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LANSING– Spring Arbor University has notified Lansing Community College to tell the third largest community college in Michigan, that the partnership between the two schools is over before it ever got off the ground.
“They felt, based on the language in the contract, they would have to relinquish some of their rights as a Christian institution,” said Dr. Stephanie Shanblatt, chief operating officer for the University Center for strategic partnerships at LCC.
SAU has been under pressure since it fired a transgender professor earlier this year. In addition, the university has an antigay policy as well as a policy allowing them to tell unwed pregnant students where they can live.
LCC has policies preventing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as gender identity and expression. The college sent a letter to the SAU weeks ago laying out the legal expectations for SAU were they to join in partnership with the college. This included following Lansing’s Human Rights Ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
“It was clear LCC thought it should follow its policy,” Shanblatt says.
In a press statement, the VP of Communications for Spring Arbor, Tim Johnson, said SAU could not sign the agreement because it would “relinquish” their rights as a “Christian university,” in doing so.
“It’s unfortunate that the students of LCC will now be unable to benefit from the diversity that would have come from including a top-tier Christian university at the center,” he wrote.
Dr. Julie Nemecek, the transgender professor fired by the university earlier this year, says the move is good. “They knew that if they were in Lansing, they would have to change their core values.”
“It is disappointing that SAU would choose to position itself in that way and further alienate many of it’s students and staff,” says Drew Hinkle an openly gay student at SAU. “It’s unfortunate they can’t abide by the law in the city of Lansing.”
LCC says once it receives the formal letter it will meet and discuss it, and possibly respond. In the meantime, they will begin the search process for a replacement partner for the University Center. The University Center is an educational center designed to bring four-year and graduate level programs to the community college campus, making them less intimidating.
Current partners are Northwood University, Sienna Heights University, Western Michigan University, Ferris State University, Central Michigan University, U of M Flint, and Lawerence Tech.