I’ve sat on the sidelines for the past week as turmoil has struck my Alma Mater, Hope College, with rumors that the board of trustees is attempting to force President John Knapp to resign. At first, these rumors seemed to warrant further investigation as they were lacking any confirmed sources. As of this morning, it is now clear that the board is indeed headed down this road, but is divided on how to proceed, citing a need to slow down the process for “health and unity.” Given this confirmation of events, I feel as though I must speak up in defense of the institution I love, and for President Knapp, who seeks to strengthen and expand the vision of Hope.
Due to the sparse number of details that have been shared, it is impossible to respond to the specific criticisms that the board is levying against President Knapp. Although this certainly harms our community’s ability to have open discourse regarding this issue, it should not prevent us from doing so. President Knapp has been instrumental in the progress Hope has made in increasing minority enrollment, and has even helped Hope become a leader amongst other Christian colleges in extending spousal benefits to gay employees. He has set an example of leading via open dialog and inclusion. He has set clear goals for ensuring that Hope College remains a premier choice for students looking for a solid academic foundation with the freedom and resources to apply their faith perspective to their development. This record is impressive considering the fact that President Knapp has been leading Hope for only 3 years, and it’s only the beginning of the change he can lead.
The push toward greater inclusion is one of the many hallmarks of President Knapp’s tenure thus far. Yet, while it is a great start that spouses of gay employees will receive benefits, it doesn’t hold much weight on an institutional level if the college still does not recognize marriage as anything other than between a man and a woman, does not recognize pro-LGBT groups on campus, and seemingly will not promote openly gay faculty. There is much work to be done in this area, and I believe that President Knapp is the perfect person to drive this charge internally and by engaging the community. Moreover, Hope has a unique position in Holland, a city that has actively blocked protecting sexual orientation under its anti-discrimination policy. Now is the time for Hope to take its rightful place as the city on a hill and set an example for how we should treat one another with the dignity and respect that our historical Christian values mandate.
It’s now been ten years since I have graduated from Hope. In that time, I have been contacted by many students who are doing the fundraising work necessary to keep Hope running. I’ve always been hesitant to give, and in recent years, have decided to cease donating to Hope until equal rights are extended to everyone in its student body, staff, and faculty. However, in light of current events, I will be participating in the April 19th Day of Giving Fundraiser and will be marking my donation specifically in support of President Knapp and his leadership at Hope College.
To my fellow alumni, I know that there are many progressive voices in our community, so I urge you to speak up; tell the board and leadership at Hope how you feel about its current direction. And finally, please generously support the Day of Giving fundraiser tomorrow, April 19th, in a show of support to President Knapp and his vision for the Hope Community.
To the board of trustees, I strongly urge you to consider the unity that can be found in opening our arms as a community. It is not only the most effective way to live out our faith in our modern world, it is essential to securing a lasting endowment from an increasingly progressive alumni association. President Knapp has a proven track record and fervor to serve Hope College and its mission. Please consider the atmosphere his dismissal would create. How will Hope continue to attract top teaching talent? What will attract the students of tomorrow to Hope in an increasingly competitive college environment? Please, reach out to alumni, students, and professors. Hear our voices and invite us into the conversation.
Class of 2006