Student Forum Honors Dr. Collie

By Abi Shoaff

Volume 67, No. 5

Dr. King Speaks at Student Forum. Screenshot from Malone Xpress Recording.

On Oct. 11, Malone’s community received an email from Dr. David King, the university’s president, with news that has sparked many conversations: Dr. Karyn Collie, associate professor of biology, is resigning from her position in the nationally-acclaimed zoo and wildlife biology program she has worked in since 2012.

According to King’s email, Collie “informed the leadership of the university that she is in a relationship with a woman and intends to be married this summer.” Knowing that her same-sex relationship “[violates] the terms of her employment,” Collie “respectfully agreed to resign from her faculty position.” The fall of 2021 is Collie’s final semester at Malone.

Following the campus-wide email, Melody Scott, dean of students and chief student development officer, emailed all current students on Oct. 13 about a student forum, where the questions and concerns of the community would be addressed directly by King. 

Per requests from the Malone community, it was decided that the forum be held in person rather than via Google Meet. Students were encouraged to electronically submit their questions in the days preceding the forum.

To ensure accessibility to the conversation for all members of the Malone community, the forum was also videotaped and has been posted on Malone Xpress under the “Student” tab. Look for the “Announcements” section in the top right corner and select the link titled “Community Forum Video.”

The student forum was held on Oct. 15 in the Johnson Center dining room. The room was filled with students and faculty alike, with some electing to stand in the back when seats were filled. At a table next to King’s podium sat Melody Scott and Dr. Elizabeth Patterson Roe, director of intercultural studies, as co-moderators.

Scott and Patterson Roe took turns delivering unedited, student-prompted questions, and King responded to each one in front of the audience of students, faculty, and alumni. Collie and some of her family were also present.

The student forum was about forty-five minutes long and consisted of roughly thirteen submitted questions that ranged from policy change to the handling of Collie’s future classes.

“Policy and the human experience interface organizations in ways, at times, that do cause pain,” King said. “When that occurs, [Malone’s administration must] be sensitive to and open to the ways in which we need to address and reevaluate policies to align with the human experience of our community, in ways that are constructive and healthy and equal for all.”

Citing the board of trustees and the Evangelical Friends Church, Eastern Region (EFCER), King offered an email address (trustees@malone.edu) and encouraged all students who wish to advocate for policy change to send their requests, questions, and concerns on the matter to that email address.

Repeatedly throughout the forum, King asserted that Malone’s well-known mantra, “You are welcome here,” remains true.

In response to the question “What will be happening with Dr. Collie’s classes?”, Provost Dr. Greg Miller said, “We are working with Kate Huisinga, the department chair, to make sure that the quality courses offered in the zoo bio program will continue in the spring… I can assure you that those courses will be covered. We’re in the process right now of identifying the individual(s) that will be teaching them.”

In response to the core of many questions about the status of LGBTQ+ faculty and students of Malone University, King discussed the community responsibilities, which can be found at https://www.malone.edu/about/malone-community/.

“There is a differentiation, a different standard for you as our students and how we engage you in questions surrounding our community responsibilities, and the way those of us as administration, staff, and faculty are held accountable and relate to the responsibilities,” King said.

Staff are also held to the standards in their contracted terms of employment. This commitment, King said, is made in the hiring process, because staff are also committing to be the “embodiment [of Malone’s mission].”

Another submitted question asked, “Do all gay faculty have to stay in the closet to keep their jobs, and how are the queer students of Malone supposed to feel welcome here if we know queer faculty are not?”

“Don’t stay in the closet,” King said. “And as a member of our community, align with our community responsibilities… I don’t want anybody to feel as if they need to suppress their identity or fundamentally who they are … I don’t want any student to feel anything less than valued. This is where it would be beneficial to sit down and share [our personal] stories.”

There is a community of Malone students and alumni who have begun to do just that. Sparked by an email sent to all current students (a direct response to King’s email on Oct. 11) from current undergrad senior Michelle Lori, dozens of Malone students and alumni have begun to speak up publicly about their experiences as LGBTQ+ students and allies at Malone, advocating on social media and on-campus for policy change.

Collie has remained civil throughout the process of her resignation. According to the Canton Repository, she is saddened, not angry; Collie stated, “If the policy were to change at Malone, I would come back in a heartbeat.”

If you would like to familiarize yourself with the principles Malone holds to as an organization and the denomination it is affiliated with, the following webpage is available: https://www.malone.edu/about/mission-foundational-principles-doctrinal-statement/If you would like to familiarize yourself with the community standards Malone holds all students to, the student handbook and following webpage is available: https://www.malone.edu/student-life/office-of-student-development/community-agreement/

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