Overcoming the Minimization of Power By Participating


Currently, EMU limits its hiring options by refusing to hire long-term faculty who are in same-sex relationships. EMU employees must comply with the Community Lifestyle Commitment (CLC), which restricts sex to heterosexual marriage. They must also respect the 1995 Confession of Faith in the Mennonite Perspective. This document is commonly understood to speak against gay marriage with the statement, “God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life.”

I could focus this article on the problems with interpreting a Confession of Faith as a legalistic doctrine (but only in the conversation about homosexuality, mind you) rather than as a historical marker for a faith community. I could also reference recent arguments seeking to place the Confession’s statement in its proper context of divorce and remarriage rather than homosexuality.

However, what people at EMU – administrators, faculty, and students – seem to need most is encouragement to overcome the minimization of their own power. In unique ways, all parties involved have the power to contribute to the diversification of our faculty, and therefore, to the strength of our institution.

In conversations I have had with administrators about the hiring policy, I have come to appreciate the empathetic and thoughtful administration at EMU. Administrators clearly care deeply about the student body, a fact supported by the hours of time they dedicated to our conversations on multiple occasions.

It is this fact precisely that makes me feel comfortable challenging EMU administrators—because I know they will listen and continue participating in hiring conversations.

The administrators all made it abundantly clear that EMU’s hiring policy is enforced by the Board of Trustees, meaning that no long-term faculty prospect can be hired without Board approval. It seems that no faculty candidate in a same-sex relationship can be hired even if the administrators approve of this candidate. The Board simply wouldn’t allow such a breach of current hiring policy.

However, I am perplexed by the lack of power the administration claims to have. Administration helps develop EMU policy and participates in the hiring of long-term faculty. They also maintain a positive, collaborative relationship with the Board of Trustees. Despite readily recognizing these facts, administration seems to imply that their hands are tied with regards to any effort to propose a more inclusive hiring policy.

Surely administration could guide a qualified candidate in a same-sex relationship through Board approval. I encourage administration to explore its influence in changing the hiring policy, knowing that increasing diversity in EMU faculty benefits the academic quality of an institution.

In EMU’s faculty, I see intellectuals passionate about the mission and values of EMU. They wouldn’t be accepting such low salaries compared to their colleagues in academia if they didn’t appreciate something special about EMU.

Underscoring this point, I understand that faculty have much more to lose than students do by pushing for institutional change contrary to current policy. A solitary faculty voice has reason to be careful of stepping on too many toes.

But when does the time come for collective action from these powerful and respected members of our community? If faculty desire a more diverse body at EMU, it is time for them to begin uniting in efforts to represent the faculty voice more concretely in discussion with administrators and the Board of Trustees. The Faculty Senate seems like an ideal place to emphasize revisiting the hiring policy, especially if tenured faculty lead the endeavor to bring this conversation to the Board’s attention.

Finally, students passionate about this issue must understand the extent of their sway in policy decisions. One of the greatest gifts I’ve received this semester has been encouragement from my mentors on campus to embrace the power I hold as a student.

As the primary financial contributors, through tuition, to EMU, students have power that demands ownership, not an apathetic shrug. Through continued advocacy, especially through Student Government, we have a channel of communication with administrators and the Board of Trustees. We must maximize our access to an administration that is attentive to student concerns. Additionally, we must increase the frequency of our contact with the Board in ways more substantial than luncheons inundated with small talk.

It is time for us to explore our communication channels and invest our energy into shaping our education and our institution.

Participating in dialogue with those who shape our institution seems like the utmost way to show our respect for those in power. I implore you — administration, faculty, and students – to scrutinize your role in perpetuating current hiring policies and to mobilize in support of an inclusive hiring policy.

-Aaron Erb, Contributing Writer

Categories: Opinion

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