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Higher ed beat: Hamline's neutral stance on marriage ban draws fire

  • Article by: JENNA ROSS
  • Star Tribune
  • September 26, 2012 - 10:35 PM

Neutral is proving to be controversial for Hamline University.

President Linda Hanson sent an e-mail Monday to faculty, staff and students saying that the St. Paul university "will not take a position in opposition to or in favor of" the constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

"Hamline is best served as a university to allow for intellectual discourse and the unfettered exposition of ideas and opinions in regard to this amendment," she wrote.

The next day, people protested outside her office. Hundreds debated the decision on Hamline's Facebook page. Many said it betrayed Hamline's stated values of diversity and inclusiveness. Others countered that either stance would have made some on campus feel isolated.

Augsburg College and Capella University have formally opposed the proposed amendment. But Hamline's administration is not the first to remain neutral.

Carleton College said that while the Northfield school occasionally takes positions on "educational issues where we have special expertise" -- such as affirmative action -- "we do not take political stances on social issues that do not involve our core educational mission." Neighboring St. Olaf College made a similar statement.

But faculty weighed in. St. Olaf faculty members voted to oppose the amendment, as did those at the University of Minnesota, William Mitchell College of Law, Macalester College and, last week, Gustavus Adolphus College.

Hamline, too. In an electronic vote that ended Monday, faculty members passed a resolution against the amendment, saying it "seeks to enshrine discrimination in the constitution of the state of Minnesota."

It then calls on Hamline's administration to publicly oppose the amendment, language other votes did not include.

Up next: Macalester, where faculty voted against the amendment earlier this month. Its administration "has not yet made a decision," a spokeswoman said, "but will likely discuss it at the next trustee meeting."

Jenna Ross • 612-673-7168

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