The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of two California State University (CSU) Christian greek organizations earlier this month, denying them the potential for affiliation with their respective universities.
Both the Alpha Gamma Omega fraternity and Alpha Delta Chi sorority, whose San Diego State University chapters originally brought lawsuits in 2005 arguing the ability to provide membership to only Christians, have organizations in the San Luis Obispo community that are not affiliated with Cal Poly. This ruling sets a precedent that supports the current Cal Poly policy toward the two groups.
The San Luis Obispo Alpha Delta Chi sorority was founded four years ago as separate entity from Cal Poly. Alpha Gamma Omega was originally affiliated with the university but was later removed from campus in compliance with a California law known as Title 5.
Title 5 prohibits any state-supported organization from discriminating based on religion, age, race, color, ancestry, sexual orientation, disability, sex or gender. Since Cal Poly is a public university, all organizations it funds must follow these guidelines.
This Supreme Court decision to not hear the case might have eliminated any hope of reaffiliation for the two greek organizations. Alpha Gamma Omega president and general engineering senior Robert Hobson said despite numerous attempts to become affiliated once again, he does not believe the fraternity will ever be allowed back on campus.
“We always hoped that one day we would enjoy playing IFC (Interfraternity Council) sports again,” Hobson said. “But we’ve always planned on not getting back on campus.”
Both the fraternity and sorority engage in practices that are discriminatory against non-Christians, greek life director Diego Silva said. The Alpha Gamma Omega fraternity allows non-Christians in the fraternity, but executive board members must submit a statement of faith in their acceptance of Christianity. Alpha Delta Chi requires all members be Christian and to refrain from sexual relations until marriage. It also requires members to regularly attend church.
“We accept students from all types of backgrounds and beliefs and cultures,” Silva said. “So it’s a little tricky when you start to endorse groups that don’t do that and don’t fall in line with what is the mission of the university.”
Alpha Delta Chi president and civil engineering senior Sarah Cosseboom said she can see why the sorority’s membership requirements are labeled as discriminatory, but said they are right for the sorority.
“In a way it discriminates,” she said, “but I don’t understand why you’d want to join if you weren’t a Christian.”
Both organizations are not included in special privileges given to student groups, Silva said. They are unable to use on-campus facilities and be involved with Cal Poly affiliated events, such as the Week of Welcome block party showcase.
Cosseboom said her sorority initially struggled with recruitment due to the lack of campus accessibility.
“It’s a little frustrating, but we’ve been able to maintain ourselves,” she said.
Sorority members found success in posting flyers at local churches to bring in new members. Cosseboom also said word of mouth popularized the organization in the Cal Poly Christian community. Alpha Delta Chi currently has 11 active members in its San Luis Obispo chapter, all Cal Poly females.
Though Hobson said his organization faces several of the same challenges as Alpha Delta Chi, he believes the policy of denying non-Christians executive member status is important for the fraternity.
“If we want to run a Christ-centered organization, we need to have Christ-centered leaders,” he said.
Hobson said Alpha Gamma Omega national representatives have discussed removing the policy, but he does not believe it will change any time soon.
“(A policy shift) would change our identity and how we serve the future generations of Alpha Gamma Omega,” Hobson said.
Similarly, Silva said he understands why the fraternity and sorority have their discriminatory practices and does not see problems with their conduct.
“They are well-intended groups, and they do do more good than bad, a lot more good than bad things,” Silva said. “I can’t think of anything to speak negatively on the groups themselves.”
But he said the university’s concern arises from the possibility of the fraternity and sorority changing their mission and further promoting discrimination at Cal Poly.
“Alpha Gamma Omega today is not going to be the same Alpha Gamma Omega it will be next year,” Silva said. “All it takes is a few bad seeds to turn them in a new direction. Worst case scenario, that could come back to really, really hurt Cal Poly and its mission and values as an institution as a whole.”