In 2018, Southern Adventist University announced a faculty opening for a Vice President of Unity and Inclusion. On December 14th, a concerned parent of a student responded to that announcement with an open letter.
Fulcrum7 reached out to SAU for an update, and they responded with the latest development on the VP of Diversity initiative.
'“For two years, outside private donors will be funding SAU’s ability to focus on issues related to race—this will be faculty member Stephanie Guster. Student sexual activity will be addressed by faculty member Alan Parker.
Dr. Parker will still be serving as a professor in the School of Religion while also giving special attention to preserving campus alignment with traditional Biblical teaching (and upholding General Conference policy) related to both heterosexual sexual activity and homosexual sexual activity.”
Here is the university president’s statement regarding these positions:
In February 2018, I promised we would create a vice president for diversity position, a position that could have many positive benefits for our campus. In the months since, great strides toward that goal were accomplished. I worked with the Diversity Committee to develop a job description, we advertised the job, and we selected three final candidates.
At the time of my initial announcement, Southern was experiencing enrollment growth. However, this year’s enrollment has not continued that growth trajectory. As a result, I have decided not to fill any new positions in order to preserve the financial health of the institution. Filling no new positions includes pausing our search for a new vice president. We pray that by God’s grace, we will be able to resume that hiring process in the future.
I am sorry I have been unable to fully keep this promise at this time. I assure you that I am still highly committed to implementing all of the efforts that this new position was intended to undertake. With that in mind, I am establishing two senior advisers whose positions will be funded for two years by generous gifts from two donors. These faculty will operate out of the President’s Office and report directly to me on diversity issues. Both will work to develop policies and initiatives that further our ability to meet the needs of our students and employees. The financial donation will allow us to reduce their teaching responsibilities so that these employees can focus on diversity issues without affecting the budget or leaving their academic areas short-staffed.
The two senior advisers to the president are the following:
Stephanie Guster, MSW, is a professor in the School of Social Work. She will be the senior adviser for diversity with an emphasis on race. She has been heavily involved in monthly employee race relations dialogues for the last few years and was a crucial member of the SOAR Initiative team this year. She also developed and taught a course this past semester titled Racism and Oppression.
Alan Parker, DTh, is a professor in the School of Religion. He will be the senior adviser for diversity with an emphasis on student sexual activity. He has been chairing the Committee for Education Regarding Student Sexual Activity for several years. He has taught courses titled Scripture and Sexuality, Life and Teachings of Jesus, and Foundations of Christian Values and Witness in Development/Relief.
I understand the disappointment this delay in creating a new vice president position may cause. Let me assure you, I made the promise with every intention of keeping it, and I still intend to do all I can to make it happen in time.
I hope you will join me in continuing to pray that our campus becomes a model, biblical community that stands firm on the belief that every individual on our campus is a treasured child of God.
David Smith, president
Southern Adventist University
“Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily as unto the Lord” (Colossians 3:23).