Eagles for PRIDE vs AU’s Social Issue Policy

After Eagles for PRIDE’s third year without being accepted for charter, the Board of Trustees is currently in the process of redefining the social issues policy on campus to help clarify the charter process for clubs.

Every year, student organizations on campus are required to go through a process in order to become chartered, funded and publicly recognized by the university.

Among those that apply annually is Eagles for PRIDE (EFP).

EFP is a provisionally chartered group that aims to make Ashland University an accepting campus and community by educating the community that “regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, everyone has a place,” according to the group’s mission statement.

Once a club is provisionally chartered, a trial-like period is placed to ensure they keep up membership numbers and are holding positive activities. Since EFP is on their third year without full approval, there is much interest in the revision of the revised social issues policy that the Board of Trustees is proposing.  

The Board of Trustees has sought input for this policy, which president of the faculty senate, Dr. Diane Bonfiglio admits is “unusual,” but is the result of students and faculty advocating for a resolution to the issue.

Bonfiglio, associate professor of psychology, will be collecting responses from faculty senators to provide to the board.

The social issues policy draft was created out of the Board of Trustee’s perceived need to figure out how the VPSA (vice president of student affairs) would be involved in approving or denying a charter, Bonfiglio said.  

The draft of the social issues policy was released to faculty senate and student senate on Feb. 1. The faculty senate and the student senate now have until March 15 to give back feedback to the board, who will then vote on it.

“The Eagles for Pride charter has been sort of taken out of the normal system to the administration, but it’s not clear how exactly the administration can proceed, so this social issues policy draft is supposed to lay out how the vice president of student affairs would be involved — that is the stated goal of that part of the policy,” Bonfiglio said.

There is concern that a passage such as this in the student activities manual would imply that administration has the power to make the final determination on clubs, but the policy is not clear enough on that issue Bonfiglio said.

“The front page [of the policy] seems to be attempting to define our identity as an institution, and that’s why a lot of faculty have become interested. We would like greater conversation around whether what’s written there aligns with how we understand the third-way,” she said.

Ashland University Eagles for PRIDE Facebook Page
Members of the 2018 Eagles for PRIDE executive board.

The third-way is what Ashland University is referred to, meaning that it is not a Christian college, but it is a university that was founded by the Brethren Church.

The proposed social issues policy states, “clubs that promote lifestyle choices, activities, and belief systems that are contrary to these historical Brethren values will not be approved for institutional funding or recognition,” and goes on to state that the university’s identity requires a “consistent message…with all outlets and expressions consistently supporting the institution’s mission, vision, and values.”

Brian Le, senior history major, was in Student Senate during the 2016-2017 school year to vote on the approval of EFP’s provisional charter and he now serves as the Activities, Budgets, & Charters Chair (ABC chair) which oversees all student organizations.

In the fall of 2016, EFP applied for their provisional charter with Sean Honaker and Joe Farber co-leading the organization. Le heard there were concerns within the Board of Trustees, but the organization’s provisional charter was passed through both Student Senate’s ABC Committee and the Senate itself with an overwhelming majority, he said.

In the fall of 2017, EFP was eligible for application to full charter status which would allow for the organization to apply for funding from the university (which comes directly from the Student Activities Fee every student pays).

“However, before the application was to be reviewed by the ABC Committee, the application was pulled out of the process, presumably by the Board of Trustees through the Vice President of  Student Affairs, who at the time was Dr. Hannah Clayborne,” Le said.

Fast forward to the 2018-2019 school year, the Board of Trustees Student Affairs Committee has drafted what is titled the “Social Issues Policy” which stipulates, among other things, that the Board of Trustees and the VP of Student Affairs reserves the right to review all student organizations to maintain a closer adherence to the university’s “traditional Christian ethos.”

“I have a lot of thoughts about this, mainly anger,” Le said. “However Jacob Nestle [the president of Young Americans for Liberty] and I [as president of the College Democrats] have a rough draft of what our thoughts are.”

“The goal is to present concerns with the vagueness of the document’s language, that would have left the possibility for some abuse at the expense of the students,” Nestle said.

At the time of publication, members of the Board of Trustees could not be reached to respond to student concerns regarding the social issues policy.

If students are interested in reading the proposed social issues policy in its entirety, Le and Bonfiglio urge them to consult their student senators before March 15.