Shutterstock photos of college students are surprisingly diverse.
Stock photos of college students are surprisingly diverse.

The youth are not to be trifled with.

Today, a group of Seattle Pacific University students, alumni, and supporters called SPU Unity launched an incredibly detailed, strongly-written petition calling on the university to take concrete measures to strengthen diversity at the school. It's garnered at least 174 signatures already.

SPU is a a private Christian campus with almost five thousand students in North Queen Anne, founded in 1891. The petition's launch comes one week after an emotional February 2 forum where, according to The Falcon, the campus newspaper, a provost at the school admitted "he was now becoming aware of the pain and anger regarding racial tensions around campus that he previously did not know existed to such an extent."

It's clear the students studied the structure of the university closely. One of the first things the petition does is decry the "Western white evangelical culture" which they say is normalized at SPU:

The current structure of SPU in all areas pertaining to student life, community involvement, faculty development, and internal relations, suppresses minority cultures and identities by perpetuating the notion that Western white evangelical culture is socially and theologically normative, thereby inhibiting the personal and communal development of minority students.

In order to address that issue, they call for the creation of a Chief Diversity Office to represent historically marginalized groups, and for that office to be "given enough authority to overturn processes, programs, and practices by which the oppression and marginalization of minorities is perpetuated."

The Falcon reports that university president Dan Martin has already pledged to create a Chief Diversity Officer, though it's unclear what powers the position would have.

On to the next item in the petition. Personally, I love this sentence:

It is the obligation of this institution to implement policies and practices to ensure that its representatives (student leaders, faculty, staff, administrators) are capable, intelligent (not just well-intentioned) individuals who are willing and trained to foster a culture in which all students are welcomed, developed, and cared for.

To that end, they say, the university needs to engage in professional development to ensure cultural competency, include cultural competency as a metric in annual performance reviews, and ask questions of student applicants to assess their cultural competency. Once enrolled, students should be required to complete at least one class on diversity or cross cultural studies or racial justice. SPU Unity helpfully provides a few examples:

Students must have completed at least one class that pertains to diversity, cross-cultural studies, and/or racial/gender/disability justice and reconciliation. This may include but is not limited to:

SOC 3215: Social Inequality: Power and Privilege
THEO 2730: Introduction to Christian Reconciliation
THEO 3510: Christianity and Society
SOC 3862: Race and Ethnicity
COM 4180: Cultural Communication

And they want the university to create an anonymous reporting system to let students report "inappropriate behavior and speech from faculty, staff, and student leaders."

Finally, they call on the university to create a new hiring process to ensure adequate diversity at the faculty level:

We believe that, without adequate diverse representation at the faculty level, diversifying the student body (which President Martin, and SPU by extension, has been adamant about) is an irresponsible and pernicious practice, beneficial for the face and marketing of the school only.

SPU's website says 34 percent of its student body are people of color—a tripling over the past decade. I didn't see any information about faculty or staff diversity. A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Go read the whole thing and sign if you're down for the cause.