Faculty declines vote on CSL ‘justified departure’ policy
Published: Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 01:03
While the Tufts Christian Fellowship announced its decision yesterday to decline applying for re-recognition by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary under the Committee on Student Life’s (CSL) “justified departure” policy, the CSL policy still holds for any group willing to implement it as an Arts, Science and Engineering (AS&E) faculty committee and University President Anthony Monaco have so far declined to overturn the policy.
Members of the AS&E Faculty Executive Committee decided not to carry through on a vote on whether to strike down the CSL’s “justified departure” policy — despite a TCU Senate resolution calling for such a vote — because of a lack of a administrative precedent to do so, according to Faculty Executive Committee co-chair Steven Hirsch, an associate professor of classics.
Hirsch explained that the Faculty Executive Committee did not see it as within its purview to intervene in the implementation of the CSL decision. The Committee, which is responsible for setting the full faculty meeting agenda, found no legal basis for adding the issue of the CSL decision to the list of concerns the faculty would address.
“There’s no appeal beyond an appeal,” he said. “You don’t get to keep having more bites at the apple.”
The CSL in December created the new policy for religious groups after TCF appealed to the committee in protest of their de-recognition by the Judiciary, which was based on an unconstitutional clause in the group’s governing documents. The clause in question required potential TCF leaders to affirm their belief in eight “basic biblical truths about Christianity,” a requirement the Judiciary ruled in October violated the nondiscrimination clause of the TCU Constitution.
The Chaplaincy, a university department consisting of the chaplains for the four represented religious sects, now has the ability to issue permission for exemption from the university’s nondiscrimination policy on a religious basis.
According to Hirsch, an appeal for the faculty to vote on the legitimacy of this new policy failed to jump two major hurdles.
First, he said, there was no precedent for altering the agenda based upon the TCU Senate or any other student body’s wishes. Second, there was n o legal basis or precedent for the faculty to overturn a Committee’s decision under these circumstances.
“It really comes down to the question of the faculty bylaws,” Hirsch said. “It’s not clear to us that the Executive Committee has any role in terms of interfering with the work of a committee, nor that the faculty would do that. I can’t figure out from the bylaws any procedure whereby this would happen.”
Several student groups, including the TCU Senate, have voiced opposition to the CSL’s policy and had identified the (AS&E) Faculty Executive Committee as their last recourse to overturn the CSL’s decision, according to TCU President Wyatt Cadley.
The Senate previously appealed to University President Anthony Monaco last month to overturn the CSL’s decision, according to Cadley, a senior. Monaco has refused to hear an appeal on the new policy.
Hirsch said neither the Executive Committee nor the Office of University Counsel (OUC) is aware of a method that would allow the faculty’s interference. Hirsch said there appears to be no remaining viable methods of overturning the CSL’s decision.
Cadley did not say whether the TCU Senate, or any other student group, will continue to fight against the new policy, nor what tools they could use if they wanted to.
“It is incredibly disheartening that the faculty’s Executive Committee is unwilling to even debate the merits of this policy,” Cadley told the Daily in an email. “The fact that such a policy can be implemented and be subsequently met with silence from relevant stakeholders reveals an embarrassing bureaucratic failure.”
Because the Judiciary was the first to hear the case, and protocol leads appeals to Judiciary decisions to the CSL and no further, Hirsch said the faculty had no authority to continue making judgments on the case.
“I think the faculty is probably not concerned that this is going to lead to all kinds of trouble down the line,” he said.
“They’re probably sensitive to the fact that this committee had to deal with a tough issue and did the best it could.”
Hirsch said an appeal to Monaco would have been the best shot at overturning the decision, but that it would have occurred on questionable legal grounds.
“I believe that the Committee has made a thoughtful decision that is in keeping with Tufts’ commitment to a diverse and welcoming campus community and to a vibrant spiritual life on campus,” Monaco wrote in a public statement on Dec. 7.