Discrimination consternation: A state policy is creating major issues for some Cal Poly clubs



All across California, church and state—familiar sparring partners—are once again at loggerheads. This time, though, their conflict is being fought on an unfamiliar battleground—collegiate clubs.

When former California State University (CSU) Chairman Charles B. Reed first issued Executive Order 1068 in December 2011, the policy was meant to eliminate discrimination and encourage an “all comers” policy for student organizations.

The meat of the executive order (while making an exception for gender discrimination within Greek life) states that, “No campus shall recognize any fraternity, sorority, living group, honor society, or other student organization that discriminates on the basis of race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, color, age, gender, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, or disability.”

“What this policy does is expanding on state law to say all CSU student groups have to be open to everyone,” said Michael Uhlenkamp, director of CSU public affairs. “The journalism club can’t be just journalists; the Democrats have to accept Republicans into their club.”

While Executive Order 1068 applies across the board, a one-year moratorium on enforcement (enacted in August 2013) means that direct effects of the change are just now being felt on CSU campuses.

While it’s hard to disagree with the spirit of the policy, many student organizations at CSU schools—including several at Cal Poly—are concerned that the policy will bump them down to second-class status.

The major lightning rods for enforcement of this policy have been religious student groups—specifically those clubs that explicitly require their members or leaders to ascribe to certain beliefs.

“Under state law, that’s discriminatory,” Uhlenkamp said. “Those groups, we’re not kicking them out or banning them, and they’re totally welcome on campus. They just can’t be officially recognized as clubs.”

One of the primary organizations taking a stand against Executive Order 1068 is InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF), a nationwide campus ministry with 23 chapters across CSU schools.

According to New York-based IVCF National Field Director Greg Jao, any student can be an IVCF member, but the organization requires its leaders to sign a “doctrinal basis” that affirms the “entire trustworthiness and authority” of the Bible, Jesus Christ as “Savior and Lord,” and a belief in “giving over the unrepentant to eternal condemnation but receiving the redeemed into eternal life.”

“A number of our CSU chapters—about nine the last time I checked—have been formally ‘derecognized’ by the Chancellor’s Office this fall, and many others are in the process,” Jao told New Times. “We believe the leadership function is inextricably tied to religious belief.

“Ultimately, the broader question is whether or not [1068] is a good policy,” he continued. “I’m deeply convinced it’s a bad policy. It’s not serving CSU students well, and it’s destroying the very diversity it claims to be aiming for.”

At Cal Poly, the IVCF chapter has about 32 students in leadership positions, and IVCF Staff Team Leader Adam Loveridge said about 110 total students showed up to their first fall gathering on Sept. 22.

“What it comes down to is this—it makes sense as a religious organization to have your leaders believe in what they’re preaching,” Loveridge said. “The intent behind [1068] is good, but that starts to break down when it’s actually applied.”

According to Loveridge, the Cal Poly chapter has not yet been formally “derecognized,” but Poly administrators have intimated that their derecognition is imminent. Update: According to Jao, the IVCF's Caly Poly chapter has been officially derecognized, as of Oct. 3.

“For us, derecognition will mean losing room and meeting space, which will go from free to costing about $4,000 per year. We also won’t be able to have a table or present at the club showcase, which hurts,” Loveridge said. “We’re going to have to find new, creative ways to broadcast our message.”

When asked by New Times how the university is planning to institute Executive Order 1068, Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said determinations are still being made.

“Cal Poly is in the process of examining how [1068] might impact specific clubs and organizations on this campus,” Lazier wrote in an email to New Times. “The Dean of Students’ Office plans to contact any groups found to potentially be affected by the order and consult with their leadership and faculty/staff advisers on changes they can make to maintain recognition.”

Both the IVCF and the CSU Chancellor’s Office say discussions about the policy are ongoing, but it has proven difficult thus far to sway either of the notoriously inflexible institutions of organized religion and government bureaucracy.

Abigail Johnson, a Poly junior and the de facto IVCF student president, said that she and her fellow students are still figuring out the best way forward for IVCF.

“Even though we are in the process of being derecognized, we are really coming together,” Johnson said. “We love and accept everyone, but we need the integrity of having our leaders believe in our religion.”

New Times reached out to a number of other religious clubs at Cal Poly for this story to see if they were being affected by Executive Order 1068, and received a few responses. Most clubs, however, did not respond to calls from New Times as of press time.

As Jao, Loveridge, and Johnson explained, many other religious clubs (and clubs in general) on CSU campuses have chosen to remain low profile out of fear of being derecognized. The IVCF leaders declined to name any of those clubs. Nevertheless, Johnson said she expects “several other clubs” at Poly will also be affected and will join in the derecognition process with IVCF.

On the other side, Brian Henson, a Cal Poly senior and president of Lutheran Campus Ministries, said his club of roughly 5 to 10 students “prides itself on being accepting” and “doesn’t require anyone to sign anything or affirm their faith in any way,” thus avoiding derecognition.

Cal Poly’s Hillel—a student-run Jewish heritage club—is also open to all members and leaders, according to mechanical engineering professor and faculty advisor Saeed Niku.

Faysal Kolkailah, an aerospace engineer professor and faculty advisor to the Cal Poly Muslim Students Association, said his organization doesn’t require members or leaders to affirm any faith either.

“Faith is in the heart, not a piece of paper,” Kolkailah said. “What you believe is between you and the creator.”


Staff Writer Rhys Heyden can be reached at

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