Supporting Students with Differing Beliefs | King


 In a world of differing views and beliefs, it can be challenging to support all students in the way they need while balancing personal beliefs. In this case study, a graduate student will be faced with a challenging event proposal from a student organization that conflicts with her personal views. Will she be able to balance her personal beliefs with her responsibility to support all students?

Keywords/Phrases: Campus Activities, Student Support, Challenging Beliefs


Bennett Alexander – (he/him) He is a senior at Oceanwest University and the President of the Advocates for All organization. He identifies as White, heterosexual, and religious.

Alaina North – (she/her) She is a sophomore at Oceanwest University and the President of the Proud to be Me organization. She identifies as White, bisexual, and non-religious.

Morgan Tile – (she/her) She is a graduate student in the Higher Education program at Oceanwest University and serves as the Graduate Assistant for Campus Activities in the Office of Student Engagement. She has only been in the role for about a month. She identifies as biracial, pansexual, and religious but non-practicing.

Terrence Green, M.Ed. – (he/him) He is the Director of Student Engagement at Oceanwest University and has been in the role for eight years. He did not follow the traditional Student Affairs route and instead has experience working as an Assistant Principal of a Middle School for five years prior to switching fields. He identifies as Black, heterosexual, and religious.

Elizabeth Fort, Ph.D. – (she/her) She is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Oceanwest University and has been in the role for two years. She has a long history of working in Student Affairs, and recently finished her Ph.D. program studying the effects of practitioner bias in student support. She identifies as White, heterosexual, and non-religious.


Oceanwest University is a private, four-year University with about 10,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 graduate students. Oceanwest is not religiously affiliated and has a strong mission statement that includes a commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus with the goal of creating a sense of belonging for every student. Oceanwest prides itself on supporting all students and allowing space for challenging conversations about differing views to prepare students for life after graduation. 

Case Study

The door slams shut, and the room suddenly goes cold. Terrence takes a seat behind his desk and lets out a sigh. Morgan feels uncomfortable with the tension in the room. She is nervous at the thought of being in trouble because she is someone who always does things by the book and avoids getting in trouble at all costs. Some may say she is a bit of a people pleaser. Terrence begins to tell Morgan why he has called her into his office today, “So, I am guessing you know why you are here. I received a phone call this morning from Vice President Fort who had a lengthy conversation with the parents of Bennett Alexander, a student you worked with last week? Dr. Fort explained that Bennett feels that his freedom of speech is being violated and that he was told his beliefs were wrong. Would you please care to explain what happened here?” Morgan takes a deep breath before starting the story.

About a week ago, Morgan was working in her office after finishing her one on ones with her student staff for the day. She heard a knock at the door and looked up to see a student standing in the doorway. “Good morning, my name is Bennett. I was told you were the person to talk to if I need help coordinating an event for my organization?” Morgan invited Bennett in to take a seat and tell her more about his organization and event proposal. Bennett explained that his organization is called Advocates for All and works to provide a space for religiously conservative students on campus to gather and discuss current issues. They believe that equality means all people were created equal and should be treated as such. Morgan shifted uncomfortably in her seat and with a sterner tone asked what his event proposal was.

Bennett shared that his organization would like to host a panel with guest speakers. The topic of the event would be “The Negative Impacts of Promoting LGBTQ+ Rights in the Classroom”. Morgan was taken aback by this proposal. As a pansexual woman, she fought the outrage that was boiling up inside her and tried not to have an outburst at this student sitting in front of her. She asked, “So what exactly is the goal of this panel?” Bennett explained that his organization believes that teaching about LGBTQ+ rights is convincing students to believe things that they do not actually believe, and that bringing professionals to campus to discuss this topic more would help students better understand why LGBTQ+ issues were being taught and what the potential negative impacts could be. Morgan told Bennett that Oceanwest’s mission is to promote a safe environment for all students of all backgrounds and identities. Bennett said he gets that, but that every belief has two sides and both sides deserve space and time to be discussed. Morgan acknowledged that but told Bennett that this event would be too harmful for the LGBTQ+ population and he would need to think of a different event. Bennett told Morgan that she was silencing the voices of the students in his organization and that she “would regret this decision”.

Terrence asks Morgan to explain the reasoning behind her decision, and she was confused that Terrence was not supporting her on this issue. Morgan explained that she was following the university’s mission and she thought this event would be more harmful to the student body than informative. Terrence asked if attendance to this event would have been mandatory for all students, or if it would have been voluntary. Morgan tells him he is not sure, but that she assumes attendance would be voluntary. Terrence explains that while it may be harmful to have this event take place, Advocates for All is well within their right to hold this panel and students could choose whether or not to attend which minimizes the harm. Terrence instructs Morgan to call Bennett in for a meeting where she will apologize for the confusion, explain that she is new to her role and made an honest mistake, and help him coordinate the event. Morgan tells Terrence that she cannot in good conscience support this event, and Terrence explains that he understands that and how hard this can be, but that their roles are to support all students no matter their own personal beliefs. Morgan is frustrated but tells Terrence that she understands and will do as he asks.

Morgan holds the meeting, and Bennett accepts her apology and is excited that the event will be happening. They discuss the details and Morgan helps him reserve the spaces, think of marketing ideas, and talk through event logistics.

That night, Morgan is restless as she tries to go to bed. She cannot believe that she is being forced to give up her own beliefs and not only support an event like this, but to assist in the planning. She decides to do something a little drastic. The next morning, Morgan reaches out to a student who she has been able to grow a strong relationship with during her short time at Oceanwest. Alaina is the President of the Proud to be Me organization which promotes LGBTQ+ advocacy and support on campus. Morgan tells Alaina about the upcoming event and asks if she would be willing to organize a protest to show the Advocates for All the harm they are doing. Alaina tells Morgan absolutely and gets to work.

Morgan feels relieved, but that relief immediately vanishes when she gets called into Vice President Fort’s office the next day. Apparently, Alaina did not organize a peaceful protest, but she instead organized a rally of students who threw all sorts of objects and profanities at anyone attending the event causing multiple hospitalizations. Vice President Fort explains that the campus police are investigating and Alaina told them that Morgan was the one who asked her to protest. Vice President Fort says the university is exploring its options related to addressing the incident, the students involved, and Morgan’s role in the situation.

 Discussion Questions

  1. What are the ethical issues for each character in this case?
  2. How do you balance personal beliefs and your duty to support all students?
  3. How should the university respond to Morgan’s actions?
  4. Would you have done anything differently if you were Terrence? If you were Morgan? If so, what? If not, why not?


Author Bio

 Chris King, (he/him) is a current second-year graduate student in the M.Ed. Counselor Education – Student Affairs program at Clemson University and serves as a Graduate Community Director. He received a B.S. in Educational Studies, Social Welfare & Justice, and a minor in Human Resource Management from Marquette University.