In Volume 99, Issue 20 of Student Movement, the Andrews University student newspaper, university president Niels-Erik Andreasen announced the creation of a taskforce to address the issue of LGBT youth homelessness. Homelessness among young LGBT populations became the focus of intense discussion on the Andrews University campus when administration halted a fundraiser from the university's unofficial gay-straight alliance, AULL4One. The proposed bake sale aimed to raise funds for Project Fierce, a nonprofit that assists homeless LGBT youth in Chicago.
News of the canceled bake sale spread quickly on several news outlets and social media, creating the damaging (and misleading) impression that Andrews University opposed helping homeless LGBT youth. Tensions on campus eased somewhat during spring break, but administration decided they needed to do more to address the negative perceptions of the university that media reports created.
Meanwhile, AULL4One took their fundraising efforts online through the crowdsourcing website IndieGoGo. The group hoped to raise $2,000 for Project Fierce, but international attention on the story helped generate enormous support for the fundraiser. When the fundraiser ended yesterday AULL4One's effort generated $17,480 in donations.
At the same time the online fundraiser was winding down, copies of Student Movement with President Andreasen's letter circulated on the Andrews University campus. In his letter, Andreasen addressed head on the idea that helping homeless gay youth runs counter to Seventh-day Adventist values. He asserted that supporting such a vulnerable population is in keeping with the life and teachings of Jesus. Andreasen't letter appeared on the "Ideas" page of the student newspaper beneath two articles on transgender identity and issues—the first entitled "Beyond the Binary" by Isabel Stafford, and the second entitled "Trans Challenges" by Dakota Hall.
President Niels-Erik Andreasen's letter in its entirety follows:
As you prepared for the end of the school year, I want to update you about a concern that emerged around the time many of you left campus for spring break.
For those of you who may be unaware, Andrews University has come under criticism in several media outlets about its response to a request for an on-campus fundraising event.
Let me emphasize that as part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Andrews University is committed to help all of God's children, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation. This commitment clearly reflects the values of Christ and His calling.
The question of whether or not Andrews University views the needs of homeless LGBT youth as an important humanitarian cause is one that we can answer with a resounding "yes," just as we believe Jesus would have responded.
We recognize the passion a number of our students have demonstrated in support of this issue. We believe that exploring the underlying causes of LGBT homelessness, along with other needs and concerns facing LGBT youth, is important for the University to consider.
Today I am sharing with you that we are committed to taking steps forward that will include careful study and the appointment of a taskforce that will help us gain greater understanding of this problem and propose helpful responses to the needs of these young people.
Further, we realize that these needs exist, in particular, because some Christian parents struggle with how to relate to their children as they identify and are honest about their orientation. This struggle sometimes leads to the tragedy of homelessness for LGBT youth.
We will keep you informed as we move forward on these issues, but in the meantime, an email address has been set up where you can send thoughts about the process or concerns that you'd like to have addressed. That address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Niels-Erik Andreasen, President
Jared Wright is Managing Editor of Spectrum