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Editorial | CSL policy changes are important step

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 09:02

Published in today’s edition of the Tufts Daily is an op-ed from members of the Committee on Student Life (CSL), announcing its decision to no longer allow student organizations to apply for a “justified departure” from the Tufts Community Union Judiciary’s (TCUJ) non-discrimination policy, as well as the creation of a new policy toward Religious and Philosophical Student Organizations (RPSOs). This is an important step in ensuring that the university does not sanction discriminatory student organizations, but some of the specifics of the new policy could use further clarification.

The CSL’s decision comes over a year after the Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF) was derecognized by the TCUJ for its discriminatory requirements for leadership positions. The CSL subsequently created a policy that allowed religious student organizations to apply for what it called a “justified departure” from the TCUJ’s non-discrimination policy, via the Tufts University Chaplaincy, when determining eligibility for leadership positions. The TCU Senate then asked the CSL to reconsider the justified departure policy.

Rescinding the justified departure policy is a long-overdue step by the CSL, which it says came about as a result of pressure from organizations like the TCU Senate and a reconsideration of what constitutes a religious student organization. The CSL correctly recognized religious student organizations as collections of Tufts students interested in practicing or learning more about a certain religion, and not as chapters of outside religious organizations located on the Tufts campus. Student religious organizations are groups of Tufts students sanctioned by the university to congregate and pursue similar interests. Any deviation from that focus is both unnecessary and not in the spirit of a student club.

By creating a new designation of RPSO and reevaluating the relationship between the TCUJ and the Chaplaincy in the recognition process, the CSL has rightly placed the power to approve a RPSO in the hands of the students, and removed the questionable concentration of power in the Chaplaincy that clouded the justified departure policy. 

However, though TCUJ has the power to determine whether a group can be considered a RPSO, the group must first be approved by the Chaplaincy before it can be officially recognized by the TCUJ. This, in effect, gives both the TCUJ and the Chaplaincy veto power over new RPSOs. Clarification on the criteria the Chaplaincy would use to approve or deny an application for recognition before it reaches the TCUJ is necessary to determine whether this approach creates a proper balance of responsibility between the TCUJ and the Chaplaincy.

By rescinding the justified departure policy and creating a new category of student organizations, the CSL has done an admirable job of reversing its own course and heeding the advice of the TCU Senate in order to ensure no student organizations are inherently discriminatory in their electoral procedures. The CSL is right: every student should be able to run for elected office in a Tufts-sanctioned student organization, and its action toward that goal is commendable.

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