Monday, April 14, 2014

Kentucky Equality Federation raises issue with EKU's proposed policy change for "Registered Student Organizations"

Brandon Combs, Chairman of the Board for the Kentucky Equality Federation, reached out to Dr. Michael T. Benson, President, and Dr. Janna P. Vice, Provost, of Eastern Kentucky University regarding a proposed policy change for Registered Student Organizations (RSO). (download)

The proposed policy includes verbiage that would open the door for student organizations to willfully discriminate against any student for any reason they see fit without regard for the law or University policy.

“I am hopeful that by providing my alma mater some very direct policy advice, we will be able to prevent any future discrimination complaints associated with the campus’ Registered Student Organizations," stated Brandon Combs, Chairman. "Student organizations have the right to operate within their niche of the campus community, but this must be done with respect to the law, University policy, and general common decency."

Chairman Combs extended an open door for meeting with the University Administration to discuss the proposed policy change, however, has not yet been reached out to by University staff. The Kentucky Equality Federation is standing by ready to assist the University with any policy-making questions, or any students who fall victim to discrimination due to poor policy making.

Below of a copy of the letter or one can be obtained in PDF format here.

This letter is being sent regarding the proposed Registered Student Organization (RSO) policy change that is currently available for debate on the 30 Day Comment Forum, hosted by Director Parks’ department. The proposed policy, as presented is not sufficient, as its wording opens the door for discrimination of all kinds. The phrase "However, the University respects the rights of the VSO/NSO to determine its own membership" has sufficient ambiguity to cause alarm to multiple populations on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus. As written, this would allow an organization to discriminate against any person for any reason, which may include, but is not limited to: age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, veteran status, or genetic information. Any discrimination complaint filed with these classifications would violate Title 7, Title 9, and/or EKU Policy and Regulation 1.4.1P – Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Statement (Non-Discrimination Policy).
It is the suggestion of my Office that you amend the aforementioned statement to include the following: “The University respects the rights of the VSO/NSO to determine its own membership, however the selection process for membership shall not violate state or federal law, any EKU policies, and should be available for immediate review at the request of the Office of the Provost for Academic Affairs.” Failing to protect the student body from discrimination would potentially make the University liable, thusly causing a loss in Title 7 and Title 9 funding (see. Bob Jones University v. United States; Jason Johnson v. University of the Cumberlands).
Furthermore, as the largest, all-volunteer LGBTI advocacy group in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we will assist any and all persons who file discrimination complaints rooted in this inefficient policy-making, up to and including legal action, assisting the complainant with securing an attorney, and providing any additional resources to the complainant available at our disposal.
Officials at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) immediately acknowledged receipt of the letter.

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