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Seattle Pacific University students stage walkout, rally over Board of Trustees decision

One day after the Seattle Pacific University board announced they would keep a policy limiting who an employee can have relations with, students walked out of class.

SEATTLE — Students protested Tuesday after the Seattle Pacific University (SPU) Board of Trustees voted to uphold rules that ban LGBTQ+ staff from working at the school. 

The demonstration was one of the largest walk-outs SPU has seen in years. Hundreds of students left their classrooms Tuesday morning and walked to Demaray Hall to demonstrate in front of the university president's office. 

Protestors said the board's decision discriminates against sexual orientation and doesn't reflect the students on campus. 

"We want gay faculty. We want gay staff," chanted student organizer Reena Sidhu. 

Hundreds showed up wearing rainbow masks and holding signs showing their dismay over Monday's decision. 

"This is a student issue but this is a staff and faculty issue, they've been here holding love in their hearts for us while we were really upset yesterday, but I can't even imagine what it's like being policed by your workplace," said Sidhu. 

The board decided to keep a policy that bans sexual activity between same-sex couples, extramarital sex and cohabitating before marriage for employees.

"We gave them two thousand signatures on a petition that we published in four days and they took all of that, then they said we're listening to you and then they voted against us," said student organizer, Chloe Guillot.

Faculty like Professor of Sociology Kevin Neuhouser showed up to speak in support of his students. 

"We claim you as ours and we will do everything we can to do right by you," he said. 

Students say they've spent years trying to make a change. For some faculty, it's been decades. 

"It's been a long road of trying to keep students safe," said SPU English Professor and Honors Program Director Chris Chaney. Chaney has taught at the school for 22 years.

In a statement, the Board said they chose to remain in 'communion' with the Free Methodist Church which defines marriage between a man and a woman. 

The rally prompted Interim President Pete Menjaras to address the crowd. 

"I also know you're disappointed with the recent announcement by the board of trustees and I can't speak for them. I also know that you want change and change isn't happening fast enough for you and I recognize that," he said.

When Menjaras was asked about the board's decision he referred to a written statement the school issued on Monday.

Students ended the rally by walking into Demaray Hall to hold a sit-in. They plan to stay there all night. 

President Menjaras also said the Board of Trustees would be on campus this Thursday to talk with students, staff and faculty.

RELATED: Seattle Pacific University employees must refrain from same-sex sexual activity, board decides

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