Students at Taylor University in Indiana are so upset that Vice President Mike Pence has been invited to deliver the commencement address that they have signed a Change.org petition to protest the event.
Alex Hoekstra, who graduated from the university in 2007, started the petition, which has received over 3,500 of its 5,000 signature goal. The petition claims that the invitation “makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear.”
Hoekstra told Newsweek that he hoped the university responds to the petition because President Donald Trump’s administration did not reflect the “ethics of Christian love.”
“As an alumni of Taylor and as a gay man I’m pretty personally injured by the policies of the Trump/Pence administration and I know that a lot of alumni who identify as other minority groups are personally affected by the Trump/Pence administration.”
Other graduates that agree with Hoekstra have signed the petition. Most students expressed disappointment, stating that giving Pence a platform helped create more division in the country. One Taylor graduate said Pence speaking at the graduation ceremony was “appalling.” Another graduate called the move a “step backward and supports a divisive, vitriolic, arrogant and un-Christlike leadership in our country.” And yet another expressed disappointment in the fact that the school would “advocate the ugliness being spread by this administration.”
"As an alumni of Taylor and as a gay man I’m pretty personally injured by the policies of the Trump/Pence administration," said Alex Hoekstra, who graduated in 2007 and started the petition. https://t.co/nPN27UnQAN
— Maureen Groppe (@mgroppe) April 11, 2019
Despite the backlash, the university has not backed down. President of Taylor University Paul Lowell Haines said in a statement that the vice president had been a good friend to the university and was a “Christian brother” whose values represented those that the university attempted to teach its students.
Taylor University spokesman James Garringer also defended the university’s decision, saying that it had received feedback from people who did and did not support Pence speaking at the mid-May ceremony. He added that the university welcomed Pence and his wife to the event and thanked them for their service to our nation.
The backlash over Pence’s appearance comes on the heels of a spat between Vice President Pence and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who recently announced his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Buttigieg, who is gay, recently said at an event hosted by the LGBTQ Victory Fund that being gay was not a choice, and he wished that people like Pence understood that fact.