Danielle Powell, a former student of Grace University in Omaha, has begun an online petition protesting the actions of the conservative Christian institution, which is demanding that Powell return her scholarship funds after expelling her in 2012 for being a lesbian.
Grace University, originally the Grace Bible Institute, has refused to transfer the credits earned by Powell during her three-and-a-half-year enrollment until she agrees to pay $6,300. The amount reflects the tuition of the spring semester of 2011, when administrators first discovered her sexual orientation and removed her from courses.
Powell, a former member of the college’s volleyball team and an on-campus volunteer for the homeless, was one semester shy of graduation.
Michael James, executive vice president at Grace University, justified the college's actions to The Huffington Post, affirming that its student handbook forebade "sexually immoral behavior." Quoting from the handbook, James stated:
"Any student involved in sexually immoral behavior, including premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual acts, is at minimum placed on University probation and may be subject to a Judiciary Hearing.”
The Change.org petition, started by Powell’s wife, Michelle Rogers, calls for Grace to drop its demands, which are preventing Powell from transferring to another university and becoming the first in her family to earn a college degree. It has already gained 11,200 signatures since its launch last weekend.
“I’m asking for your help in petitioning Grace University to drop all tuition fees owed for the Spring Semester of 2011,” Rogers says in the petition. “We are a young, recently married couple and this lingering debt -- which Danielle should not have to pay and Grace University has no right to demand -- is holding her back from achieving her dreams and putting us in a perilous financial situation. Please sign this petition and join us in demanding at least a shred of 'grace' from Grace University.”
This is not the first time Danielle Powell and her wife made headlines. A YouTube video, in which Powell proposed to Rogers at a Macklemore concert, went viral in December. See the Change.org petition here and watch the proposal below.