An Open Letter to Asbury University, or, how I was a victim of workplace discrimination two years too early

Dear Asbury,

When I tell people in Philly about the place I went to for college, I try to start by giving a few specifics in the hopes of telling the whole picture. I don’t know who’s more amazed: my friends, for the fact that someone as normal and smart as me attended such a place, or me, that my friends could be ignorant that so many colleges like Asbury exist in this country. Generally people are both shocked and entertained to hear guys and girls were only allowed in each others’ dorms for a few hours on Saturday afternoons, or that I had to attend mandatory chapel services three times a week for a grade, with assigned seating and points taken off for sleeping.

They’ll chuckle and roll their eyes at the litany of things we weren’t allowed to do as undergraduates: most notably drink alcohol, smoke, and dance (unless it was choreographed). They’ll be incredulous at the fact that we couldn’t wear shorts during class, and that girls couldn’t wear t-shirts to class until the year before I became a freshman. And I’ll laugh along, wanting to show that I too understand the silliness of much of this now, and that I’m not one of those crazy religious people that drank the Kool-Aid. The thing is, I deeply enjoyed my time at Asbury, and I’m thankful for the wonderful people I met who had better things to do with their Fridays than drink to oblivion. I cherished the environment of faith and intellectual curiosity, two things so central to my humanity.

And then my voice will harden as I explain why my rosy feelings have been tainted with a bitter ache, and why I cannot ever see myself returning to a reunion anytime in the near future. I will explain how, two years ago, I became the victim of workplace discrimination.

It’s best not to go into specifics here. Suffice it to say that I was very, very close to receiving an adjunct teaching position at Asbury straight out of graduate school, a coveted foot in the door for newly-minted MFAs in the fiercely competitive field of academic theatre. I know for a fact that I was withheld the position for nothing on my resume or transcript, and nothing that I chose to disclose in an interview.

I am gay, a fact that has at turns been the source of much self-loathing, agony, peace, and liberation for me. At the time of this incident, I was only “out” in the very supportive cocoon of my graduate program, save a few friends. I will never know how this extremely private piece of information I had no intention to make public made it to the ears of Asbury’s faculty, and it’s probably best that I don’t know. It isn’t healthy and isn’t the issue anyway.

It hurt, Asbury. It hurt a lot. I gave so much to this college as a student. I was one of the hardest-working students I knew. I served on student government, helped add an honors program, and directed more plays than any other undergraduate in a decade. I was so thrilled to give back, even as I knew the difficulty teaching there would present.

People tell me it’s for the best, that I couldn’t have been myself here. I want to agree. But I think of how much fun it would be to teach theatre to a crop of earnest freshman in this place I called home, and I find myself wondering. I think I would have been happy for at least a little while.

Asbury, I addressed this to you as an institution, rather than any individual person or people, not because I don’t know the appropriate parties but because I’d like to protect them. I know full well most of their personal views aren’t really what’s at issue here; such decisions are made to appease the beliefs of a handful of conservative donors. I can forgive caving to this pressure even if I can’t quite condone it.

Asbury, I have chosen to make this public after two years of silence because of recent events. President Obama passed an executive order last week that essentially made your actions to me unlawful. Those who are interested in such things have watched as many high-profile Christian colleges have affirmed their right to continue in GLBT-directed discrimination. An example:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/07/08/gordon-college-president-defends-calls-for-religious-exemption-anti-discrimination-order/qLBxudxtNI07lXLFdkjbAN/story.html

There is expected to be much more of a backlash to this executive order, to say nothing of much pushback from Republicans in Congress, if for no better reason than that Obama passed it.

Asbury, I have no intention to sue you. This was two years ago, and I know I have no legal leg to stand on. I’m not sure I’d pursue a lawsuit if I could. It would hurt too much.

Asbury, I’m writing this for your own sake. For the sake of the thousands of GLBT students who have passed through your campus, silently hurting while earnestly pursuing their faith. For the sake of professors who taught diligently and faithfully for decades, while desperately hiding their orientation for fear of losing your jobs. And if that’s not enough, for the sake of the institution itself. In fifty years, don’t you want to be on the right side of history? Don’t you want to be proud of your courageous stance against bigotry and ignorance even when it wasn’t easy? Don’t you want to make the right choice when it isn’t being forced upon you?

Don’t be one of the ones who fights this new mandate. Embrace it for the love and acceptance it represents, and change your hiring policy for GLBT employees.

And believe it or not, if you’ll take me back, I’ll take the next plane to Kentucky.

Yours,
Taylor Darden
Unashamed Class ’10

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Asbury University, or, how I was a victim of workplace discrimination two years too early

  1. SEG says:

    Wow. Thank you so much for writing this. I think we overlapped a couple years at Asbury, but we never really knew each other personally. Thank you for your honesty and your vulnerability. I really, really appreciate it.

    Like

  2. Lynn says:

    You knew when you went there what their policies were. They have every right to have their own rules and set of values. If you didn’t like it, there were thousands of other colleges you could have chosen. Don’t demonized them because they didn’t change for you. As a side note, just because people don’t accept your lifestyle doesn’t mean they hate you. Also, I seriously doubt that THOUSANDS of gays have graduated from there. The enrollment is little more than a thousand. Most people who know they are gay won’t pursue a college that takes an open stand against homosexuality. If they do, they shouldn’t act hurt or surprised that they didn’t feel comfortable while there, and they shouldn’t then later trash the school because of their conservative values. Yes, some of their rules were strict and may seem silly now. Lots of Christian schools were that way. They weren’t just installing christian values, but self respect and career readiness and discipline with their dress code and stance against drinking and drugs and partying. Being a private school, they have the right to discriminate against lifestyles that go against their core beliefs and not accept those into the school or for employment. It is NOT the same thing as race discrimination or other types of discrimination, because many Christians believe that homosexuality is not natural and that it is a choice. To force them and other schools to do otherwise is a step toward taking away religious freedoms in this country for everyone. When we start taking away our religious constitutional rights, we open ourselves up to being taken over by other countries or groups. The Muslims are all about that. They are patiently waiting for that day, and when they enforce Shariah law, homosexuals will be sentenced to death along with Christians and anyone not Muslim. Remember what Hitler did to them? Then you will long for the days when you could practice your lifestyle and write these defamatory articles about little christian colleges who didn’t agree with your chosen lifestyle. You may say you didn’t choose it. But alcoholics don’t choose to be that. Drug addicts don’t choose to be that. Gossipers, liars, adulterers, gluttons…..no one chooses to be a sinner. We ALL are. We all have a sin bent of some kind. But we don’t have to choose to act on it. There’s the difference.

    Like

    • Samantha Streich says:

      Wow, there is so much wrong with what you’ve said that I don’t even know where to begin: from your blatantly ignorant and prejudiced views of Muslims, to your belief that being gay is a “lifestyle choice”.

      If one can choose to be gay, why don’t you choose to be gay right now? When did you decide you were straight? Why can’t these gay people choose to be straight? Anyone who believes that someone would choose to put themselves through the kind of ridicule and pain that people in the LGBTQA community endure on a daily basis is clearly not using their head. Most people who believe this sort of ridiculous nonsense also believe that being gay is a relatively new trend. However, gay people have existed for centuries–pretty much for as long as there have been people.

      As for your view of Muslims all being ready to massacre everyone and ready to start a new holocaust, you must not know a single Muslim person. I have plenty of Muslim friends, and their religion preaches peace and love, much like what most Christians would say about their religion. There are extremists in every group. Al-Qaeda does not represent the entire Muslim community. That’s like saying the WBC speaks for all Christians.

      People absolutely can choose to “sin”; people can choose to lie, to steal, to murder, to not follow the word of the Bible. The Bible states “love thy neighbor”. If you are spreading hate just because there are people who think differently than you do, you’re directly disobeying the word of God.

      I’m not a religious person at all, but I do not judge others for their beliefs, so long as they aren’t hurting anyone. People are people–we are all the same. If you can’t look at another human being and accept them as being just like you, despite your insignificant differences (because I can assure you, despite popular belief, being gay does not define someone’s entire existence), then maybe you need God more than they do. Or some compassion. Because as someone who isn’t even sure if God exists at all, I can confidently say that it is not even slightly detrimental to my ability to show compassion and love to others and to do the right thing. You don’t need God to have a conscience. If you don’t have a conscience, you’re not a sinner, you’re a sociopath.

      I may have gone off on a bit of a tangent near the end, but I think I’ve made my point.

      Like

    • There’s a lot I’ll refrain from saying here. Just one point not yet addressed.

      I tend to go with the view that 5% of the population is not straight. I can name about forty people from my time at Asbury whom I now know would classify themselves as LGBT, and that’s just who I knew. Asbury’s enrollment is around 1300. Let’s assume then, very conservatively, that 65 people every generation of students are members of this population. Asbury has been around about 120 years.

      120/4 x 65= 1,950.

      However, I expect it’s really a much higher number than that. I suspect many students go to Asbury in the hopes of changing their orientation, or ignoring it longer than any secular college would allow them to. I see that as similar to my experience, and of the the many, many GLBT alums I know. I sometimes wonder if any straight people went there. (I’m exaggerating, but not much.)

      But if you prefer…let’s say hundreds. Does that make it okay that they were discriminated against?

      Like

  3. Kelly says:

    I applaud this, and I’m sure there are details that you tactfully left out. I will tactfully decline from asking them. To the current student, I was very able to read the name Taylor Darden, class of ’10 below. To all, I can’t vouch for this story, but I do know that a very close friend of mine was asked to leave the college near the turn of the century for being bisexual. I believe that she may have been allowed to stay in per your description of the new policies, so it pains me to know that we were more than a decade late for that. Cheers!

    Like

  4. @Zachary Renne

    I will preface this post by saying that it is strongly worded not out of anger or frustration, but out of the love for my dear friend. So please do not think I am angry, because I am not. I am merely giving a compliment to Taylor.

    I would be honored to vouch for Taylor. When you return to Asbury this fall be sure to stop by the basement of Hughes to look at the composite of the Unashamed class. The name Taylor Darden will be there. He did do all of the things for Asbury that he listed in his post and then some. He graduated with a double major. He appeared in an obscene amount of student films (including two of mine) and never once asked for anything in return. He was in several High Bridge films as well.

    Taylor is a brilliantly minded, talented and compassionate man. My husband was his roommate in Johnson for two years and he was the best man in our wedding. Taylor was there for my husband as he struggled through the greatest trial of his life. He is the kind of person that everyone loves to be around and those who don’t know him wish they did.

    In regards to the discrimination that Taylor is claiming, that actually did happen. I remember when my husband got the call saying he didn’t get the job. He is not the first to experience this either. There was a very talented professor who taught voice lessons who dealt with the same discrimination.

    I love Asbury dearly, as does Taylor. I am proud to have graduated from there, but it’s not perfect. Disagreeing with a policy does not equal disdain.

    If you question who I am, my name is Emily Manrique. Feel free to look my profile up on Facebook. Or you could just ask my brother-in-law, Jonathon Manrique. He is a senior psychology major this year.

    Taylor,

    I am proud to be your friend. You have given me and Mario so many fond memories… and we still have one of your shoes at our house, so you need to come visit us sometime soon.

    Like

    • Emily…I’m overwhelmed.

      I’m so grateful to both of you. I miss you both all the time, and think of you often. Cameron must be so big now! And I barely even know little Josie..I wish I could think of a good time to get to Ohio. I think I will take a road trip sometime this fall. I should try. I will try.

      I think I’d love to skype you all sometime this weekend. Might that work? Or even FaceTime.

      Best,
      Taylor

      Like

  5. As a current Asbury student in love with Asbury, I am so very sad that this is something that happened to you and I am upset by the injustice of it. To many, a lot of my beliefs, especially those on homosexuality and the church, are pretty conservative (though many on the far right find me to be very liberal…go figure.) But I recognize we don’t have to agree on every single piece of doctrine to get along and to do a good work for Christ. So sorry for this experience! I personally have Asbury friends in the LGBT community who are having a hard time feeling like themselves on campus.

    Thanks for writing this honest and well-balanced article. I appreciate your grace and sensitivity in your writing. Best wishes!

    Like

    • hank you, Sarah. It’s a pleasure to meet you. And I’m a big supporter of having conservative views, as long as they are held in a way that doesn’t wound others.

      I’m curious as to whether I’d be able to write a letter to the Collegian on this subject. Do you think the climate there is such that this would even be feasible?

      Like

      • I know the Collegian has shown past interest on covering issues like these and, as much as they can, strives to deliver a well-balanced and transparent perspective. Due to various factors, I know that they are sometimes unable to publish every letter that comes in, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to send a letter their way! Best wishes!

        Like

  6. A lot of faculty and staff would remember him based on name-recognition alone. He was extremely involved on campus. It has been 4 years since he finished his undergrad, and I still remember him.

    Also, the only students I know who currently attend Asbury and are open about their homosexual orientation (and the ones who are “out” are few and far between) are “recovering” LGBTs, and don’t feel free to express this orientation on campus.

    Like

  7. Tyler,
    I can’t begin to imagine the courage it took to post this. Thank you. I am a United Methodist pastor, an Asbury College alumni, and someone who is trying (with fits and failures) to live up to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ I wish I could make up my mind clearly on the issue of homosexuality. Every time I think I have solid footing I run into someone like you; who is trying to walk the same road I am walking, who Jesus is clearly crazy about, and who challenge my assumptions about what place sexuality holds in our humanity. I am grateful for your post. I am so sorry that Asbury was not the safe place for you that it was for me and so many others. Most importantly, perhaps, I am praying for you, for our Alma Mater, and for our Church. Please return the favor.
    Jeff Bramel
    Class of 2000

    Like

    • A pleasure to meet you, Jeff.

      I’m so honored that you took the time to read this, and I appreciate your vulnerability in not having all the answers. Rest assured I don’t either.

      We all need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, and the hard thing is that we may not come to the same conclusion.

      I will indeed pray for you, the church, and our Alma Mater.

      Thank you.

      Like

  8. Zachary Renne says:

    I don’t this rather primitive comment system here allows me any option to remove comments that have outlived their purpose, once they have been posted. Before anyone else starts to wonder why I left such a potentially inane comment, I would like to clarify that I left my comment before Taylor updated this blog post with his name and other details, larger at my prompting, I assume. So, your welcome, guys. I was as glad as anybody to have some final confirmation on the authenticity of this. Please note I have also carefully as of yet not actually gotten into a discussion about human sexuality, how it relates to religion, and what Asbury’s policies should or shouldn’t be. Before anyone needlessly got into such a discussion in the first place, I wanted to preemptively make sure this was real. Now that that is out of the way, please carry on, by all means. 🙂

    Also, @Chelsea, since you are the only person on here so far who I actually know personally, I will try to respond to you for clarification:

    Either you just don’t know as many of the gay students as me, or else you and I have a very different definition of what someone has to do to be “out.” Not everyone, even outside of Asbury, really appreciates the artificial taxidermic system our modern society has made-up, in order to better classify real human beings into neat (and potentially de-humanizing) little sexual categories and boxes with labels. If someone has stated their orientation clearly, according to whatever their preferred label is (and there are a variety of preferred, very nuanced labels within the LBGT / non-heteronorminative world. See, even the difference between those two all-encompassing labels is a matter of important preference to some people.) to everyone who actually knows them on an at least a semi-personal level; and they still have plenty of friends, and they aren’t bullied or harassed, and they go to class and participate in academic life quite comfortably, and are not apologetic about their orientation; even if they don’t run it up a flag pole, or intend to be sexually active while a student, then I don’t know exactly what else you expect from them.

    Do you think in order to be really “open” about their orientation, they need to go around campus wearing a T-Shirt that says “I’m gay” on it? Or tell absolutely everyone they meet at first hand-shake, “Hi, my name’s Bob, I’m gay. What’s your name and orientation?” I don’t think that’s expect even in the normal, day-to-day world of Philly, or anywhere outside of Asbury, for that matter.

    I am terribly sorry to hear that this happened to Taylor. He sounds like an amazing person I would love to know personally. Discriminating against someone for a state of being is completely unacceptable.

    Merely having and enforcing rules about personal conduct and actions in different organizations, however, exist everywhere and are completely acceptable. Asbury, I do believe, for the most part, has entirely switch over to only doing the latter, and abandoned the former.

    I am proud of them for that, at least, as an organization. If a student today receives any kind of prejudicial treatment at Asbury merely for their orientation, it will not come from the administration itself. It will come from a few individual students, acting on their own accord, who still harbor some personal prejudices and resentment of certain people. That does happen sometimes. I won’t deny it. It is a horrible shame, but that doesn’t reflect on the administration, any more than a few racist students being assholes does either.

    Also, Chelsea, the most recent studies show that only about 2% of the entire national population identifies as gay, period. So, although I know there are a lot more gay students on campus then many people are aware of, don’t just assume there must be a whole lot more than you know about. You say they are far and in between. Ya, of course they are. Because in real life, even outside of Asbury, frankly, gay people really are far and in between in society itself, unless they intentionally group together in urban gay communities. It is fully to be expected that there simply would not be a huge percentage of gay people at any tiny college with only 1400 students, especially at a school like Asbury. That is not something to hold against Asbury. That’s just a simple reality of life. Asbury can’t change how human biology works, and how often it produces certain kinds of people, or how often those, in fact, very rare people choose to come to Asbury, in the first place.

    Like

    • Thanks for the tip. I did indeed add the extra details for clarification of my identy, an oversight on my part. The reason this is the first post on this blog is because I wanted to write the letter but didn’t really have a good platform. So I made the blog.

      Also I deleted your previous comment.

      Like

  9. Zachary Renne says:

    Yeah, this site will not let me edit my comments for grammatical errors; or even like other people’s comments, either. Darn it! I wanted to do that. :/

    Like

  10. HWEF says:

    In the interest of fairness, I think it should be said that Asbury, being committed to honoring the Biblical requirements for human sexuality, has dismissed heterosexual students and faculty as a result of pre-marital sex and extra-marital infidelity.

    I realize you and I will likely disagree on what are Biblically acceptable expressions of sexuality. To that I can only humbly pray that God leads both of us to His truth.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s