Current and former Anderson University students gathered Sunday morning to show support for a professor who says she lost her job last week because of her sexual orientation.
About 20 people stood outside the metal gate of the university on Boulevard in Anderson with placards and waving flags in support of the LGBTQ+ community and former theater professor Miranda Barnett.
In a video posted to Instagram on Wednesday, Barnett said her contract as a part-time professor at Anderson University was not renewed for the fall semester because she is queer.
An Anderson University spokesperson would not discuss Barnett’s employment with the university. The spokesperson said employment matters are private and additional faculty contracts are provided from semester to semester.
But the spokesperson also sent a written statement to the Independent Mail, which reads in part: “Anderson University is a private Christian university that upholds the traditional South Carolina Baptist view of sexuality and marriage as set forth in scripture.”
Anderson University protest seeks transparency and LGBTQ+ resources
Thursday morning, within a day of Barnett’s social media video, Anderson University student Cary Doyle staged his first protest.
The theater alumni group is close, he said, and support for Barnett has already poured in when he created a Facebook event, Anderson University LGBTQ+ Rights Protest.
Protesters planned to stay on campus for eight hours, waving at drivers who had to slow down at a large zebra crossing.
Some drove slower than necessary on Sunday mornings to read the protesters’ signs and the occasional honk.
Barnett, a Native to Greenville, won Anderson University’s 2019-20 award for “Excellence in Teaching” for part-time faculty. Nominations were submitted by students and faculty, and the recipient was chosen by a student and faculty committee, according to the university’s website†
In addition to helping academics, Barnett provided a safe space on campus for all students, Doyle said, and they want to know why her contract wasn’t renewed.
In a letter to university officials, protest organizers demanded transparency about Barnett’s termination, “cultural competence” for department heads, an LGBTQ+ employee group and the formation of an LGBTQ+ Anderson Alumni Council.
They also demanded that the university “make a commitment not to fire or discipline teachers, staff or students on the basis of sexuality and gender identity.”
Miranda Barnett says Anderson University students ‘deserve better’
Barnett, who started teaching at the AU in the fall of 2018, said she was overwhelmed by the presence of friends, former students and strangers who came to support her Sunday.
Whether the protest changes her employment status at Anderson University was not her main concern, she said.
“The students at Anderson University deserve better,” Barnett said. “There are a lot of queer students on this campus, and many of them have no choice in being here. They should at least feel safe. But on a Christian campus they should feel loved. And many of them they feel now betrayed, hurt and scared. And that has to change.”
University officials brought snacks and bottled water to the protesters and had a steady stream of campus security officers patrol the area.
As a private institution, Anderson University is exempt from Title IX protections for gender discrimination.
“The theater department has been built on the backs of LGBTQ+ students for years, and firing a professor for their queerness is a slap in the face for all queer students and alumni,” said Savvy Thompson, 2020 graduate actor. “These students deserve to have safe spaces where members of their communities are not actively oppressed.”
Private Christian University Maintains SC Baptist’s Traditional View of Sexuality
Andrew Beckner, spokesperson for Anderson University, declined to comment specifically on Barnett’s employment, but sent the following statement to the Independent Mail:
Anderson University is a private Christian university that maintains the traditional South Carolina Baptist view of sexuality and marriage as set forth in scripture. His denominational relationship and the ways in which their behavior can influence this relationship. In addition, faculty members will read the university’s statement of faith. respect and not undermine.
Therefore, faculty members who cannot or will not abide by this policy and our Declaration of Faith are not scheduled to teach. Anderson University’s ability to be a distinctive faith-based institution is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. If Christian universities were not allowed to uphold deep-seated religious beliefs when setting expectations about behavior, private faith-based universities would be indistinguishable from public universities.We exist to give teachers, staff, and students a choice .”
– Sarah Sheridan is the community reporter in Anderson. She would appreciate it if you help tell important stories; reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @saralinasher.
This article originally appeared on Anderson Independent Mail: Queer professor ‘fired’; Anderson University defends traditional vision