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July 12, 2014

Gordon College policy on gays sparks accrediting review

WENHAM — Gordon College’s controversial policy toward gays and lesbians has drawn the attention of the agency that accredits New England colleges.

The Commission on Institutions of Higher Education of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges plans to discuss Gordon’s policy at its next meeting in September, according to commission president Barbara Brittingham.

Brittingham said the recent media attention over a letter to President Obama signed by Gordon College President Michael Lindsay prompted the commission to include the college on its agenda.

The letter, which was signed by 14 religious leaders, asked Obama for an exemption from rules that would prohibit federal contracts with organizations that discriminate in hiring based on sexual orientation.

The letter sparked an online petition that has gathered more than 3,300 signatures, as well as Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll’s decision to terminate a contract with the college to manage Old Town Hall.

The 27-member accrediting commission that will review Gordon’s policies is chaired by Salem State University President Patricia Meservey. In a message to the Salem State community on Thursday, Meservey said she was “outraged” by the letter that was signed by Lindsay.

“I do not understand how an institution such as Gordon College can have a mission that includes ‘preparing students for a lifetime of growth’ and strives to ‘prepare them for leadership worldwide’ can see the value in shutting out access to their student body to an entire segment of our population,” Meservey wrote.

Meservey declined to comment, and a spokesman referred questions to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Gordon College has been accredited by the NEASC since 1961. The accreditation was reviewed in 2012 and wasn’t scheduled for another review until 2022.

Brittingham said the college-accrediting commission can address issues based on “unsolicited information,” such as news media reports. She said no one has filed a complaint against Gordon College with NEASC.

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