What Happened? Academic Freedom at a Christian College, Chico State’s Diversity Action Plan, Counseling Student Opposed by ACLU

Feb 17, 2011 |  Ashley Thorne

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What Happened? Academic Freedom at a Christian College, Chico State’s Diversity Action Plan, Counseling Student Opposed by ACLU

Feb 17, 2011 | 

Ashley Thorne

We revisited some of our articles to find out what happened after we wrote them. Here’s what we learned. 

  • Shortly over a year ago, the Canadian equivalent of the AAUP, the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) issued a report stating that Christian colleges and universities that have a statement of faith as a condition of employment deny academic freedom to their faculty members. The report was specifically directed at Trinity Western University in British Columbia, a private institution that openly declares its Christian mission. NAS noted at the time that, unlike the CAUT, the AAUP has made provisions for schools with religious aims in its declarations on academic freedom.

    Since then CAUT has issued reports on Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg and Crandall University in New Brunswick. Now it has set its sights on Redeemer University College in Ontario. The National Post reports that Redeemer has refused to cooperate with CAUT’s investigation but “has invited the CAUT to an open and honest philosophical discussion about differing paradigms of academic freedom and the relation of faith to learning.” According to the National Post, there have been no complaints at Redeemer or the other colleges over the institutions’ statements of faith.

    Redeemer’s president, Hubert Krygsman, told the Post, “It’s a definition of academic freedom that says it cannot be faith-based. So by definition any faith-based approach strikes them as contrary to their definition. All of the other findings are really fodder for their own beliefs. It’s certainly an attempt by whatever public suasion they might have to give Christian schools a black mark.”

    In response to the discrimination against Canadian Christian colleges, faculty members of these institutions are signing a statement in protest. As of yesterday, the statement had 225 signatures.
  •  In April, California State University at Chico asked for feedback on the draft of its diversity action plan for 2010-2015. NAS was happy to oblige; we recommended that CSU-Chico jettison the plan, which encouraged unequal treatment of people based on characteristics other than individual merit and achievement.

    But Chico State did not jettison the plan, and this month it announced that the “Diversity Action Plan is a Go.” The approved plan, now marked for the years 2011-2016, is linked from Office of the President on the university website. The final version is generally wordier than the earlier draft, and it retains language we flagged as questionable about “achieving the designation of ‘Hispanic Serving Institution.’” As it happens, Chico State already serves Hispanic students. The University’s website says that 15 percent (up from 13.5% last year) of the student body is “Hispanic/Latino.”  There is nothing in the plan that suggests these students receive an inadequate education.  The plan also seems intended as a strategy to circumvent Proposition 209, which prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination by public institutions in California.

    On the occasion of its adoption, an Argus volunteer at Chico-state wrote, “The CSU/Chico campus is facing a $12-14 million budget cut for AY2011-2012. No one has any idea where those chops will be made.  But we can be almost certain where the cuts won't be made - in the manic search for diversity, the mantra and objective that transcends all others.”

    Paul Zingg, president of Chico State, announced the plan as the agenda for the university’s “diversity imperative.”
     
  • Last Friday, the ACLU sided with Augusta State University against Julea Ward in the case Ward v. Wilbanks, in which the NAS has filed a friend-of-the-court brief. In a press release, ACLU Director of the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief Daniel Mach said, “While counselors are certainly entitled to their own religious beliefs, EMU correctly took steps to prevent Ms. Ward from imposing those beliefs on her clients in the university’s training program.”

    Ms. Ward did not seek to impose her beliefs on her clients; rather, she declined to affirm homosexuality as morally acceptable and offered to refer the client to another counselor. As NAS president Peter Wood said, “Julea Ward's case is yet another instance in which university officials in the helping professions pursue a political agenda by calling it an academic standard. But there was no legitimate academic reason to force Julea Ward to disavow her religious beliefs or to conform to the beliefs preferred by the counseling program's faculty.”

    The Alliance Defense Fund, which represents Julea Ward, said in a press release after the July ruling in favor of EMU, “To reach its decision, the court had to do something that’s never been done in federal court: uphold an extremely broad and vague university speech code.” 

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