Art by Nate Barton
For some people, the inclusion of Crossroads as an official student organization at Seaver College is a huge step. It represents years of advocacy, meetings and public debate. For those faculty, staff members and students, such as senior David Hylton, it is the realization of a years-long commitment to peaceful advocacy and reconciliation. It represents solidarity, inclusion and institutional tolerance from the administration. It represents the commitment of many students to engage those who disagree with kindness and mutual respect.
But there is another message that this decision delivers. The decision by Pepperdine administrators to officially recognize an LGBTQ+ organization shows that, at Pepperdine, voices are heard. However slow or otherwise difficult change might seem, it shows that those in power do listen to dissenting voices. Pepperdine faculty and administrators, on the whole, are a responsive crowd in relation to student voices.
This commitment to responsive leadership is necessary for the continued success of our university, and it ensures that we are truly an educational enterprise. People move. Communities shift. And education is at the center of that. There is something beautiful, therefore, about the constant struggle for incremental “progress,” however that might be defined. The beauty of incrementalism is that we can celebrate important landmarks while realizing that we have not yet arrived, nor will we ever. Arrival is the worst-case scenario. Momentum is the goal. Constant change means that we are always challenging each other to imagine the world through a different lens.
Of course, this remarkable moment in Pepperdine history has not come without hurdles, and it would be wrong to merely cheerlead without acknowledging a culture that is sometimes challenging to the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, it is dishonest to glance over ideologically entrenched administrators or LGBTQ+ advocates who spewed vitriol and polarizing rhetoric. Those people do exist, and there is certainly a history of LGBTQ+ affairs with which we must reckon.
Some members of the Pepperdine community are reluctant to celebrate, believing that Pepperdine is doing too little, too late. Other Waves loathe to talk of “progress” in the first place, claiming that their understanding of scripture opposes homosexuality. Their voices are valued as well. Regardless of where he or she might fall on this spectrum, public memory will look on March 21 as a day in which people spoke and people listened. It is, therefore, a day for celebration that we are moving as a community. There will still be days ahead to continue the struggle for justice and inclusion. But let us take a second, in this formative moment, to recognize the many schools in which stagnation is the norm. Realize the unique Pepperdine context in which these decisions are made and how it compares to other faith-based universities. Look with grace and understanding at those on the opposite end of the ideological spectrum. Such grace is what real community looks like.
There is a time for criticism and a time for grace. Celebration does not negate real criticism in either direction. Regardless of personal feelings about Crossroads, it is important to recognize the intentionality and grace that surrounds this decision and, in a time of political polarization and authoritarianism, the fantastic rarity of such responsiveness. A word of congratulations and a word of thanks are in order to all those involved. Take note that this is what true community looks like, and let’s continue to strive to create it.
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