Fresno Pacific students claim discrimination, censorship as gay pride club question looms

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Cries of discrimination and censorship are coming from the Fresno Pacific University campus.

A group trying to form an LGBTQ+ Pride club on campus has hit a roadblock and the student newspaper says the university won't let them report on it.

"Part of the FPU idea is to create dialogue as a community of diverse learners, yet as you can tell, they're not allowing students to create that dialogue," said Alyssa Stuebner.

Stuebner exposed potential Title IX violations by Fresno Pacific University in a Thursday story for The Syrinx, the FPU student newspaper, where she serves as executive editor.

But it's not the whole story she had in mind.

She wanted to tie it in with the proposed formation of an LGBTQ+ Pride club on campus.

"I knew that this was an important story to tell, and to be able to provide that information would be vital for the FPU community," Stuebner said.

As a private, faith-based university, Fresno Pacific has a religious exemption to Title IX, the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex-based discrimination.

Stuebner found almost none of her fellow students knew about that.

But when she started doing interviews about how Title IX could affect the proposed Pride Club, she says administrators gently discouraged her, at least until she kept pushing forward.

"We chose to try to still get the information out for students so they may form their own opinions before the decision and perhaps they could try to communicate their feelings to the administration," Stuebner said. "However, as we went along gathering the information, the university's administration decided that we were no longer allowed to print the story."

The university sent Action News a statement denying administrators ordered the story to be held.

They just didn't want to comment until after the university's Board of Trustees made a decision about the Pride Club at their October 23 meeting.

The meetings are not public.

"I was not invited nor do I have an opportunity to speak about the club at this meeting," said Fresno Pacific senior Justin St. George.

St. George started forming the club when a Christian Leadership class assignment directed him to find an area of need and then, potential solutions.

The U.S. Navy veteran got student government approval for the club, but found his application bogged down afterwards.

"Because of the nature of the potential club, the decision on whether or not to approve it as an official student organization is with the FPU Board of Trustees," the university's statement said.

Administrators added that the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren, their sponsoring organization, defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

But as members of the LGBTQ+ community, St. George and Stuebner say they feel the process is opaque and their voices are not being considered.

In fact, they're being censored.

"Unfortunately, students are discouraged a lot of the time due to the university's actions and that's why maybe this conversation hasn't truly been started yet," St. George said.

He and Stuebner are hoping the October 23 board meeting moves the conversation forward no matter what the decision is on the club's fate.

Here is the Fresno Pacific University administration's complete statement:

A group of Fresno Pacific University would like to organize an LGBTQ Pride Club and hope to make it a university-sponsored organization. The Syrinx, FPU's student newspaper, is working on an article about the proposed club.

A reporter for the Syrinx approached the President's Office about interviewing Dr. Joseph Jones for the article. Dr. Jones said he would be happy to be interviewed after the FPU Board of Trustees meeting October 23.

No one in the administration told the reporter not to write about the subject or ordered the story to be held. The president and others simply feel that not enough is known before the board discussion for comments to be appropriate.

Because of the nature of the potential club, the decision on whether or not to approve it as an official student organization is with the FPU Board of Trustees. The board discussed the proposed club at its last meeting in June and is expected to again at this meeting.

FPU is affiliated with the Pacific District Conference of the United States Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. This is our sponsoring organization.

The USMB Confession of Faith defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

FPU invites and welcomes all students, but expects students to abide by the values and behavioral standards in the student handbook and the theological witness statement, both of which are made available to students and on the FPU website.
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