Student religious organizations at Ohio State soon will have to accept members regardless of their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, gender identity or anything that does not comply with the organizations’ values. However, organizations may choose their student leaders based on values within their groups.
Those organizations with “sincerely held religious beliefs” are allowed to create criteria that allow them to choose their leaders according to their beliefs and values.
Javaune Adams-Gaston, vice president for Student Life, issued a statement at noon Monday, declaring that organizations are required to follow this policy starting in the 2011–12 academic year.
Undergraduate Student Government, the Council of Graduate Students and the Inter-Professional Council have been advocating a full nondiscrimination policy for all registered student organizations.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” USG President Micah Kamrass said, “but we are saddened that the administration is not enacting our full request.”
The Council on Student Affairs voted 12-1 in favor of applying a full nondiscrimination policy for members and leaders of student organizations on campus on Jan. 18.
“This is clearly going against the student opinion,” said Jonathan Nutt, president of the Council of Graduate Students.
Every student at OSU is required to pay a $25 quarterly student activity fee. Of the $4 million these fees generate, 12.75 percent goes to student organizations, according to the Ohio Union’s website.
“It is unfair to tell a gay student they should pay a $25 fee to an organization they are not allowed to be president of,” Kamrass said.
Adams-Gaston provided a broader picture of the matter.
“I want to remind our students that the activity fee covers a lot more than student organization fees. The vast majority goes to programming that all students have the opportunity to take part in,” she said. “All students are able to participate in all organizations, and 75 percent of the student activity fee does not go to the thousand organizations.”
Before making her decision, Adams-Gaston spoke with many campus organizations, such as USG, CSA, the Office of Legal Affairs and religious student organizations.
The Christian Legal Society is a registered student group that filed a federal lawsuit against OSU in 2004, which ended in the university changing its policy to allow religious student organizations to exclude those who don’t share their beliefs.
CLS released a statement Monday in response to the policy change.
“CLS has always welcomed all students to participate in its activities. We are glad that the OSU announcement today (Monday) gives us yet one more opportunity to welcome all students to attend CLS’s meetings and activities. … CLS simply wants religious groups to enjoy the same First Amendment protections to choose their leaders and members that other student groups enjoy,” CLS representatives said in the statement.
Amanda Bragdon, a second-year in economics and political science and chair of the Human Rights Campaign at OSU, said she respects Adams-Gaston’s decision, but does not fully support it.
“I believe that half-discrimination is still discrimination and should not be tolerated on our campus,” Bragdon said.
The HRC is holding a rally at the Union at 3 p.m. Tuesday called “Stand Up Against University Sanctioned Discrimination!!!”
USG will present a proposal at the Union at 4 p.m. today.
“(USG) will be proposing that we enact the recommendation previously made by the student governments that we end discrimination in our student organizations,” Kamrass said.
Kamrass said all groups should be able to do what they see fit, but it should not be with student activity money when discrimination is involved.
“We feel that in order to allow students to have every opportunity that they can, it is essential to remove the carve-out,” said Bryan Ashton, chair of CSA.
Adams-Gaston released the statement of the policy change Monday so leaders of student groups can start making their constitutional changes for 2011–12. She said she will not be attending Tuesday’s meeting because she will be at the OSU congressional breakfast in Washington, D.C.