Seattle Pacific Removes Pride Flags from Campus

Students at Seattle Pacific University have accused administrators of removing pride flags from campus, Inside Higher Ed has learned. It’s the latest skirmish over LGBTQ+ rights at the private Free Methodist–affiliated university that has pitted the Board of Trustees against students and much of the community.

At the crux of the issue is an SPU policy that bars the hiring of openly gay faculty and staff members. The Board of Trustees has refused to budget on the policy, despite campus protests, a lawsuit from campus constituents, a probe by the Washington state attorney general and a lowered bond rating from S&P Global due to financial fallout from the hiring policy.

Early Friday morning, students placed hundreds of pride flags across campus. Student organizers said the move was to protest an email from administrators to the campus community urging the removal of “messages or signage that are divisive, polarizing, or show dissention,” according to a copy of the email obtained by Inside Higher Ed. Students said that in the past, pride flags have been left up, but in this case facilities staff took them down by 7:30 am Friday.

The move came a day after SPU announced it had hired Deana Porterfield away from Roberts Wesleyan University, another Free Methodist college, to serve as its president. Students have expressed skepticism about Porterfield, given that RWU defines marriage as “between one man and one woman,” which is similar to SPU’s statement on human sexuality.

“Per university standards and precedent, SPU continues to remove signs, flags, and displays of any kind, regardless of content or purpose, that have been placed on campus without permission,” SPU communications director Tracy Norlen told Inside Higher Ed by email.

SPU officials said the removal was done on the orders of the administration, declining to name any specific individuals. A worker recorded removing the flags told students it was done at the direction of “upper management.”