Official CARE Statement on the revision of the CSL’s “justified departure” policy (2/6/14):
After over a year, the Committee on Student Life has finally decided to rescind the ability of religious student organizations to apply for “justified departures” from the University’s nondiscrimination policy. This decision is the result of over a year of work by students who have been working towards religious inclusion for years, and who powerfully voiced their opposition to this discriminatory policy from the second it was released. You helped change the discourse on the “justified departure” policy and ultimately it was your voice which led the CSL to reconsider the policy. Thank you to the Tufts Community Union Senate, the Equal Education Opportunity Committee, and the Tufts University Chaplaincy for further helping to champion this cause. Your endless advocacy and support on this have been critical.
In their op-ed announcing this new change on February 6, the CSL co-chairs write: “Whether a student organization decides to explore, learn about or practice religion or philosophy is the decision of the students who gather to form it. However, the CSL has decided to adopt a preference for openness and inclusion over exclusion for all student organizations, and the amended policy reflects this community preference. That openness is the foundation upon which the Tufts community experience is founded. It is this basic principle that guided the CSL in this decision.” CARE could not agree more. We have long said that discrimination cannot be justified and does not belong on our campus.
This change will strengthen religious life on campus. Now, all students, regardless of background and identity, can participate fully in student organizational life and help shape its future. By reinstating our all-comers policy in full, we demonstrate that Tufts does not believe that any student should be refused access to resources or community solely on the basis of their identity. This new policy allows student groups to continue to affirm their own values in choosing their leaders, if they choose to do so, through open, democratic elections.
Furthermore, the new policy’s renaming of Student Religious Groups (SRGs) as Religious and Philosophical Student Organizations (RPSOs) reflects the breadth of organizations that fall under these guidelines and that these organizations are ultimately student-run groups which should be held to the same standard as all other TCU-recognized organizations. In addition, whereas the old policy gave immense power to the Chaplaincy to define the values and doctrinal beliefs of RPSOs, this new policy codifies the role of the Chaplaincy in supporting RPSOs rather than defining them, which strengthens our institutional value of inclusion.
This policy change highlights our belief that a strong all-comers nondiscrimination policy is essential for a vibrant student and religious/philosophical life on campus and is the only policy that reflects Tufts’ values of openness and inclusion. While this brings us one step closer to a more equitable and just campus, there is still a great deal of work to be done. We hope that those of you who have supported this effort over the years will re-channel your energy to support other activists working towards a campus where students of all identities and backgrounds are treated equally and provided with the same opportunities and support as their peers.