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Manchester U.'s neutrality sparks anger, debate, forum

INDIANAPOLIS – A Manchester University decision to remain neutral on the controversial proposal to ban gay marriage and civil unions in the state has sparked anger and debate on social media.

And the response prompted the university to host a Friday afternoon campus forum on the decision.

A number of Indiana colleges – including Indiana University, Ball State University and others – have come out publicly to oppose the measure, often called HJR6.

But Manchester released a statement Wednesday saying the university historically hasn’t taken positions on political issues, including war, peace, economic policies and civil rights.

“Manchester has been a place where persons who hold different opinions can meet, discuss, and respect those with whom they do not agree,” the statement said.

It was sent by six top administrators at the university who compose the President’s Cabinet.

They did urge individual participation in the process, from contacting your legislator to voting.

Students and others reacted immediately on the university’s Facebook page, many expressing disappointment that the university is remaining neutral.

“This statement is no profile of courage,” said one posting. “Instead, at best, it is a dodge at taking a position. A sad day for the college and one that will be remembered in history.”

A Facebook group – Manchester University Alumni in Support of Civil Rights – also was created. It already has almost 1,000 members and many people are posting letters and emails sent to the cabinet.

“I thought Manchester was an institution that lived out its values. I thought Manchester was an institution that valued peace and justice. Your silence has proved otherwise,” said another person in an email. “You should be ashamed.”

Scott Ochander, vice president for enrollment and marketing at Manchester, said many faculty and students personally oppose the ban but the university is trying to be consistent with historical issues. He is a cabinet member who signed onto the statement.

“There are differences of opinion,” he said. “Some people are thanking us for not silencing the conservatives.”

Ochander said he expected a lively, healthy debate at the forum, which the cabinet would attend.