Graduating Students Gave Pride Flags To Their Interim President As A Protest

Jordan Claes
Student handing their teacher a Pride flag as they receive their school diploma.
youtube | KING 5

June is always an exciting month. June marks the beginning of summer, it signifies the end of the school term and for the past 20-plus years, has been recognized as international Pride Month.

But for the graduating students at Seattle Pacific University, June has also become a time of protest after the school's Board of Trustees voted to uphold a prejudicial policy that bars the hiring of LGBTQIA+ people.

Graduating from university is a pinnacle moment in every student's life.

Graduating students on a beach, throwing their caps into the air in celebration.
Unsplash | Pang Yuhao

Graduation is a time for celebration. It marks the competition of years' worth of hard work and stands as the culmination of one of life's most formative chapters.

But for the most recent graduating class of Seattle Pacific University, graduation was a time for protest.

Person waving a pride flag.
Unsplash | Stavrialena Gontzou

As the students made their way across the stage to collect their diplomas, about 50 of them chose to hand interim president Pete Manjares a pride flag, instead of shaking his hand.

This calculated move on behalf of the student body was done in order to protest a school policy that forbids the hiring of LGBTQIA+ people.

The protest was orchestrated and organized by Chloe Guillot, an undergraduate/returning grad student of the university.

"It started just as a conversation among students that we didn't really want to shake the president's hand at graduation," Chloe told 'CNN'.

Student being interviewed via webcam by CNN.
youtube | KING 5

"So, we thought what can we do instead of that? And the idea came up: why don't we hand out a pride flag?"

As Chloe made her way across the stage to bestow her flag to Menjares, she also had a message for the interim president.

Chelsea Handler on her talk show.

"We're not going to stop until the policy changes," she said resoundingly. Unfortunately for Chloe and the rest of her like-minded cohorts, enacting that kind of policy change will be an uphill battle.

This is because Seattle Pacific University is a religious educational institution, with close ties to the Free Methodist Church USA.

Methodist Church.
Unsplash | Andy Oldham

This means that the school "reserves the right to prefer employees or prospective employees on the basis of religion" — according to the university's website.

In early June, the university's Board of Trustees voted to uphold a policy preventing the hiring of staff members engaged in same-sex relationships.

David from 'Schitt's Creek' looking shocked.
Giphy | Schitt's Creek

As many people are already well aware, June is recognized internationally as a global Pride Month — a time when LGBTQIA+ peoples celebrate the freedom to be themselves and love who they choose.

Board Chair Cedric Davis touched on this controversial decision in a statement released via the university's website.

Seattle Pacific University.
instagram | @seattle_pacific

"While this decision brings complex and heart-felt reactions, the Board made a decision that it believed was most in line with the university's mission and Statement of Faith," Davis wrote.

He continued, stating that the Board chose to have SPU "remain in communion" with the Free Methodist Church.

Graduating students from Seattle Pacific University.
instagram | @seattle_pacific

Davis finally made sure to emphasize that at the end of the day, SPU is a Christian university, and as such it must reflect/uphold its historical Christian values.

While the students have yet to achieve their desired outcome, their cries for equality haven't gone unheard.

Gay pride flags.
Unsplash | daniel james

While speaking with KING5, university interim president Pete Menjares said "It was a wonderful day to celebrate with our graduates. Those who took the time to give me a flag showed me how they felt and I respect their view."

According to Chloe Guillot and fellow student protestor, Pamela Styborski, the fight is far from over.

Dan Levy accepting a MTV Award.
Giphy | MTV Movie & TV Awards

Since the Board's statement was released, students have been conducting sit-ins in front of Menjares' office. Guillot said that the administration can expect to see much of the same continuing into the summer months.

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