Logan Honeycutt & Nate Honeycutt
Bioresource and agricultural engineering sophomore & alumnus
This time last year, we were ringing the warning bells about the CSU “Open Membership” requirement going into effect as a result of CSU Executive Order 1068. We sent a memo to the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors urging swift action to protect student organizations, warned student groups about what was coming and reached out to the media to get the word out about the subject. What happened?
We got the word out, but nobody listened.
The ASI Board of Directors (the “official voice of Cal Poly students”) finally decided to put in a half-hearted effort to investigate the issue five months after it was brought to their attention, but they investigated it in a kangaroo-court fashion and failed to directly contact any clubs.
The conclusion essentially was: “You’re making a bigger deal about this than you should; be good little students, be quiet and just do as you are told.”
Flash forward to Fall 2014: The issue is still here and has grown in magnitude. The big news of the day is how InterVarsity Christian Fellowship might be kicked off CSU campuses because it has the audacity to stand on principle by requiring their student group leaders to have Christian beliefs. The question of the day remains: Who is next?
The crux of the “open membership” policy is that it requires membership and leadership in all non-greek campus-recognized student organizations to be open to all students.
The “open membership” policy is broad and sweeping, with the noble mission to reduce discrimination and bolster diversity. In reality, however, the enforcement of this policy is actually discrimination in the name of diversity. As more student organizations are targeted, diversity among student organizations will decline.
This “open membership” policy forces diversity within student groups at the expense of diversity among student groups.
This policy renders belief and merit-based student groups helpless in protecting the mission, values and purpose their group was founded to pursue. Honor societies can no longer restrict membership to “honor” students, environmental student groups are now unable to prevent pro-fossil fuel advocates from running for board positions in their groups — the list goes on. This policy guts the free association right enshrined in the first amendment precisely to protect minority or unpopular views.
CSU administrators thus far have attempted to play this off as an issue where their hands are tied, claiming there is nothing they can do about this policy they wrote. This is entirely inaccurate. There is no state or federal law mandating this “open membership” policy; there is no legal requirement or precedent holding that this policy is required, desirable, effective or even practical.
Last year, this issue was painted as a “Cal Poly College Republicans club issue.” Now, it has become a “Christian club issue.” But what we’ve been trying to show all along is how the problem is so much bigger than that. It just so happens these particular groups were the first to be targeted.
If you are an officer or member in any belief- or merit-based student organization recognized by the university you should be worried, and you should start planning action.
It is critical moving forward that CSU student organizations start working as a unified voice for comprehensive change on this issue before more groups are eliminated. Individually on our own campuses we can try to enact change, but unified we can have a stronger voice.
As California taxpayers (if you are a California resident) and/or as fee-paying CSU students, it is essential we hold the CSU leadership accountable and ensure CSU policies failing to work in students’ best interest will not remain in effect. It is abundantly clear this policy does not serve the best interest of students or student organizations and therefore must be eliminated, or must be significantly modified to make exemptions for belief and merit-based student groups.
If this issue concerns you as much as it does us we would highly encourage you to visit www.CSUSOFA.org to learn more. We would also encourage you to join our alliance (CSU SOFA: CSU Student Organizations for Free Association) to work together as a unified voice for commonsense policy revision within the CSU.
Don’t be a bystander — stand up and be proactive about defending your rights and the rights of others. The fate of CSU student organizations today and in the future rests in our ability to unite and fight back.