Students Rally Around Transgender Azusa Pacific Professor
Students rallied on Oct. 2 in support of a theology professor who was asked to step down from his position at Azusa Pacific University after 15 years, for coming out as transgender, NBC Southern California reports.
Last month, Professor H. Adam Ackley, formerly Heather Ann Clements, asked the private Christian school to recognize his name and gender change. Shortly after, officials from the college asked him to resign.
"He has not broken any university code," said his attorney, Paul Southwick. "There are no rules that prohibit gender transition. The only code they have is homosexual conduct, but Adam has not conducted in homosexual conduct."
Students said Ackley is teaching for at least another week, and the school is reportedly in ongoing discussions with him on his employment, which they declined to discuss publicly.
"He's the greatest professor I've ever taken, so by taking him out of the classroom, especially mid-semester, is doing the students a huge disservice and it's a huge loss to the university," student Margaret van der Bie told NBC.
Students supported the teacher with an on-campus support rally, saying that it was more in keeping with the university's mission of love and acceptance. The university said it respects the students' protest, which included signs and t-shirts reading, "We Stand With Adam," in support of Ackley.
"It doesn't necessarily mean we'll all agree on the same thing, but we are very much committed to the care and compassion of our students," Kim Denu, an Azusa Pacific professor, told NBC.
Ackley, who was once the school's chair of theology and philosophy, said he has received an "overwhelming amount of support" from students and colleagues, as well as on social media, since his story came to light. Students say they have started a petition to add faculty and staff to their Mutual Respect Policy, which forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"It's really the higher-level administrators motivated by more conservative-minded donors, parents of students and churches affiliated with the university," said Southwick, who hoped both parties would resolve the matter before it heads to court.