Christian, try to engage these conversations well.”

Strangers Like Me – Anna Tabone’s Story

In high school in 2002, Anna Tabone had a crush.

She and her friend Joe had agreed to go to prom together. A week before the dance, he told her he was gay.

That was the first time Tabone was challenged by what her conservative upbringing had taught her about the lifestyle of the LGBTQ+ community.

“But we went to prom together [with] one of our gay friends and one of my best friends, and it was a blast,” Tabone said. “In that sense, Joe is not an ‘other’ to me. [He’s] someone I really knew and really cared about.”

As a former Resident Director (RD), Community of Learners (COL) leader and now Career Advisor, Tabone has taught and mentored several students in the LGBTQ+ community. She has had students who came out to her as an RD, as someone who will walk with them before they are ready to come out to anyone else.

“That, I feel was maybe one of the most treasured gifts, to have a student trust you with their real self,” Tabone said. “[It] still really chokes me up.”

Engaging with the LGBTQ+ community, or anyone considered “other,” is a fundamental Christian action, not just a principle, Tabone said. They become less of a stranger if their story is told and they are in an environment where they can be themselves.

Engagement starts in small ways, Tabone said.

“I see both students and staff faculty just get into this comfortable rut,” Tabone said. “When we’re in stressful day-to-day things, we just want to sit with people we know at the DC instead of meeting someone new and taking time to listen.”

Kindling Conversation: SAU students and alumni on being LGBTQ+ on a conservative campus

Caitlin Stout, class of 2017, grew up in Jackson and first learned about SAU through her church.

By Elise Emmert & Celeste Fendt

Caitlin Stout, class of 2017, grew up in Jackson and first learned about SAU through her church. The Spring Arbor University (SAU) students in her youth group were part of what convinced her to come to school here. Stout said the idea of having a Christian community on campus also drew her in.

During her four years here, Stout said she grew significantly in her faith and as a dedicated supporter of social justice.

“A lot of [my growth] has been a result of the fact that this has been a very difficult place to be a gay Christian,” Stout said.

For members of the LGBTQ+ community at SAU, finding support in the form of a leader or mentor can be challenging because of limits imposed by the student handbook and community guidelines.

Stout said what helped her through the difficult times was the realization that she was not alone, and the group of friends that was alongside her showing support.

“I always kind of joke that SAU has made me a better Christian but not in any of the ways they intended to,” Stout said. “The LGBT community, both on this campus and at large, has kind of been the group of people who have shown me what church should look like.”

The LGBT community, both on this campus and at large, has kind of been the group of people who have shown me what church should look like. – Caitlin Stout, class of 2017

According to senior W. Cody Pitts, the LGBTQ+ community works mostly underground. But this, he said, is not because of harassment from other students.

“A lot of people that I think go here who are in the (LGBTQ+) community love our community and love the people here,” Pitts said.

Pitts came to SAU wanting to be an activist for the LGBTQ+ community on campus, and spent his sophomore year questioning different things about himself and how he identified before coming out to a few close friends and family.

Later, after working as an RA his sophomore and junior years, Pitts left the job behind since he decided he could no longer continue to agree with everything the school stood for, a contract requirement for student leaders.

Since coming out publicly, Pitts came to be a type of leader to other students on campus who came to him with questions. He also said he has been “a lot happier” this year than he had been in the past.

Ben Coakley, an SAU class of 2017 alumnus, said most of the people he encountered while on campus were willing to have conversations with him concerning sexuality, even when they were non-affirming. Large-scale conversations, he said, probably did not happen as often because people were afraid of upsetting others with their ideas or opinions.

Coakley said he felt “different” growing up, but didn’t know anyone who identified as LGBTQ+ and didn’t have the language to describe what he was feeling. This kept him from being able to have a conversation with himself about sexuality until he met students his freshman year who identified as gay.

During his freshman year, Coakley thought he was the only student wondering about his sexuality because he did not have anyone to talk to. Meeting other LGBTQ+ students on campus gave him a support system of people to talk to with whom he felt more at ease.

“The thing that I hate most is any student feeling like they’re alone and feeling like they don’t have a support system, for whatever reason,” Coakley said. “That should be a concern for everyone, regardless of your theology.”

I just want people to have conversation with the understanding that (for) someone you’re talking to or for someone in the room, this is personal for them – Ben Coakley, class of 2017

LGBTQ+ students not only face feeling alone on campus, but also face being afraid of coming out because of handbook guidelines. Because the handbook prohibits the defense or advocacy of a homosexual lifestyle, even something as simple as identifying as LGBTQ+ could be seen as breaking school policies.

An anonymous member of the LGBTQ+ community at SAU said the student body has been their biggest support system on campus. Not every student, however, contributes to this support.

The student said most SAU students have validated and protected the LGBTQ+ students, but others dismiss them.

“When it’s something that you can’t change about you, it really hurts when people put that down and say that it doesn’t exist,” the student said.

Dreams for the Future

Despite the difficulties LGBTQ+ students face on campus, some do have a vision for the future of the community.

For Coakley, progress is best found in visibility and dialogue. This means both acknowledging there are LGBTQ+ students on campus and allowing conversation about differing viewpoints to take place publicly.

“I just want people to have conversation with the understanding that (for) someone you’re talking to or for someone in the room, this is personal for them,” Coakley said.

The anonymous student doesn’t expect SAU to become affirming of the LGBTQ+ community anytime soon. But they hope it will become more open about this crucial topic by hosting panel discussions and creating a more inviting atmosphere.

Pitts agrees with the emphasis on representation, and hopes the school would eventually allow the LGBTQ+ community to form a group or organization where they could publicly affirm what they believe. With this, he said students could approach the group, start conversations and come to their own conclusions.

The goal is not necessarily to make the school change its values or beliefs. The Free Methodist Church does not affirm homosexuality, but Pitts said part of living in a contemporary world is being able to engage with people who disagree with you. A place for students to be out publicly and support the LGBTQ+ community without fear would embody that.

“It’s not really about what you believe,” Pitts said. “It’s about showing people love.”

Higher Learning Commission to evaluate SAU for accreditation

By Nathan Salsbury

On December 4, a group of five faculty members from various schools in the region will visit Spring Arbor University (SAU) to evaluate the school and decide whether or not it will maintain its regional accreditation.

On Monday, October 16, a student leadership meeting was held to inform students about SAU’s upcoming evaluation. Professor of Sociology John Hawthorne, alongside a team of other faculty members, has been working on the required paperwork for the visit. The document, at the time of the meeting, consisted of 28,456 words of the maximum 30,000 words and featured information on how the institution is doing academically and spiritually. Hawthorne said the project, which has taken up much of his time since March, is mostly ready to be reviewed by the visiting board, although it is still going through changes.

HLCmap“I was really excited Saturday when I put what I thought were the last edit passes in to say, ‘Oh good, now we’ve got this thing put to bed,'” Hawthorne said. “I got about seven emails between 5:30 and 10:30 on Sunday morning, so then I went back in and I’ve been working on that since.”

The document will then be assessed by the five faculty members that are chosen to evaluate SAU. These members will come from schools in the North-Central region of the country, which is comprised of schools from 19 states. This region is also known as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

To remain accredited, five criteria must be met as listed on the HLC’s official website. The surveyors need to make sure:

1) The institution’s mission is clear and articulated publicly; it guides the institution’s operations.

2) The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and responsible.

3) The institution provides high quality education, wherever and however its offerings are delivered.

4) The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of its educational programs, learning environments, and support services, and it evaluates their effectiveness for student learning through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.

5) The institution’s resources, structures, and processes are sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and opportunities. The institution plans for the future.

Not only will the HLC be looking for those five criteria to be met during their visit, they will also be sitting down with various students to evaluate what campus life is like. Hawthorne said students should be honest about their thoughts on the school, although they should not take this as an opportunity to voice complaints about such things as the limited parking availability.

HLCcriteria“We are not a perfect institution,” Hawthorne said. “The institutions that our visitors will come from are not perfect institutions. So, if you should say, ‘There’s an area that we think we’re working on as an institution and I wish we did more of that,’ I want you to be honest in that conversation.”

During the meeting, students can expect to hear questions such as, “What’s it like to go to school here?” and, “How your major classes are going?” Hawthorne, who is occasionally asked to be a part of the HLC when evaluating other schools, said he would not directly ask about advising, but there might be questions to ensure students know what classes they need to take and that there is a strong support system of faculty members for the student to come to with any problems.

Hawthorne said he assured the president that although SAU is being evaluated, there is almost nothing that anybody could say in the visit that would cause the school undue harm or prompt the accreditation to be taken away. The visit is a procedure that every accredited institution must go through every few years. In particular, the HLC typically evaluates schools once every seven to ten years, and this year marks ten years since SAU was last evaluated. Once accreditation takes place, it gives the school the opportunity to receive Title IV funding from the Department of Education, which means the school will receive federal financial aid funds.

The HLC will spend most of Monday, December 4 on campus, as well as some of Tuesday, December 5. The five members will then draft their assessment of the school to decide whether or not SAU will remain an accredited institution.