The Common Good
September-October 1997

Go to Jail, Not Chapel

by Sandy Maben, Aaron McCarroll Gallegos | September-October 1997

At Iliff School of Theology in Denver, a seminary considered to be one of the country's more liberal, a group of students protesting in the chapel were surprised when the Denver Police ...

At Iliff School of Theology in Denver, a seminary considered to be one of the country's more liberal, a group of students protesting in the chapel were surprised when the Denver Police Department arrived, handcuffed them, and hauled them to jail.

On May 14, eight students were arrested for trespassing while participating in a hunger strike with other students and faculty to protest what they considered to be Iliff’s institutional racism and authoritarian leadership style. The students were released on bond the next day and are awaiting trial. The incident was triggered by the negotiated resignation of Dr. Paula Nesbitt, a popular professor of sociology of religion, and because of concerns about the commitment of the administrators to increase diversity at the United Methodist seminary.

Vincent Harding, an Iliff professor and Sojourners contributing editor, led the students in song as they were arrested. "I am thoroughly disgusted that Iliff would arrest its own students, especially when they were involved in a peaceful, nonviolent protest," Harding said.

The students suspended their fast on June 18 when Iliff’s Board of Trustees agreed to their demand to create a "Board of Diversity."

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