E-mail from Central Michigan University Office of Student Life to the Presidents of all Campus Registered Student Organizations, March 28, 2007

The following message is for the Presidents of all CMU Student Organizations that are Registered for Spring, 2007
March 28, 2007

Dear RSO Presidents:

In the fall 2007 semester, a change will be made to the Central Michigan University Registered Student Organization Manual. The issue involved affects the core values of the university, including freedom of speech and diversity. Therefore, it is important that registered student organizations be aware of the pending change as soon as possible.

On March 16, 2007, Central Michigan University received an inquiry from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) questioning the university’s non-discrimination clause in its Registered Student Organization Manual. Specifically, FIRE contends that the manual, as written, bars expressive organizations from prohibiting membership in the organization to individuals who disagree with the mission or purpose of the group.

This inquiry prompted a review of CMU’s policy and general counsel has advised that the legal principle in question is “freedom of association,” which has been protected by the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, in several cases. Like most universities, CMU will not oppose established principles as promulgated by the highest courts.

To comply with the law, CMU will change its policy governing registered student organizations to include the following:

A belief-based registered student organization may use its belief system as a criterion for selection of membership or leadership. The beliefs on which membership will be limited must be set forth in the constitution of the RSO. No student who meets the belief criteria for membership can be denied membership on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, handicap or age. If a belief-based RSO exercises this provision, it may not discriminate on the basis of, nor inquire about the beliefs of individuals with respect to, the admission of students to its meetings and activities.

This change will be implemented prior to the beginning of the Fall 2007 semester, allowing the Office of Student Life an opportunity to communicate with all registered student organizations. The timing also coincides with the re-registration of RSOs for the new academic year. If any student organization experiences a problem with limiting membership during that time, Tony Voisin, director of student life, or Tom Idema, assistant director of student life should be notified.

Schools: Central Michigan University Cases: Central Michigan University: Student Group’s Freedom of Association Under Attack