Equality Ride comes and goesMonths of preparation came to a close when the Soulforce Equality Ride bus arrived at Calvin’s campus Tuesday. The members of the Equality Ride’s east bus spent the day around Calvin, having discussions about issues of homosexuality, gender and how Christians view these topics. According to Shirley Hoogstra, vice president of student life, the day went as smoothly as planned. “I have to say that in terms of how Calvin responded, it met my expectations or more,” she said. “One of our goals was to present a loving and civil place, and I think we did that.” The Riders spent the day involved in both conversations with students and more structured events including a civil rights presentation followed by a question and answer session in the afternoon and a panel discussion about the riders’ previous experiences on the ride after dinner. Both sessions were well attended by students, staff and faculty. Hoogstra said that while she didn’t think the civil rights presentation was of the highest quality, it was still an important discussion for the Calvin community to have. “I do believe we’ve been silent too long about the injustices against homosexuals,” she said. “The ideas were things we should contend with, and I think the audience came in ready to engage those ideas.” The visit to Calvin came a day after the Equality Riders visited Cornerstone College, also in Grand Rapids. Cornerstone president Rex Rogers had asked the group not to come to campus due to the university’s stance on homosexuality. “I think it was fear of having to reconsider what they believe and fear of them being wrong about the way they talk about LGBT people,” said Vince Panucci, one of the Equality Ride organizers of the Cornerstone visit. “From their attitude, it was clear there wasn’t room for dialogue there. They administration didn’t want it.” When the Equality Riders arrived on Cornerstone’s campus Sunday night, they held a candlelight vigil on the outskirts of campus. They were joined by both Cornerstone and Calvin students in prayer and discussion. “It was cool to see how students came out and wanted to talk even though their administration was against it,” said Calvin sophomore Eunji Kim, who attended the vigil. Monday morning, the group tried to attend Cornerstone’s chapel service, where they were asked to leave. As the Equality Riders left, many of the students followed, and the chapel service was cancelled, according to the Riders. Later in the day, two Equality Riders were arrested when they walked to the student center to present the university with a cornerstone decorated with a Bible verse about love. The Equality Riders arrived at Calvin Tuesday after months of preparation and discussion by Calvin for their visit. “I had a wonderful day at Calvin because of the sheer fact that Calvin wanted this dialogue on campus,” said Panucci. “The administration felt it was an important conversation to have with students.” One way in which Calvin prepared for the visit was to assign a student host to each of the Equality Riders to accompany them throughout the day’s events. “It was a good way for me to put myself into a new situation,” said Kim, who hosted one of the Riders. “I’ve never done anything like that before, so it was a good way to experience firsthand what they’re fighting for and to connect with them.” Hoogstra said the conversation about the issues the Equality Ride visit brought up will not end now that the Riders are gone. “We have not yet arrived,” she said. “We’re going to take this very real-life experience and ask for feedback so we can find the Calvin way.” Kim said since the visit, she has had conversations with students about what the next step and how straight students can better connect with and support homosexuals on campus. “I hope to see more people exposed to the issue — not in an in-your-face-way, but in a good setting,” she said.
After months of preparation, Riders’ visit is uneventful