College is often depicted as an oasis for the LGBTQ+ Community; a place where queer students can find acceptance and belonging. But what about the Christian colleges in Canton, Ohio? Are they a safe, accepting oasis for LGBTQ+ Students and Staff? We wanted answers, so we started to look into what it is like being queer on Malone University’s campus.
Through initial research, we found a few articles about being queer on campus. The Canton Repository reported in 2010 about the advocacy group Soulforce, who visited Malone as part of their national bus tour. Their goal was to reform Malone’s student conduct policies that used scripture to prohibit “homosexual activity.” The administration responded in the article explaining that they have accepted LGBTQ+ Students into their academic community.
In 2012, the Aviso published an article from the perspective of a student about what it’s like to be gay on Malone’s campus. Sam, the author of the article and founder of MU Safe Space, discusses coming out on campus, “I was even told that I am “not a real person” because I am gay.” He goes on to explain why he stayed at Malone University despite the negative attitude the campus had towards queer students, “ the beauty of our diversity strikes at the heart of our ties to the Religious Society of Friends – the guidance of every individual’s unique inner light.”
But since 2012, little has been published about Malone and the LGBTQ+ Community. So we sought out Malone students, alumni, and staff to interview to help us get to the bottom of what attitudes are like towards the LGBTQ+ Community on Malone’s Campus.
The biggest takeaway from our interviews: there is a significant difference between the student body’s attitude toward the LGBTQ+ Community and the Malone Administration’s attitude.
Malone’s attitude and denomination
A Malone graduate and former staff member of 9 years (who requested their name and position remain anonymous) not part of the LGBTQ+ Community, explained Malone’s perspective on the community as “conflicted.” She explains that their official stance as a University is that marriage is between a man and a woman, but there is a larger LGBTQ+ Community at Malone than one would expect.
This staff member witnessed a lot of microaggressions and homophobic comments throughout her years at Malone. But she did not see any institutional discrimination or condemnation of queer students, she explained it was more of a wishy-washy approach on Malone’s part.
The former staff member discussed that a few years ago Malone had a series of internal conversations about what direction they wanted to go in regards to the LGBTQ+ Community. The outcome? Malone decided they would accept and love all students but still keep the policies and attitudes they needed to keep their Evangelical denomination.
When she asked an employee of the administration at Malone how to field incoming student and parent questions about being LGBTQ+ on campus, the administration questioned why those students would want to come to Malone in the first place. But for her, a devoted Christian, it made total sense because faith and sexuality are interconnected.
When Soulforce came to campus in 2010, Malone’s student conduct policy stated a list of prohibited activities. “... Theft, dishonest, gossip, profanity, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, adultery, homosexual activity, premarital sex, drunkenness, immodesty of dress and occult practices.” In 2021, homosexual activity is no longer cited as a prohibited activity; however, there are still policies that directly affect LGBTQ+ identities.
In the “sexual conduct” section, Malone states “Sex should be exclusively reserved for the marriage relationship, understood as a legal, lifelong commitment between a husband and wife.” The former staff member explained that policy is never enforced but on the books because of the University’s Evangelical Denomination. She went on to say it is similar to the military’s former “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy.
Statement of Faith
The former staff member explained that Malone does not require students to sign a statement of faith, meaning that students can attend Malone from any or no faith background. Faculty and staff, on the other hand, have a different experience. They are required to sign a statement of faith, stating they hold the beliefs of the University, and a statement of moral integrity, stating they will not have sex outside of marriage (which is defined as between a man and a woman). She explained that these policies are more likely to be enforced for staff members and LGBTQ+ staff and faculty have to be more cautious regarding their sexuality.
Affirming spaces on campus
There are no direct resources for LGBTQ+ Students at Malone. The former staff member discussed Sam’s Malone Safe Space Club (which was launched 5 years ago and is no longer active) as the closest thing Malone has ever had. However, she explained that the Malone administration refused to recognize them as an official club on campus.
When asked where students could go at Malone for resources, she cites the Multicultural Center and the Student Development Department as “affirming as they can be as employees of Malone.”
What can you look forward to if you go to Malone? Malone doesn’t allow co-ed residency on campus, but that doesn’t stop LGBTQ+ couples from rooming together. The former staff member said this is a common occurrence and a nice slap in the face to the administration who tries to leave out the queer student body.
Non-discrimination: Malone’s non-discrimination policy does not include sexuality or gender identity as factors the University does not discriminate based on. The Malone non-discrimination policy states, “This policy is applied to all qualified students, employees and applicants for admission or employment, in all university programs and activities, without unlawful discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability or military or veteran status.”
Name change: To change your name on university records, documents, and databases, students must submit legal paperwork confirming their legal name. The policy states, “To change your name, please submit legal documentation to the Office of the Registrar.”