Single-gender clubs labeled 'discrimination' at Rochester

The University of Rochester’s All-Campus Judicial Council (ACJC) ruled Friday that gendered language and “participation in gender-exclusive competitions” by student groups constitute “discrimination.”

The debate stems from a January Student’s Association (SA) meeting in which four campus activists first made the claim that 55 campuses organizations were violating the SA Constitution’s non-discrimination clause by either using gendered language in promotional material or limiting sporting activities to one gender.

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Now, after the four followed through on a promise to appeal the matter, the ACJC has ruled in their favor, declaring that “25 Greek organizations,” “nine club sports organizations,” and “three a cappella groups” are in potential violation of the clause.

According to a copy of the ruling, some student government representatives had attempted to spare Greek organizations from the ruling by arguing that they “are not SA-affiliated” since they are independently funded and are “therefore not subject to the non-discrimination clause.”

The ACJC, however, determined that while Greek organizations are not directly funded by the SA, they do “make use of resources that are funded by the SA” and could thus be theoretically subjected to the non-discrimination clause.

Consequently, the campus judiciary ordered that “any groups which receive material benefits, direct or indirect, from the SA are SA-affiliated organizations,” meaning they are subject to a “review” to ensure that each is “compliant with the non-discrimination clause of the SA constitution.”

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“Organizations found in violation of the policy must be brought into compliance to remain SA-affiliated and to continue benefiting from SA resource,” the ruling concludes, identifying the use of phrases like “any and all women” or “open to any male” to advertise club sports as potential violations.

Additionally, descriptors like “young men,” “men of principle,” and “group of women” in promotional materials for Greek organizations are also cited as possible violations of the non-discrimination clause.

Shortly after the ruling, the president and vice president of the SA released a statement clarifying that “the goal” of the ruling was to “review the inclusivity of the language governing SA-affiliated organizations,” promising that affected organizations will continue “normal operations” through “the 2017-2018 academic year.”

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Meanwhile, ACJC’s Chief Justice Alec Girten released a statement of his own in which he emphasizes that the ruling calls for a “review [of] all SA recognized clubs and organizations on campus to ensure that they are in compliance with the parameters of the non-discrimination clause.”

Reassuring nervous classmates that they would not be blindsided by sanctions, he asserted that “the ACJC has deliberately left the timeline for this review up to the discretion of the Administrative and Review Committee, meaning that affected student clubs and organizations are to continue normal operations until the Administration and Review Committee instructs groups to behave otherwise.”

Yet Chris Hodgman, president of the school’s College Republicans chapter, told Campus Reform that he worries the ruling could be used to force organizations, including athletic ones, to accept members of any gender.

“Club sports, Greek life, and a cappella groups are the most immediately impacted, but groups like the Society for Women Engineers fits the description as well,” he observed. “This ruling undermines the right of students to associate with whomever they please, and, in the case of club sports, forces students into a physically unsafe environment.”

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