Antonio Nevarez, a sophomore and student journalist at SPU who reported on the policy, pointed out that its definition of “display” is extremely broad and includes chalking, graffiti, electronic images and electronic signatures.
“There’s a lot of faculty and students, including myself, who, at the bottom of our emails have a signature that’s an affirming statement and shows alliance to the queer community here,” said Nevarez. “The fact that they also limit electronic signatures felt almost like a slap in the face.”
In a conversation with RNS, Sawers clarified that the policy prohibits pride flags from being displayed in external-facing windows and in common spaces like hallways or bulletin boards, but allows faculty and staff to display symbols and materials of their choice within their offices.
“This policy is very consistent with what every other institution had,” said Sawers. “And the thing that I like about it is its freedom of expression within offices. Within a faculty or staff member’s office, they can still display symbols that they feel communicate support to different groups.”
Sawers added that the policy is intended to address physical spaces and said she is not sure why electronic signatures are listed.
According to Dellosa and Purcell, some faculty and staff have already removed or altered LGBTQ-affirming displays in light of the policy, though Nevarez said there are still “huge pride flags” around campus.
Purcell said he’s chosen to remove an “SPU is Not the Board” sign he had displayed in his window since it can be perceived as divisive but has kept a 12- by 18-inch pride flag in his window along with a pride ribbon around his door and pride flags on the bulletin board outside his office.
“I view those as simply saying this is a safe place, you’re welcome here and nobody’s judging you here,” said Purcell. “And I decided I would not put ones that pitted people against one another.”
Hanson, who, in addition to the displays on his office door, has a progress pride flag and a poster saying “Support SPU Plaintiffs” in his window, said he has no plans to take any of it down.
“I’m waiting for someone to remove it so that I can replace it,” said Hanson, who called SPU hypocritical for claiming to be a welcoming campus but “acting quite vehemently in the opposite direction in promoting discriminatory hiring policies, and these display policies.”
Sawers told RNS that supervisors are responsible for enforcing the policy and added that responses to violations should begin with conversations exploring how employees can express their views within the bounds of the policy.
There’s been some student pushback to the policy on social media, but Nevarez said he hasn’t seen any student responses on the ground, though he expects that could change if displays are forcibly taken down. Though Nevarez said most of the SPU student body would likely consider themselves LGBTQ affirming, Purcell observed that much of the “wind has been taken out of the sails” of activism on campus since some student leaders have graduated and a lawsuit that was brought against the board for refusing to eliminate the employment policy barring same-sex relationships fizzled out.