The CSL Policy: Why It’s Problematic

CARE is working to overturn the CSL Policy first and foremost because we do not believe discrimination has any place at our University. The CSL ruling states that religious groups may apply for a “justified departure” from the University’s nondiscrimination policy in choosing their leaders. We reject the idea that discrimination can ever be justified; “justifiable discrimination” is still discrimination. We believe that discrimination is antithetical to our values as a University, as active citizens and as individuals. The creation of an official policy which allows for exemptions from the nondiscrimination policy—and which has now been endorsed by University President Anthony Monaco—institutionalizes  discrimination and effectively disavows the administration’s commitment to its own non-discrimination policy.

Furthermore, this new policy is problematic for the following reasons:

  1. While some view the nondiscrimination policy as standing in conflict with religious freedom, it is still the case that, if a club, whether religious or not, stands for certain values, its membership will only vote for candidates who adhere to those values. More importantly, however, is the fact that being a TCU recognized group is not a right, it is a privilege. Many student groups (including CARE) exist without being recognized by the TCU and the new group application process makes it clear that not all student groups are entitled to recognition. Just as religious organizations in the United States are expected to give up their ability to endorse political candidates in order to receive the privileges of being tax-exempt, so student groups on campus should be expected to give up their ability to discriminate in leadership in order to receive the three benefits of being a TCU recognized group (the privilege of using Tufts name, certain Tufts facilities, and receiving funds from the Student Activities Fee).  Groups that do not trust their membership to democratically elect leaders who adhere to their values and wish to bar certain people from leadership positions are allowed to do so. However, they should then be denied the privilege of being a TCU recognized group.
  2. We understand that it is important for the leadership of SRGs—and of all clubs—to reflect the values of the group. However, a specific policy codifying rules for leadership is unnecessary. This can easily be achieved through fair, democratic elections. If a candidate does not share the values of a club’s members, one would expect that candidate to not be elected. By allowing a small group of individuals  (i.e. the executive board of an SRG) to apply for an exemption to the non-discrimination policy and bar a specific group of people from leadership, the CSL is effectively allowing a small elite to dictate the values of an entire club, rather than leaving those values up to the club’s full membership.
  3. Under this new policy, SRGs that discriminate in their leadership can expect to receive money from the Student Activities Fee, a fee that all students must pay. Consequently, students will be forced to pay for their own discrimination, funding organizations that bar them from leadership. Historically and presently, the TCU Treasury explicitly prohibits groups from requesting funding from the Student Activities Fee for charity work because of the potential conflict of interest between any individual student’s values and the values (in the action of donating money to charity) of any group on campus. The CSL Policy ignores this precedent set by the Treasury to ensure that Student Activities Fee money benefits all students.
  4. The CSL ruling states that “doctrinal justification” must be sought for the granting of an exception to the University nondiscrimination policy. This is problematic because religious doctrine is not a finite unchanging document; all religions, even ones with hierarchical structures, have religious documents that are open for interpretation. Most religions can find a “religious doctrine” to discriminate against anyone.
  5. The CSL ruling gives the oversight of what is “appropriate doctrinal justification” to the University Chaplaincy, granting the Chaplaincy an inordinate amount of power over SRGs—allowing it the power to dictate the nature of the religious doctrine of an SRG which requests an exception.
  6. Although the CSL policy requires SRGs to be transparent, particularly if they require an exception to the nondiscrimination policy, the requirement for the information to be “easily obtained” will come to mean only in the SRG’s Constitution and on the Chaplaincy website. However, freshmen and other students looking to join SRGs are unlikely to research SRG’s constitutions or check the Chaplaincy website before joining them. This will effectively allow SRGs to continue to hide their discriminatory practices from the general public.
  7. Within all religions and religious denominations, there are issues of differing interpretations among religious members. The CSL ruling prevents students from feeling safe to inhabit the religious spaces they wish to worship and take part in. The CSL ruling forces students who do not agree with an already established group to schism, forming a new religious group which more closely fits their needs. This puts the burden of forming a new group on the shoulders of the oppressed and does not allow for conversations and organic change to occur within groups. This perpetuates privilege of traditional groups which would continue to receive funding, support, and other resources while the new group struggles to create itself, receive recognition and establish its place on campus.
  8. Lastly, no SRG has yet to publicly come out in support of the policy. In fact, no SRG was consulted by the CSL before this policy was created and to date two SRGs have already publicly stated their opposition to the policy.

Although we find the CSL policy to be problematic for many reasons, our opposition to the policy ultimately derives from our belief that discrimination, in any form, has no place on our campus. Therefore, any efforts by the CSL or the Tufts Administration to address some of the issues above while still allowing religious groups to be granted exemptions from the non-discrimination policy would be inadequate; this would simply be a case of treating the symptoms of a problem and not the root cause. Discrimination has no place on our campus.

SUMMER UPDATE: SIGN AND SHARE OUR LETTER TO THE CSL!

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