Stanislaus Christian Fellowship Chi Alpha is crying discrimination to a recently implemented open-membership policy, which has been enforced by the California State University system in an effort to eliminate discrimination in student organizations system wide.
Due to Chi Alpha’s requirement for their leaders to affirm the group’s Christian beliefs, the student group has been officially de-recognized by California State University, Stanislaus.
With withdrawal of recognition, Chi Alpha is no longer eligible for benefits made available to recognized groups, including those made possible through taxpayers and student fees. They are also no longer able to reserve space on campus, gain access to a mailbox in the Student Leadership & Development Office, and make use of accounting services.
Although numerous student organizations throughout the state are facing the same fate as Chi Alpha due to discrimination based on race, religion, age, and gender among others, the student group perceives CSU Stanislaus’ action as a personal affront to their beliefs and religious freedom.
“This caught us by surprise,” said Chi Alpha chapter president Bianca Travis. “We never expected after 40 years of serving other students and partnering with CSU Stanislaus in order to help the community, that the CSU would treat us like that.
“It was a shock to go from a CSU partner to an outcast in just one day,” Travis continued.
CSU Stanislaus’ decision comes as the result of a new open-membership policy, which was added to CSU Executive Order 1068 in 2013, which requires campuses to withdraw recognition of student organizations that have failed to abide through their bylaws by the end of a year-long grace period.
“We had updated Executive Order 1068 to comply with state law,” said CSU Chancellor’s Office spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp. “This is not just faith based. This is about student organizations who limit membership or leadership to a specific segment of people.
“Through recognition, these organizations are receiving benefits of student fees, but are limiting students from participating in the organization. That is the discrimination aspect of it,” continued Uhlenkamp.
According to CSU Stanislaus Associate Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Tim Lynch, this is the first case at CSU Stanislaus involving a student organization’s constitution remaining out of compliance with Executive Order 1068.
“We are not saying that Stanislaus Christian Fellowship would engage in discrimination, but their constitution as it is currently written would allow it,” said Lynch. “CSU Stanislaus has met with Stanislaus Christian Fellowship in the fall, and we are continuing to work with the organization to ensure that its constitution meets the compliance requirement.”
Despite being an unrecognized student organization, Lynch clarified that Chi Alpha has not been disbanded or prohibited from campus, and they are still welcome to participate in campus life and meet on campus.
“Executive Order 1068 is a policy to ensure against discrimination,” said Lynch, “and that is steeped in state law.”
In hopes of regaining their recognized status, Chi Alpha sent a letter on Tuesday to CSU Stanislaus Vice President of Enrollment and Student Affairs Suzanne Espinoza. Citing that they have submitted a constitution that is compliant, they formally asked to be reinstated with full recognition on campus.
“We planned wonderful activities and service projects for the year and instead of being able to simply enjoy them, we have had to deal with back-and-forth from the university,” said Travis. “The cost of admission should not include being forced to deny your faith, or to deny who you are.”
As the student organization awaits CSU Stanislaus’ next response, it has garnered the support of Turlock City Councilmember Matthew Jacob, who issued a public statement on Thursday.
“Moving forward, I am hopeful the university will be willing to resolve this promptly so that Chi Alpha may immediately resume the positive work they have been doing for Turlock and its college community these past four decades,” said Jacob.