RA-Led Bible Studies Impetus Behind Proposed UW System Policy

March 10, 2006

A campus watchdog group is calling on the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents to rescind the school’s Bible study ban and instead approve a new policy that would allow RAs lead or take part in Bible studies in their rooms.

Kevin Reilly, president of the University of Wisconsin (UW) System, has proposed a policy that would let resident assistants take part in or lead any meeting they want, including Bible studies in their rooms, provided they do not force anyone into attending. The policy, he says, encourages RAs “to take full advantage of what our campuses offer them as students themselves, and at the same time, helps them create an open and inclusive environment for students who live on campus.”

Reilly devised the plan after the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and other groups protested a decision by the Eau Claire campus to ban a resident assistant from leading Bible studies in his dorm room. FIRE interim president Greg Lukianoff says after weeks of trampling the First Amendment rights of RAs, UW is “poised to restore” those rights.

“I’m very pleased with the decision that Reilly has made here, and we do support it — and we hope and expect that the Board of Regents will approve this change,” Lukianoff says. “I am surprised it has taken this long, but better late than never.”

According to the FIRE spokesman, UW-Eau Claire has been erroneously claiming that RA-led Bible studies may lead students to view the resident assistants as “unapproachable.” Lukianoff finds that claim hypocritical.

“That’s just completely contrary to what universities often preach, which is multiculturalism, which is all about tolerance toward difference,” he points out. “The amazing hypocrisy of all this is for a university to say, ‘Well, if you really are different than some other students, and you are a student of deep faith, could you please hide that to make other students more comfortable?'”

The new policy affirming resident assistants’ rights is to be voted on today (March 10) by the UW Board of Regents during day two of their March meeting. The UW System website says if the policy is adopted, each institution within the System would be responsible for developing a process to address complaints if students claim that a resident assistant violates the policy.

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Schools: University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Cases: University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire: Ban on RAs’ Leading Bible Studies