East Tennessee State University’s Student Government Association Academic Affairs Committee passed a resolution Tuesday condemning the alleged forced resignation of a gay professor at Milligan University earlier this year.
According to SGA Vice President Seth Manning, the official condemnation also called for ending key partnerships with Milligan. Manning said it’s about “university standards.”
The incident, which reportedly happened during the spring semester, has since put the 154-year-old private Christian institution in the center of discussions on and off Milligan’s campus about anti-LGBTQ discrimination in higher education.
The ETSU student government committee’s resolution calls on the university to end athletics scheduling, the pursuit of future academic agreements and “partnerships in which university monies would be paid to Milligan or other universities with such discriminatory policies” on the basis of sexuality, gender identity, sex, race, disability status, age or religious beliefs.
“I think it is definitely appropriate for ETSU to take a stand against that,” Manning said, adding that he believes Milligan’s actions ran counter to the values of “equal rights and general respect.”
Milligan President Bill Greer declined to discuss specific personnel decisions and did not say whether a faculty member had been fired due to sexuality.
“Milligan and ETSU have long held a mutually beneficial relationship between our institutions, so it is regrettable that there would be such a reaction based on what is alleged in the media,” he wrote in an emailed statement to the Press. “There is often more to every story, but since this involves a personnel matter, we are unable to comment further.
“We appreciate the longstanding, collegial relationship we have enjoyed with ETSU over the years. We have always held a healthy respect for one another’s mission, due to the diverse nature of the two institutions,” he continued. “It is my hope that we can continue to respect our differences as we continue to partner together to meet the educational needs of this region.”
The SGA resolution passed 4-1, with Sen. Matthew Calhoun voting “no.”
“I personally don’t see a problem with it,” Calhoun said. “I don’t dislike the LGBTQ community. I just don’t believe Milligan is in the wrong for doing such.”
Athletics scheduling was one key area of focus, according to Manning, who introduced the resolution.
“There’s a lot of financial things that go on there, and I think you hit them where the money is at,” Manning said.
“We want to make the statement that Milligan crossed a red line here.”
Manning said the issue means a lot to him as someone who identifies both as a Christian and a member of the LGBTQ community.
“That’s a fight that matters to me, and it’s a fight I think we have to win,” Manning said.
The resolution will go to the full ETSU Student Government Association Senate, which will vote next week.
“I believe we have the numbers to pass it and pass it by a pretty substantial margin,” Manning said. “I believe our senators will stand strong and stand on the right side of history.”