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Op-Ed | CSL decision ignores CARE, activist participation

Martine Kaplan

Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 09:02

Reading the op-ed, “CSL changes ‘justified departure’ policy” by Professor Alva Couch and senior Haydn Forrest and the accompanying Daily editorial, “CSL policy changes are important step” we were elated and even a bit teary. The Committee on Student Life’s (CSL) December 2012 creation of a policy that threw out everything we knew to be true about Tufts as a whole, and the religious and philosophical community, marred the winter of our senior years at Tufts. We were tortured with the knowledge that we were leaving Tufts a worse place than when we had entered.

Luckily, there were like-minded students. Students just like us who saw the “justified departure” policy to be antithetical to the values and beliefs of our university. Students just like us who believed that any official allowance for a departure from the university non-discrimination policy was an act of institutionalized discrimination. Students just like us who would not sit back and let an administrative body make decisions that impacted our lives and our university without a fight.

That group of students is CARE: the Coalition Against Religious Exclusion. CARE was formed in the early days of the 2011-2012 controversies regarding the Tufts Christian Fellowship’s (TCF) former leadership selection. The early model for CARE was a group from 2000, Tufts Students Against Discrimination (TSAD), which had formed under similar circumstances regarding TCF, but 11 years earlier.  After Dec. 5, 2012, CARE transformed — growing in scope and membership — as it welcomed new students hearing for the first time that the CSL existed and that there was a battle between a student organization and the Tufts Community Union Judiciary (TCUJ) over leadership selection. On Dec. 5, 2012, CARE shifted its focus to one committed to repealing the harmful policy put forth by the CSL.

In Couch and Forrest’s op-ed and the Daily editorial, the TCU Senate, the Equal Educational Opportunity Committee (EEOC) and the Tufts University Chaplaincy are cited as voices from the university community who drew attention to the contradictions behind “justified departure” and to the other inherent flaws in the policy as written by the CSL. This is not untrue. TCU senator allies, EEOC faculty, student allies and the new University Chaplain Reverend Greg McGonigle have all been committed to overturning the CSL’s “justified departure” policy. We, in no way, wish to diminish or fail to acknowledge their role in the victory that is the newly created CSL policy. However, these students and faculty did not work alone.

CARE was there every step of the way. From canvassing in the Mayer Campus Center, Dewick and Carmichael, to speaking directly to Tufts University President Anthony Monaco, CARE was there. Members of CARE were the first to publicly denounce the “justified departure” policy. Members of CARE were the first to mobilize student action against the decision. Members of CARE were the first to reach out to, and meet with, members of the CSL. Members of CARE were the first to push for action by the TCU Senate.

In declining to include CARE as a participant in the overturning of the “justified departure” policy both the CSL and the Daily editorial board erase a part of history. The editorial board places all credit for the CSL policy shift in the hands of the TCU Senate, excluding any other group of faculty or students. In their op-ed, the CSL goes a step further. Couch and Forrest do double duty with their words: erasing the impact and power of an antagonistic student group, and praising themselves for a “realization” and “profound shift in the CSL’s own thinking.”

The CSL changed its policy because it was forced to do so. This “subtle, profound shift” was the selection of new co-chairs and the election of new student representatives in the spring and fall of 2013 — some of whom are actively involved in CARE. This “subtle, profound shift” came when Rev. McGonigle succeeded interim-University Chaplain Reverend Patricia Budd Kepler, who had been a stout proponent of the “justified departure” policy. McGonigle actively sought out student opinion and insight into the policy as he transitioned into the school over the summer of 2013, and CARE members were there every step of the way helping him to understand their side of the story.

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