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Dissenting Opinion: A Pointless Debate

The UC should fund ‘discriminatory’ student groups—as they do any other

By John Hastrup, Travis R. Kavulla, Nikhil G. Mathews, and The Crimson Staff

Resident Undergraduate Council (UC) rabble-rouser Jason L. Lurie ’05 must be pleased. The silly debate he started in 2003 about whether Christian groups can receive funding if they require their officers to be Christian continues. And the discourse on whether a group with foundational principles of advancing Christianity can actually require its leaders to be Christian drags on. Why are we still talking about this? The devil is in the details.

The Staff argues that the policy of groups such as the Harvard-Radcliffe Christian Fellowship (HRCF) and its sister group, Asian American Christian Fellowship (AACF), which demands that officers agree to a “statement of faith,” is a violation of UC bylaws that prohibit “discrimination” on the basis of factors such as race, gender, religion, and political affiliation. The UC agrees, but recently suspended its rules so that the AACF could continue to receive funding on a per-case basis, citing the right of the group to exist.

We disagree with both positions. If the UC can fund a group that that falls under the “discriminatory” category because it has a clear goal of advancing a particular faith, then this funding should not be suspended simply because the group wants its officers to believe in the faith they are promoting.

The Harvard College Democrats require that a member—not just officers like the HRCF and the AACF—wish to be known as a “College Democrat and [have] the best interests of the College Democrats and the Democratic Party at heart.” One could easily argue that funding of this group is “discrimination” on the basis of political affiliation under the UC and the Staff’s logic—a Republican essentially cannot join. But this would be silly because a promotion of party ideals is self-evident in the College Democrat’s name; the group contributes to legitimate campus debate; and equivalent groups with differing viewpoints are also funded by the UC.

But just in case any future Karl Rove minions want to use our rationale against the Dems, we offer a simple addendum to any “discriminatory” student group constitution that should satisfy all sides. The addition would read: “Candidates for election will each be presented with the following statement which they may declare their adherence unto: [i.e. “statement of faith”] Each candidate may choose to sign or not to sign the statement. A list of signatories and non-signatories will be made available to all club members before the election.”

Such a statement would all but prevent atheists from secretive takeovers of Christian clubs, or vice versa, allowing their integrity to remain. It would also avoid “discrimination” by preserving students’ right to participate (and lead) any club, whether or not it be diametrically opposed to everything they stand for. That, friends, is fairness at Harvard.

John W. Hastrup ’06 is a government concentrator in Dunster House. Travis R. Kavulla ’06-’07 is a history concentrator affiliated with Mather House. Nikhil G. Mathews ’08 is a government concentrator in Mather House. All of the writers are Crimson editorial editors.

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