Taylor University, a small evangelical Christian college in Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, faces criticism from students, alumni, and faculty who’ve voiced their opposition to the university’s selection of Pence to deliver the 2019 commencement address.
Taylor University is honored to have Vice President Mike Pence featured as our commencement speaker. Mr. Pence has been a good friend to the University over many years, and is a Christian brother whose life and values have exemplified what we strive to instill in our graduates. pic.twitter.com/1BBLL8YIQo
— Taylor University (@tayloru) April 11, 2019
A Change.org petition started by 2007 Taylor graduate Alex Hoekstra after the school made the announcement on April 11 has garnered over 3,500 signatures. The petition calls for university officials to rescind the invitation:
“Inviting Vice President Pence to Taylor University and giving him a coveted platform for his political views makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”
Speaking to Newsweek, Hoekstra said that he is not alone in feeling “personally injured” by Pence and the current administration:
“As an alumni of Taylor and as a gay man I’m pretty personally injured by the policies of the Trump/Pence administration and I know that a lot of alumni who identify as other minority groups are personally affected by the Trump/Pence administration.”
Others have taken to social media to criticize the university’s decision.
Count me as part of The Backlash. @tayloru, this is a mistake, to ally yourself with and honor a politician who has been supportive of and complacent in this administration (not to mention the embarrassment he has caused Indiana!)https://t.co/jRdC5IU93r
— Joanna (@keepingfeet) April 11, 2019
As an alumnus of Taylor University, I unite with faculty and students who are protesting the invitation to Mike Pence to speak at commencement. This man represents an administration that is anything but Christian in its hateful, arrogant, and militant agenda.
— Russ Clark (@chesty68) April 17, 2019
I just learned that @tayloru is hosting Mike Pence for 2019 commencement. Pence is a key part of the Trump admin that has brought significant suffering on the people Jesus cares about. I will be ending any support, whether financial or otherwise, for Taylor University.
— Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) April 11, 2019
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, adjunct faculty member Amy Peterson also criticized the decision:
“This decision doesn’t reassure those with underrepresented voices that they can flourish at Taylor; it leaves them feeling isolated and invisible. It reads like a deliberate and definitive statement about who we are and about what we think virtue in the public sphere looks like — and, by implication, who doesn’t belong…
As soon as the announcement was made, a professor from the biblical studies, Christian ministries and philosophy department called for a vote of dissent. After some discussion, during which some faculty expressed support for Pence’s presence, comparing him to the biblical figure of Daniel, and others critiqued the decision, 49 faculty voted in favor of Pence addressing the community at commencement. Sixty-one voted in opposition.”
Taylor University is not budging, according to James Garringer, a spokesman for the university:
“Since making the announcement of Vice President Mike Pence’s upcoming commencement speech, we have received feedback from people on either side of the issue. Taylor University is an intentional Christian community that strives to encourage positive, respectful and meaningful dialogue. We look forward to hosting the Vice President next month.”
The university’s refusal to rescind the invitation was praised by Kevin Holtsberry, a Taylor alumni.
I was very nervous initially that the very vocal overwhelming minority might sort of sway Taylor to take a different stance so I’m very glad they’re taking that solid stance,” Holtsberry said during an appearance on “Fox and Friends.”
“The vice president has very orthodox Christian beliefs – very traditional beliefs – that a vast majority of Christians believe,” he continued. “His political views are shared by a large section of America, so it’s not a radical choice, and I think people should be able to engage and disagree with his views and do it in a mature fashion.”