Bill targets discrimination in student organizations

Samantha Foster
Spectrum Editor

Michael Todd
Assistant Spectrum Editor

A bill introduced in the 2013 Virginia General Assembly session is aiming to outlaw discrimination by student organizations at higher education institutions in the state.

Senate Bill 1074, proposed by Senator Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, was referred to the Senate Committee on Education and Health. A similar measure is being sponsored in the House of Delegates by Delegate Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania.

The Senate bill says political and religious student organizations are authorized to award leadership to members who have an interest to further the mission of these groups. It also states that only those who are committed to furthering the mission of the organization should hold a position of leadership within the organization.

According to the newly proposed bill, no public college or university can discriminate against any student organization which has been officially recognized as a student organization by the institution. This would mean, so long as a student was committed to the mission of any organization, they could not be banned from joining based on their affiliations.

Students with no official religious affiliation could not be forbidden from joining an organization of another affiliation. Similarly, a student who openly identified as a member of the Democratic party could not be prohibited from joining a Republican-based student organization — so long as they helped to further that organization’s goals.

Greg Deekens, a broadcast journalism major, has been involved with the Episcopal Campus Ministry at VCU since fall 2011.  He believes SB 1074 would be welcome at VCU.

“Bill 1074 further solidifies and protects a student’s right to have an opinion and be a part of a group, even if they do not agree with it. This bill would keep a channel open for different views and maintain a diverse view on politics and culture,” Deekens said in an email.

“Should an atheist join our campus ministry, we would welcome them with open arms. Our campus ministry may be religiously affiliated but we strive to welcome all persons just as we would welcome anyone during Eucharist, Episcopal or not,” he said.

If passed, the bill would apply to all public colleges and universities in Virginia, but not private colleges or universities.

Maggie Lynn Stumpf, a fashion design major and member of Young Life with VCU since 2011, agreed that students would be okay with the passage of SB 1074.

“VCU prides itself on diversity, which I believe is a quality that makes VCU a very welcoming community,” Stumpf said in an email. “I think that in the end, this bill would make VCU a stronger community and would help push the diversity in groups such as Young Life.”

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