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Jewett Will Decide Fate of Bible Study

COCL Reaches Impasse on Christians in Action Proposal

By Curtis R. Chong

The Committee on College Life (COCL) reached an impasse yesterday on the controversial proposal to grant University recognition to Christians in Action bible study group.

The committee's 10 members were deadlocked on whether or not to admit the group, which Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III has said lacks autonomy from the Boston Church of Christ.

Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett, who chairs the COCL, will decide by Monday whether the University should recognize the group, which was organized by a number of students who are also members of the Boston Church of Christ.

"People feel very strongly [about the issue of recognition], and the split is down the middle and there's reasonable arguments on both sides," Jewett said. "It's a tough decision, not an easy call."

Critics of the church have said it uses cult-like tactics to recruit new members on college campuses.

Christians in Action first petitioned for University recognition last October, opening a rift between student and faculty members of the committee. Yesterday all five student members voted for recognition of the group, while the five faculty members and administrators voted against the measure.

Jewett said he is looking for a way to allow recognition of the group and to satisfy faculty and administration concerns.

"I want to take a little more time to see if there are any procedural safeguards that satisfy the faculty and permit the group's approval for a probationary period," Jewett said. "If there is a way, yes, I'd approve the group on a probationary status, but that's a big if."

Extra time is needed because the issue of recognition is so divisive, Jewett said.

"I have to consider the fact that the studentsare united and the faculty and administration isequally unified," Jewett said.

The inconclusive vote followed heated debate atthe 8 a.m. COCL meeting.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III voicedstrong opposition to the group, claiming Churchmembers of the bible study continue to harassstudents.

"[I object to] the means they have adopted torecruit members on campus," Epps said. "This lastyear, two specific complaints were made," he said."What those complaints show is conduct that stepsover the line and is harassment."

In a stirring rebuttal, Michael J. Hrnicek '96,the group's president and a COCL member,maintained that he has never aggressivelyrecruited students on campus and argued that theChurch's beliefs should not be questioned.

"The student recognition process should becontent blind," Hrnicek said. "If students believeit is appropriate to have a bible study on campus,run by students for students, then I believewholeheartedly [in it]."

COCL member Randall A. Fine '96 rose toHrnicek's defense, questioning Epps' definition ofharassment and urged committee members not toadopt "stereotypes" about the Church.

"If what these people are doing is so bad thenwhy are they still [at Harvard]?" Fine asked. "Itseems like we don't have a problem with the group,but we have a problem with the religion," he said."Either [the University] should throw them out or[the harassment] is not that bad. You can't haveit both ways."

In an interview following the meeting, Hrniceksaid he strongly disagrees with Epps' accusations.

"I'm always angry when people makegeneralizations and stereotypes like Dean Epps didtoday, but it wasn't anything I hadn't heardbefore," Hrnicek said. "Epps is lumping everyonewho goes to my church into the category ofcriminal or ruffian or harasser."

Epps said the issue is not one of belief orteachings but that recognizing the group would bea "disservice" to the University.

"To approve an organization of individuals thatuse methods I described would be a greatdisservice," Epps said. "We have lots of historyof [the Church] going on campuses and having to bethrown off," he said. "It would be unwise for usto ignore that history."

In his argument against recognition, Eppsinvoked the greater welfare of the community.

"The larger question here is the welfare of thelarger religious community here, a community basedon trust," he said.

Faculty committee members questioned Hrnicek'sclaim that his group would be the "voice" of theChurch on campus. Hrnicek later explained that hemeant that the Bible study would be taught fromthe Boston Church of Christ's perspective.

Hrnicek said he is troubled by the stalemate."I'm disappointed that it's come down to be such asubjective issue," he said.

The COCL decision will likely be the final stepin Hrnicek's two-year struggle for recognition.Only the President and Fellows of Harvard Collegecould overturn Jewett's tiebreaking decision.

Even if Jewett decides against the group'spetition, Hrnicek said he will continue the battlefor University recognition.

"If I am rejected by the COCL as having aproblem with autonomy, then the process is just toresubmit an application and make some changes,"Hrnicek said. "I'm disappointed that theadministrators are bending the rules in this case,because my group met all the requirements.

"I have to consider the fact that the studentsare united and the faculty and administration isequally unified," Jewett said.

The inconclusive vote followed heated debate atthe 8 a.m. COCL meeting.

Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III voicedstrong opposition to the group, claiming Churchmembers of the bible study continue to harassstudents.

"[I object to] the means they have adopted torecruit members on campus," Epps said. "This lastyear, two specific complaints were made," he said."What those complaints show is conduct that stepsover the line and is harassment."

In a stirring rebuttal, Michael J. Hrnicek '96,the group's president and a COCL member,maintained that he has never aggressivelyrecruited students on campus and argued that theChurch's beliefs should not be questioned.

"The student recognition process should becontent blind," Hrnicek said. "If students believeit is appropriate to have a bible study on campus,run by students for students, then I believewholeheartedly [in it]."

COCL member Randall A. Fine '96 rose toHrnicek's defense, questioning Epps' definition ofharassment and urged committee members not toadopt "stereotypes" about the Church.

"If what these people are doing is so bad thenwhy are they still [at Harvard]?" Fine asked. "Itseems like we don't have a problem with the group,but we have a problem with the religion," he said."Either [the University] should throw them out or[the harassment] is not that bad. You can't haveit both ways."

In an interview following the meeting, Hrniceksaid he strongly disagrees with Epps' accusations.

"I'm always angry when people makegeneralizations and stereotypes like Dean Epps didtoday, but it wasn't anything I hadn't heardbefore," Hrnicek said. "Epps is lumping everyonewho goes to my church into the category ofcriminal or ruffian or harasser."

Epps said the issue is not one of belief orteachings but that recognizing the group would bea "disservice" to the University.

"To approve an organization of individuals thatuse methods I described would be a greatdisservice," Epps said. "We have lots of historyof [the Church] going on campuses and having to bethrown off," he said. "It would be unwise for usto ignore that history."

In his argument against recognition, Eppsinvoked the greater welfare of the community.

"The larger question here is the welfare of thelarger religious community here, a community basedon trust," he said.

Faculty committee members questioned Hrnicek'sclaim that his group would be the "voice" of theChurch on campus. Hrnicek later explained that hemeant that the Bible study would be taught fromthe Boston Church of Christ's perspective.

Hrnicek said he is troubled by the stalemate."I'm disappointed that it's come down to be such asubjective issue," he said.

The COCL decision will likely be the final stepin Hrnicek's two-year struggle for recognition.Only the President and Fellows of Harvard Collegecould overturn Jewett's tiebreaking decision.

Even if Jewett decides against the group'spetition, Hrnicek said he will continue the battlefor University recognition.

"If I am rejected by the COCL as having aproblem with autonomy, then the process is just toresubmit an application and make some changes,"Hrnicek said. "I'm disappointed that theadministrators are bending the rules in this case,because my group met all the requirements.

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