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Houghton University lands in the NY Times after termination of two staffers

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671 alumni pen letter to protest the university’s actions and principles

By Andrew Harris, image from Houghton University

Houghton University has a reputation for being founded and operated as a conservative Christian institution. The worldview of hot button issues like abortion and LGTBQ at Houghton University attracts religous conservatives but also draws strong critcism from advocate groups. That criticism will likely only grow after the report by Liam Stack of the New York Times.


Stack reports that two staffers were recently fired for adding “gender pronouns,” to their email signatures. According to the terminated employees, they were told that using “he/him or she/her,” notations to indicate gender on university emails was against school policy. They argued that they were merely joining a national trend for a few good reasons.

Neither staffer is transgender but explained in the NY Times article that it is very common practice for a variety of reasons. In this case the staffers both have first names that are gender neutral so it made common sense to specify. They also acknowledged that by adding the pronouns to their emails, they show empathy and support for the LGBTQ community. Both terminated staffers made a strong point that by participating in the national push to show solidarity with the LGBTQ, they were doing so in the Christian tradition. In the NY Times article, one of the fired employees summarized her reasoning for adding the pronouns and supporting the LGBTQ community:

“It all comes down to: Am I loving people in a way that reflects Christ?”

Many Houghton alumni, a backbone for recruitment and financial support for Houghton, feel the same way. 671 penned a letter to the university, which includes this paragraph:

“Because Houghton shaped us into persons who value dialogue, we reacted with alarm and confusion to recent changes on campus. In particular, we refer to closing the Mosaic Multicultural Center and the Center for Sustainability; firing residence life staff for refusing to remove pronouns from their email signatures and expressing their personal beliefs publicly; deleting respectful comments made by students and alumni on some of the One Day Giving Challenge social media posts; and moving the Houghton Rock to a less visible and accessible location. We realize that the stated reason for some of these decisions is the budget, and we are aware that the past few years have strained the finances of Christian liberal arts institutions in particular. However, the budget reflects the priorities of an institution, and furthermore, not all of the above decisions can be justified by budget limitations.”

Read that entire letter here.

Houghton President Wayne D. Lewis Jr, responded to the letter and the alumni signatures with a lengthy response. His closing paragraph summarizes the reaction by the college:

“In closing, I am sure I have made decisions that you disagree with, and I am sure I will continue to make
decisions you disagree with. But in the spirit of respectful, Christian dialogue, let us have conversations
based on complete and accurate information. When you have questions or if you would like additional
information on something you have heard, please communicate with us. We are always happy to
engage with Houghton alums.

Read that entire letter from Butler here.

Social media reaction to the incident and Houghton’s decision:

Joseph Aczel

Nice Speech. Now Truly Live Your Values.

Respectfully, He,Him.

Kel Carpenter

It remains deeply unfortunate that this is getting posted about publicly, but weeks before finals you fired two RDs. The students don’t need staff serving food, they need them serving the entire student body.

Kel Carpenter Agree. Houghton has taken a hard right turn over the past few decades, and in doing so has become less Christ-like. “Who would Jesus fire?”

Samantha Sewell

And more pronouns! So much hatred and judgement from a place that claims to follow a god that specifically spoke against those two things….

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