TCF’s group recognition on hold pending constitutional changes
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 02:10
Tufts Christian Fellowship (TCF), a student group with a history of controversy, is coming under scrutiny again with the suspension of its official recognition this semester by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Judiciary over clauses in its constitution that violated the TCU Constitution’s non-discrimination policy.
The Judiciary decided last month to suspend TCF after, while conducting its re-recognition process, it found that TCF’s governing document excludes students from applying to leadership positions based on their beliefs.
Under the clauses in question, the TCF constitution requires that any organization member who wishes to apply for a leadership role must adhere to a series of tenets called a Basis of Faith.
This requirement violates the TCU Constitution’s non-discrimination clause by excluding students who do not share this belief system, according to Judiciary Chair Adam Sax.
“This is a matter of freedom of religion as we’re looking at it,” Sax, a senior, said. “The parts that need to be changed are parts that [should say] anyone of any faith can be part of this group and attain any leadership position.”
The Judiciary advised TCF leaders at the beginning of this semester that unless the clauses were changed, the group’s TCU recognition would be put on hold and their funding would be frozen, Sax said.
TCF is the Tufts chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA (IVCF), an evangelical Christian mission on college campuses across the country.
The Basis of Faith doctrine included in TCF’s most recently published constitution is identical to the IVCF Doctrinal Basis that the national organization followed prior to 2000. IVCF has since updated the Doctrinal Basis, while TCF’s Basis of Faith clause has remained the same.
The chapter’s relationship with IVCF, as well as its leadership choice process, were called into question last year when four students filed a complaint with the Judiciary that IVCF staff members wield undue influence over the student group and that both organizations conducted discriminatory practices.
In 2000, TCF gained national attention when the Judiciary ruled that TCF and an IVCF representative had denied a Tufts student and TCF member a leadership position on the basis of her sexual orientation.
The Judiciary suspended TCF because of the concern that clauses related to the Basis of Faith did not reflect openness to all potential student leaders, regardless of their religious beliefs, Sax said.
Sax added that discussions between the two groups are ongoing, and it is up to TCF leaders to decide whether to make the recommended changes, extend the negotiations or accept de-recognition by the Judiciary.
Junior Jessica Laporte, a member of TCF’s Vision and Planning Team, said TCF’s leadership is considering each of these courses of action and is open to negotiation.
“Right now as a group we’re open to all possibilities,” Laporte said. “Our ultimate goal is to be a recognized group on campus, but we also desire to take the time to really be true to who we are.”
Because this is the first instance in which the Judiciary has issued a temporary suspension period for a student group, the Judiciary is still in the process of determining the exact protocol of such a suspension, according to Sax.
“We did not feel that they merited de-recognition for this,” he said. “This is something that the group and we can work out and come to an understanding on.”
Laporte said that since its suspension, TCF leadership has carefully considered its course of action, including soliciting input from TCF members and the Tufts community.
“We really appreciate the Judiciary not really putting some time stamp on us,” Laporte said.