President Grant Cornwell will announce his decision on whether or not Cru can become a registered student organization at the faculty meeting on the afternoon of Thursday, Nov. 29. Cornwell said that after he announces his decision, he will host an all-campus open forum during common hour on Dec. 4.
If you have not been following along throughout this long, tumultuous conversation relating to Cru, here is a breakdown of the issue and a timeline of how it has unfolded thus far.
So, what’s the problem here?
Cru, an evangelical Christian organization, applied to become a registered student organization. However, it has a set of organizational values that could prohibit gay students from becoming leaders within the organization. Such a prohibition is a violation of Rollins’ non-discrimination policy, which all campus organizations must uphold. When Cru’s application was denied, Cru took it to President Cornwell, who has been deliberating whether it can join campus.
What is Cru and what is its position?
Cru is one of the largest Christian organizations in the United States and has active groups on over 2,300 campuses. The organization has a statement of faith, which is a list of 17 values that members and student leaders are required to uphold.
Rollins students involved in Cru believe that the non-discrimination policy prevents them from freely practicing their religion on campus and that the policy fails to accommodate religious organizations as a whole. According to the petition that Cru students gave to Cornwell, they “believe that any and all should be welcomed to actively participate in religious organizations, but that these organizations should rightfully be able to select leaders who align with the doctrines and practices of their particular faith tradition.”
Their petition also states that “the selection of leaders can only take place within the context of biblical criteria of candidacy.” Now, this is where it gets tricky, as biblical criteria are open to many interpretations. With Cru, LGBTQ students are welcome to join. However, they cannot hold leadership positions, because that would violate the organization’s statement of faith and does not fit within the organization’s interpretation of “biblical criteria of candidacy.”
What is the President making a decision about?
Cornwell will make a decision to either uphold the college’s non-discrimination policy in its current form (which would not allow Cru to become a registered student organization) or adjust the policy and create a separate clause within it that would allow faith-based organizations to select leaders based on their tenets of faith. If Cornwell decides to adjust the policy, Cru and InterVarsity (explained in the next blurb) could become registered student organizations.
What happened in 2013?
Some of the college’s hesitation stems from an incident in 2013 when InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, another national evangelical organization, was kicked off campus after prohibiting a gay member from holding a leadership position. This was a decision upheld by Rollins’ board of trustees. InterVarsity is still at Rollins, but not as a registered organization. Members can be found tabling across the street on move-in day or conducting bible studies in their dorm rooms. They just cannot reserve campus rooms or receive funding.
Does Rollins have Christian organizations on campus?
Yes, Rollins currently has three Christian student organizations, including an evangelical one. The groups are: Catholic Campus Ministry, Leaders United in Christ (LUX), and Every Nation Campus Ministry, which is evangelical.
Timeline of events:
The Center for Inclusion and Campus Involvement, the office that oversees all student organizations, received an application from a Rollins student for Cru to become a registered student organization. The student met with Abby Hollern, director of the Center, and Rev. Katrina Jenkins, dean of Religious and Spiritual Life. The application was denied because when the student was asked if a gay person could be a campus leader, they said no.
The student from Cru took their application to President Cornwell to ask for an exemption from the policy. Cornwell started meeting with members of Cru; members of Spectrum, an LGBTQ organization; faculty; and administrators to discuss bringing the group to campus and listening to their points of view.
Sept. 19, 2018:
The Sandspur published its first article on the matter.
Over 280 people sent letters, accompanied by the hashtag #TarsDontDiscriminate, to Cornwell asking him to uphold the non-discrimination policy and say no to Cru. The President also received a petition in support of Cru, which had 119 names attached. Both petitions can be read in their entirety here.
Sept. 11, 2018:
Cornwell and Mamta Accapadi, vice president for Student Affairs, received a letter from Cru’s lawyers. The letter, which was signed by Cru’s staff attorney and InterVarsity’s director of executive office communications, listed reasons why allowing Cru and InterVarsity on campus would make Rollins a “truly inclusive campus.”
Sept. 26, 2018:
Rollins’ Student Government Association passed a resolution, in a 24-4 vote, to uphold the non-discrimination policy.
Oct. 11, 2018:
Cornwell met with Marc Gauthier, the vice president of Cru and the executive director of Cru’s U.S. campus ministries. Cornwell said it was a meeting to learn more about the organization and that no agreements or conclusions were made.
Oct. 25-29, 2018:
The Diversity Council hosted three open forums for faculty members to express their feelings on the matter.
Those in attendance showed overwhelming support to uphold the non-discrimination policy.
The Diversity Council voted to uphold the policy and recommended to Cornwell that he do the same. The Council created a task force that looked at how institutions similar to Rollins accommodate religious organizations. It showed that of the 29 schools they contacted, 20 do not give exemptions to faith-based organizations. Only one school, Roanoke College in Virginia, allowed such organizations to reserve campus spaces. The other eight did not return the Council’s phone calls.
Nov. 15, 2018:
A group of approximately 15 students protested any potential changes to the non-discrimination policy on Bush Lawn outside of the President’s office. They hoisted signs with the hashtag #TarsDontDiscriminate and handed out informational flyers about the issue.
Nov. 29, 2018:
The faculty will vote on upholding the non-discrimination policy during a faculty meeting at 12:30 p.m. This vote will show the faculty’s position on the matter and act as a final recommendation to Cornwell; however, it will likely have little to no influence on his decision, which he will announce immediately following the vote, according to the meeting’s agenda.