Students on the quad

Unity Amidst Controversy

Hillsdale College is built upon a number of foundational principles, including the fact that human persons reason, and reason in order to know. The high knowledge sought at the collegiate level requires, among other things, concentrated study largely to the exclusion of many pursuits common to ordinary life in the world, such as raising a family, earning a living, etc. This is why such learning occurs optimally among the young.

This learning likewise occurs amidst deep ties of friendship. The students, faculty, staff, and supporters of Hillsdale College are bound by friendship resulting from their pursuit of a common goal: the College’s historic mission. This friendship is characterized by esteem, affection, good will, and profound respect, all of which are embraced willingly by those who choose to take up the purposes of the College and affiliate themselves with it. Nevertheless, these bonds do not mean uniformity of mind about all things.

Our times in particular are riven by deep disagreement about sex, sexual activity, and identity. Between friends and within families, different views about these matters are found. Hillsdale College understands them in light of the principles of its founding, principles concerning human nature and sexuality that continue to inform its identity to this day. In this light, both reason and the immemorial teachings of the Christian faith to which the College adheres recognize sex as naturally ordered to procreation and the intimate friendship best suited to raising children—the natural result of this union. This order is a natural one, thus it is not altered by changes in technology, medicine, or cultural opinion. Nor is its essential character affected by age or other human contingency; sex, given from birth, is purposive and complementary. For this reason, then, sexual activity is understood as belonging between the sexes and in marriage. Of course, as the sexes are naturally drawn to each other, the College duly recognizes and facilitates this mutual interest. The fullest expression of this interest, however, remains proper to marriage.

Reason and the College’s faith independently confirm these truths and require the College to bear witness to them and to maintain its own integrity of life. They have ever been built into the fabric of Hillsdale College and serve as the basis for a number of the College’s policies. For instance, while providing high learning to both sexes, the College separates their dormitories. It limits the time the sexes may spend in each other’s rooms, and it requires forthright, respectful, and honorable conduct between the sexes at all times. It provides student deans for each sex in order to model good conduct and provide access to help in the event of problems. It affords College permissions and use of College facilities and assets only for conduct consistent with the truths mentioned above. And it provides such moral formation to its students as is consistent with the students’ natural aspiration toward increasing self-government. These facts alongside the other social policies of the College unambiguously signal the nature of the College as a place of high learning for young men and women, given to friendship, zealous and restrained for their own and each other’s good.

This friendship extends to, and is expected from, those also who may regard sex or sexual activity differently from the understanding outlined above. In all cases, once affiliated with the College—that is, committed to or cooperative with its purposes—every person is fully a member of the College, esteemed, indeed loved, and protected on the same basis as every other person. This is as true for those attracted to the same sex as it is for those attracted to the opposite sex. This is as true of those who consider their sexual or gender identity not defined by their physical sex at birth as it is for those who do consider it so defined. Each person is a beloved and cherished friend in the common pursuit of the College. As people become members of the College community willingly, however, they do not press the College to alter its purposes or deploy its resources in a manner not in keeping with those commitments and understandings. Such an effort would deviate from our common pursuit and thus wound the tie of friendship necessary for the highest learning.

Several important points follow from or shed light upon the principles and policies noted.

  • The College has always organized its practices and policies in accord with the understanding of sex outlined above and continues to do so as a faithful expression of its mission and faith.
  • Outside the distinction of male and female, the College regards each person as an individual human being, not as a representative of an identity group. As experience richly attests, one’s humanity is diminished by relegation to an identity group or sub-set. Such categories undermine common pursuits and are divisive.
  • As should already be clear, the College rejects abuse, mistreatment, disdain, or contempt directed toward any member of the College because of that person’s beliefs, convictions, or sexual understandings. At the same time, the substance of any belief, conviction, and understanding is subject to the academic inquiry and critique characteristic of an institution dedicated to the pursuit of truth.
  • The College rejects the application of pejorative, ad hominem labels to understandings of human sexuality. Such labels are deterrents to the pursuit of truth. They violate the civility necessary for academic discussion and the friendship required for high learning.
  • The College embraces the commitments and policies described because they are, in themselves, good; they bring timeless principles and the practices of the day into accord. They are not conceived as mere expedients for purposes of law, publicity, or convenience.
  • The College will continue to grant or deny permissions sought by students and others, as well as to afford the use of College facilities and other assets, only for conduct consistent with the College’s long-held beliefs set forth above.