The University has denied allegations that a student group was kicked off campus as a result of the club’s bylaws, which are perceived by some to be discriminatory.
The University’s Asian InterVarsity chapter of the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational, evangelical campus ministry, claimed Thursday that it was “kicked off” campus because of religious qualifications for its student leaders in the InterVarsity’s Doctrinal Basis and Chapter Covenant, which do not allow the admittance of gay or lesbian members.
Contrary to the organization’s claim, University spokesperson Kelly Cunningham said in a statement that the student organization did not complete its annual re-registration process by the Sept. 30 deadline, a requirement of all student organizations.
She said the University discussed this issue with the Asian InterVarsity chapter in December, but the group has yet to complete the process.
Cunningham said the University “looks forward” to working with the student organization to complete its registration process and remain on campus.
“We value the existence of the Asian InterVarsity Christian Fellowship,” Cunningham said. “Their existence and their voices add significantly to our academic community and support those students who find solace, camaraderie, and guidance in their presence.”
Greg Jao, an InterVarsity national field director, said the University’s statement is “factually inaccurate” and the reason the chapter has not submitted its constitution is because the University will not accept it.
“It’s the same as approved in prior years, not an administrative failure on our end, but (the University) won’t accept it,” Jao said.
Jao added that if the chapter is not re-instated, other student organizations could also be at risk.
“Any group that’s honest about their requirements will be impacted if (the University) applies it fairly,” Jao said. “It will affect Orthodox Jewish groups on campus, (the) Muslim Association.”
Jao said the group does not discriminate, but believes it makes sense for the leadership council of the chapter to adhere to traditional Christian values.
“Every student, regardless of beliefs, is welcome to attend meetings,” he said. “But we believe it makes sense for a religious group to select religious leaders.”
Sara Chang, a local recruiter for InterVarsity, said the chapter has worked with the University since 2010 to be in compliance with the University’s standards.
“Our plans are that we would be able to work with the University and have open, honest discussion about nature of non-discrimination policy, asking them that they would revise it to be as it stands but also give room for religious groups to choose religious leaders,” Chang said.
According to the InterVaristy website, other chapters have faced similar obstacles. The group was derecognized after the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, which allows public institutions to require that on-campus groups accept all students regardless of their “status” or “beliefs.”
“InterVarsity will continue its ministry at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor campus regardless of whether our chapters are officially recognized, but our desire is to maintain a positive relationship with the university,” a statement on the group’s website reads. “We are currently working with university officials to resolve this situation.”