In response to public outcry and numerous media stories (here, here, here, here, here, and here) on Gonzaga University's Office of Student Life's decision to deny the campus Knights of Columbus group official recognition as a student club, the school released a statement on Saturday, April 6 saying it will review its decision.
According to the statement:
Gonzaga University’s Student Life division recently issued a decision that it could not recognize a proposed Knights of Columbus student club under its current club recognition process. The University is concerned that all of the factors involved in this decision have not been represented in their entirety, and thus may be misunderstood.
Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh states that Gonzaga honors and respects the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus, with which it has a long tradition and mutual collaboration at both local and state levels. The Knights of Columbus College Council (#12583) is already present within the student body and receives support from the administration. Gonzaga University’s core Catholic and Jesuit identity recognizes, encourages and supports many student organizations that advance faith-related issues (for example, Gonzaga Right to Life, and the Blessed John Paul II Fellowship).
President McCulloh has received a request from the sponsoring student to review the institution’s decision regarding the recognition of the organization as a student club, and has decided to undertake this review. The review is expected to take 30-45 days.
As originally reported by The Cardinal Newman Society, on March 7 the University denied a Knights of Columbus group application to be recognized as an official student organization.
“The Knights of Columbus, by their very nature, is a men’s organization in which only Catholics may participate via membership,” says a letter obtained by The Cardinal Newman Society written by Sue Weitz, Vice President for Student Life. “These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion.”
The letter continued:
The discussion at the meeting touched on formation of a Catholic Daughters student organization at Gonzaga. Such a group would address the gender exclusivity issue. However, it would not address the requirement that all members of a student Knights of Columbus group must be Catholic.
“I …believe strongly in the University’s commitment to non-discrimination and inclusivity,” continues Weitz in the letter. “If Gonzaga was an institution that served only Catholics and limited the benefits of the collegiate experience only to them, the decision-making process may have been different.”
“To embrace the diversity and yet endorse a group based on faith exclusivity is a challenge that cannot be reconciled at this time,” Weitz wrote in closing. “It is a decision about social justice, equity, and the desire of the University to create and maintain an environment in which none are excluded.”
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