Why the March Was Necessary to Raise Awareness
On March 16th, students and local religious leaders joined forces in a demonstration organized by Birds for Pride. This event passed through the FPU campus in hopes of garnering awareness to the unjust denial of a formal pride club being allowed on FPU’s campus. The thing that elevated the stakes for a call to action was that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), FPU’s accreditation agency, was in town and had representatives on campus. The march was much more than just another showing of unity, it was a move to bring justice to FPU in front of those in charge of bringing accountability to the school. A petition from Faithful America with over 11,000 signatures also paints the picture a little more clearly; Let the LGBTQ+ community feel like they are seen and recognized at FPU.
This, of course, is not the first time Birds for Pride have put pressure on the powers above at FPU. It all stems from FPU’s rejection of a pride club on campus, something that sparked a reaction across the FPU campus and the community around it. Cries of discrimination and censorship soon led to unity within the LGBTQ+ community at FPU in an effort to try and raise awareness to the outright open discrimination they recieved. This community was promised a safe space on campus, however, instead they received a cold shoulder without a plausible explanation.
Fast forward from the beginning of Fall semester 2021 to Spring semester in March in 2022, things have not changed as FPU continues its stance against the formation of a pride club on campus. It is worth noting that many religious leaders around the community, students at FPU, SGA approval, as well as staff members were supporting the movement to finally create a pride club on campus and be among some of the other faith-based universities around the country to open their doors to an LGBTQ+ club. However, despite their best efforts, the Birds for Pride still have not gotten their chance to be recognized as a formal club on campus. Now, more than ever, it is critical to give voice and hope to members of the LGBTQ+ community after Florida and Texas received backlash recently for their anti-LGBTQ+ measures. If FPU is a safe space for all people, why is there a continued pattern of marginalization towards a community that is constantly being silenced?
To further understand the reason behind the demonstration as well as get some more information to FPU students who are unaware, the Syrinx has decided to interview Justin St. George, FPU senior, US navy veteran, and club president of Birds for Pride.
Why did the pride club choose to have a demonstration/walk out?
“We chose a peaceful demonstration during the accreditation team onsite visit to emphasize the need for WASC to investigate Fresno Pacific University’s diversity and inclusion practices. Earlier this year, we filed a formal complaint with WASC, which was also signed by the SGA President (attached). President Joseph Jones time and time again refused to speak with LGBTQ+ students and even attempted to obstruct the student body and faculty over the last year. He ignored student feedback at a student leadership retreat, censored the decision-making of the Student Government Association and The Syrinx student newspaper, refused to forward our paperwork to the Board of Trustees, sent a cease-and-desist email to the University’s own Diversity Committee, and plagiarized our club recognition form by implementing ‘safe space persons’ policy. President Jones has caused irrevocable damage by leading with his cognitive bias, and not his Christian values. He has endangered the standing of the Central Valley’s only accredited Christian institution and has exposed the school to potential financial and legal liabilities.”
What are you trying to achieve by raising awareness?
“A lot of students are unaware that Fresno Pacific University openly and actively discriminates against LGBTQ+ individuals. FPU is not a safe place for LGBTQ+ students, many feel not comfortable being themselves. Well-qualified students, faculty, and alumni have been turned down job and leadership opportunities because they identified openly as LGBTQ+. We have heard and will continue to hear from students and alumni across decades that have been traumatized by FPU’s diversity and inclusion policies. LGBTQ+ students are not allowed to have a club when it is Student Government approved, yet the school approves and funds a racist, white nationalist club like Turning Point USA. We are hoping WASC considers these circumstances, hears our message, and will listen to the 11,000+ voices that were handed to them thanks to a petition from Faithful America.”
Who were you trying to send the message of unity and strength too?
“LGBTQ+ students and Veterans should not be afraid to be themselves on campus. I served this country so those who chose not to serve, could live free and happy lives. We are called by our faith to love and support all people, but that is simply not happening at Fresno Pacific University.”
Furthermore, the Syrinx also decided to interview Cheyenne Cade, a junior majoring in Business Management at FPU, who was one of the students part of the Birds for Pride peaceful demonstration.
What made you join the demonstration along with the Birds for Pride club?
“I decided to join the pride club in their demonstration because I believe in equal treatment of all people despite their sexual preferences or identification.”
Why was their message important to get out there?
“The message is important because equality is important. The LGBTQ+ community deserves to have a safe place not only on campus but in the community.”
What do you hope happens in response to this? Whether it be a response by FPU officials or students on campus?
“What I hope to happen is that FPU decides to open their minds and eventually their hearts to the harm they are causing their student body. FPU wants to help the community but they need to start in their own backyard. How does the school expect to be respected when the school doesn’t respect the students and who they are as people? I joined the protest with love and kindness in my heart, hoping FPU can return the favor.”
In the end, it is clear that despite all that is thrown their way, the Birds for Pride will continue to push and hope for a better outcome than what they have been given. It is a testament to how strong the LGBTQ+ community is, and also a symbol of what this school is said to represent, hope.
Written by: Julian Alcaraz | Editor
Graphic by: Liza Larrabee