Erskine College, which calls itself a Christian liberal arts college, said it was not changing its policy on LGBT students. The school’s board of trustees did recently release a statement that said, “Sexual relations outside of marriage or between persons of the same sex are spoken of in scripture as sin and contrary to the will of the Creator.”
On March 11, 2014, two Erskine College volleyball players, Drew Davis and Juan Varona, were featured in Outsports.
Davis and Varona played for the Erskine College men’s volleyball team, which was nationally ranked and competed in the NCAA tournament in 2014.
The dual profile recounted the student athletes’ respective stories of coming out at school and described their experiences as gay athletes at a conservative Christian university.
On Feb. 20, 2015, almost a year after Outsports published the story, the Erskine College administration released a public statement describing its stance on homosexuality.
This is how it began:
We believe the Bible teaches that monogamous marriage between a man and a woman is God’s intended design for humanity and that sexual intimacy has its proper place only within the context of marriage.
Various news outlets have inferred that statement officially banned homosexuality on campus, and that the announcement was a result of the Outsports story. Neither is true, the school said.
Erskine College Vice President of Communications Cliff Smith told BuzzFeed News that despite the interpretation, the statement was not released in response to Varona and Smith’s Outsports profile, or in response to other students’ behavior.
“It wasn’t in response to any particular action,” Smith said. “The statement, and the conversation that led to that statement, I remember hearing informally two or two and a half years ago.”
Smith added that the Erskine College board of trustees asked the administration to release the statement in light of frequent discussions about LGBT rights within the campus community and across the nation.
Juan Varona, one of the volleyball players who appeared in Outsports, told BuzzFeed News that he was in his living room when an Erskine alum messaged him a link to the statement on Facebook. Initially, he was surprised, as he had never experienced any sort of discrimination from teammates, classmates, or faculty since he’s been at the school.
He also mentioned one of the final lines of the statement, and how open-ended it felt to him.
“I was not expecting to see a statement ending with â€˜institutional decisions will be made in light of this position,'” Varona said in an email. “The only thing that comes to mind is that the board of trustees expects Erskine administration to take action agains [sic] people who violate this position.”
Varona said that a few weeks before the college released the statement, he quit the volleyball team.
A week after its initial statement, the school, established in 1839 by the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, published a follow-up document entitled “Context for Erskine’s Statement on Human Sexuality.”
It noted that there had been “confusion based on an inaccurate understanding of the nature of the statement and its intent,” and clarified that it does not imply any sort of disciplinary action that will be taken against gay students at the college.
Smith said the administration does not expect its entire student body to agree with this stance, and that discussions between the board, administration, and students has just begun.
“We’re eager to get back to actually talk to one another about living with one another in a pluralistic setting,” he said.