UI student organizations participate in recruitment fair after being deregistered

After 38 student organizations were deregistered this summer for not complying with the UI’s human rights policy, some of them were in attendance at Thursday’s student organization fair after being reinstated.


Shivansh Ahuja

Tony Branch from the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County speaks to an inquiring student at the student Organization Fair in the IMU on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018.

Elianna Novitch , Politics Reporter

After the University of Iowa deregistered 38 organizations this summer for their failure to adhere to the university’s human-rights policy while the university is in the middle of a pending lawsuit, some of the recently reinstated student organizations were in attendance at Thursday’s Student Organization Fair.

Some of the groups that were in attendance at the organization fair included Chinese Student Christian Fellowship, InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, Business Leaders in Christ, and College Young Life.

“We’re glad to be back. It means a lot to us to be a student organization,” Director of College Young Life James Tutson said. “College Young Life is for all students, and we’re glad to be for all students and have an organization where every student is welcome.”

Tutson said the organization was deregistered because of conflict between different parts of the Young Life organization when it came to beliefs. Conversations with the organization’s main department allowed them to work out what it means to be on a college campus and how to be inclusive of all students.

Earlier this summer, the UI contacted all registered student organizations asking them to submit documentation to ensure they were abiding by the human-rights policy. Specifically, the UI asked groups to remove language from their constitutions that required its leaders to share the group’s beliefs.

Of the more than 500 student organizations on campus that were contacted, 38 failed to comply. Among the 38 were a variety of religious groups of different faith backgrounds, including InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship.

InterVarsity filed a lawsuit against the university after being deregistered, arguing that its constitutional rights had been violated and that it should be allowed to participate on campus as an active student organization.

“When InterVarsity filed its lawsuit, it wasn’t just [that group] that was deregistered,” Becket Fund for Religious Liberty attorney Daniel Blomberg said. “It was the Sikh Awareness Club, the Imam Mahdi Muslim group, the Latter Day Saints group, the Chinese Christian Club — there were a bunch of different groups that had these same core religious commitments from different faith backgrounds that were also deregistered.”

Becket Fund is representing both InterVarsity and Business Leaders in Christ, another UI student organization, in their lawsuits against the UI.

“When InterVarsity filed its lawsuit, it ended up negotiating an agreement with the university that not only got InterVarsity back on campus but allowed all of the religious groups who had been deregistered to be able to participate on campus again,” Blomberg said.

InterVarsity declined to comment on its participation in the Student Organization Fair and its lawsuit against the UI.

The UI sent an email to student organizations on Aug. 13 alerting them of their reinstatement.

“Any student organization having indicated ‘Spiritual & Religious’ as a First, Second, or Third Category will be considered a Registered Student Organization until the litigation against the UI involving student organizations is resolved,” Vice President for Student Life Melissa Shivers said in the email. “If your student organization has been deregistered or your student organization’s status is pending, your student organization is considered a Registered Student Organization.”

The UI’s enforcement of its human-rights policy comes after a federal judge ruled that it was unequally enforcing its policy when it deregistered Business Leaders in Christ. The university found merit in a complaint made against the organization by then-UI sophomore Marcus Miller. He said the group revoked a leadership position from him upon finding out he was gay.

The group filed a lawsuit against the UI, arguing that the school was singling out the organization. A judge later sided with the student group and ordered the university to reinstate the organization until the lawsuit is resolved.

Blomberg said that until the lawsuits are settled, the student organizations will be able to be active on campus, and they have to be treated equally. Business Leaders in Christs and InterVarsity’s lawyers will submit evidence to the federal judge and hope to have a ruling in the spring or early summer of 2019.

“That evidence, we think, is going to be pretty overwhelming and show that the university still isn’t treating religious groups equally,” Blomberg said.