A lot has changed recently for Christian Minard. She married the love of her life in March and, with approximately one semester to go before earning her sports management degree from Southwestern Christian University (SCU), was promptly expelled from the school earlier this month. It has been a media frenzy for her ever since.
Minard wasn’t dismissed from the school for partying or bad grades; she was expelled for marrying her partner, Kadyn Parks. The same-sex marriage violated the SCU lifestyle covenant and, therefore, was grounds for any academic punishment the administration deemed necessary, which, in this case, was expulsion via a letter from the school.
After receiving the letter, Minard began speaking to the media about her story. She did not argue that she broke the university’s rules; she freely admits that. However, she said she is upset by how the school treated her.
After national media attention and statewide coverage, the school met with Minard on Tuesday, July 15, to give her a chance to appeal the decision. Minard took the opportunity instead to voice her displeasure over the school’s seemingly discriminatory practices of selectively enforcing the covenant. The president of the university, the provost and the dean, as well as the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma, Minard and her mother, were present at the meeting. Both parties recorded it.
“A lot of people are criticizing me for doing this, but they’re not understanding the concept that other students have gotten to come in and do this process first, or given options,” Minard said. “People are attacking me for what I’m doing, but they don’t see the way the school is actually treating me.”
During the meeting, Minard said school officials were seemingly unconcerned about their position, their treatment and the consequential affects on Minard, and officials stood resolutely by the decision to expel her and their right to do so.
“My mom and I were both in tears. They didn’t really have an explanation for me,” Minard said. “They’re allowed to basically make up whatever punishment they want for whatever rule is being broken. They didn’t give me any answers.”
Connie Sjoberg, provost and vice president of academic affairs for SCU, denies any discrimination on the part of the school and said that SCU offers a similar process for disciplinary actions that is utilized by several universities across the country.
“There’s been no intent of inconsistently applying our policies,” Sjoberg said. “We are absolutely 100 percent committed to dealing with violations as we become aware [of them] and apply[ing] the processes that we have. We are obligated to abide by those processes.”
Officials at SCU initially released a statement regarding Minard’s case. Nowhere in the statement does it specifically name Minard; instead, it cites federal laws (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974) and states, “Southwestern Christian University is a Christ-centered liberal arts institution which strives through its curricula and extra-curricular programs to equip students for a life of learning, leadership, faith and service.”
“We are so committed to our students, to their personal growth as they study and train, and that’s our overwhelming commitment,” Sjoberg said. “At the same time, we are committed to the foundational tenants of our institution. We’re based on international Pentecostal denomination and Judea-Christian heritage. We are bound to protect those things.”
Students choose to follow the school rules or break them, and that isn’t necessarily the point, Minard said. She freely admits that she knowingly broke the rules she signed but said the point is that the school kicked her out while letting other students remain enrolled after breaking other aspects of the lifestyle covenant, implying that they pick and choose what aspects of the covenant to enforce.
“They said that a marriage is something that can’t be taken back, so there is nothing they can do about [the punishment],” Minard said.
Minard quickly points out that there are unmarried students with children who attend SCU and a child is something that cannot be taken back either; however, those students are allowed to stay on campus.
“Everything is in the student handbook,” Sjoberg said. “The finality of this situation is different, as far as a marriage in a gay relationship is a finality. So, in other scenarios, we take them one at a time and apply our policies to those.”
Minard quickly accepted that she could potentially lose all of her credits and that getting married would set her back in her education pursuits, even though she was close to earning her degree. However, since her story has come out, she said several universities have reached out to her in support and have offered to help her in the admission process to their schools. She said the University of Central Oklahoma, specifically, was very supportive and she is now enrolled in classes there, where she will major in kinesiology in the fall. Most of her credits from SCU did transfer but will only count as electives, and now she will be in school for an extra year.
Regardless of what happens next, Minard plans to be a voice for other students and youth who experience similar struggles by sharing her story. She said she has been criticized by some but has also seen an overwhelming amount of support from friends, family, strangers and former SCU students and employees.
“It’s been difficult for my parents to accept all of this, and after that meeting, my mom … said that she didn’t realize what I went through on a day-to-day basis,” Minard said. “People look at me more of like a title instead of a person.”
Minard does not believe there is anything she can legally do about the school’s decision but said she will continue to talk about the issue.
“I just want to make America aware that there is still discrimination out there that is still definitely impacting the lives of individuals,” Minard said. “I don’t feel that homosexuality should be in the same category as doing drugs and drinking and basically breaking the law, and I feel that … even if someone is a homosexual, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a strong relationship with God.”