Announcement

Decision on Recognition of Student Religious Groups

Category: Announcement

December 5, 2012
To:
All Students, Faculty and Staff
From:
Co-Chairs, Committee on Student Life
Body:

Dear Members of the Tufts Community,

As many of you know, this fall the Tufts Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) de-recognized the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) over concerns that the TCF's criteria for leaders violated Tufts University's nondiscrimination policy. The TCF appealed that decision to the Committee on Student Life (CSL), a standing committee consisting of faculty and students. The CSL has carefully considered the appeal, and we'd like to share this decision with you now.

The CSL found that the TCUJ had acted in accordance with available policy, and thus acted appropriately in de-recognizing the TCF. The appeal, however, identified a void in policy which led the CSL to explore the conditions under which Student Religious Groups (SRGs) could select for leadership exemplars of their faith based on characteristics not necessarily shared by all SRG members. The CSL determined that SRGs should be permitted to select leaders based on doctrinal requirements.

In certain cases, criteria for leadership positions may conflict with Tufts University's nondiscrimination policy. As religion itself is protected under the nondiscrimination policy, conflicts may be unavoidable. The CSL has carefully crafted a policy to support the University's commitments to safeguarding spiritual life on campus and maintaining an environment that upholds the nondiscrimination policy.

From this point forward, all SRGs must justify on doctrinal grounds any departures from Tufts' nondiscrimination policy in that their leadership positions require. The University Chaplain will evaluate the justification, and if satisfied that the described criteria for leadership are required by a given religion, will allow the SRG to apply to the TCUJ for recognition.

In evaluating applications for recognition, the TCUJ will ensure that any such approved criteria are explicitly described in easy-to-understand language. This language will be consolidated, summarized, and made available to the community via the University Chaplaincy webpage. The TCF is now welcome to reapply to the TCUJ for recognition in accordance with this new policy.

While the CSL's jurisdiction extends only to the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, the University's senior administration will work with the University Chaplain and school leadership to apply this policy University-wide.

The CSL decision in this case is available online at http://uss.tufts.edu/studentaffairs/handbook/SRGrecognition.asp.

We have submitted to the Tufts Daily an opinion piece that explains in more detail the Committee's reasoning on this issue. We are grateful to the many members of the University who have offered thoughtful comments on a complex issue.

Sincerely,

Philip Starks
Faculty Co-Chair,
Committee on Student Life

Rebecca Spiewak
Student Co-Chair,
Committee on Student Life

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