Is ‘Derecognize’ a Word?

February 16, 2005

In response to Monday’s post regarding religious liberty, a reader asked:

What exactly does “derecognize” mean? And, what is the impact of not being “recognized”? I somehow doubt that the university can somehow prevent students from congregating with whomever they wish, so what am I missing?

At FIRE, we are so steeped in universities’ bureaucratic lingo that we often forget that terms sometimes don’t easily translate into the real world. At most schools, you can only reserve space for meetings on campus, advertise on campus, receive funding from the student activity fee, and conduct other basic associational or expressive activities if you are “recognized” by the university’s student life department. “Recognized” student organizations are the organizations that function on campus, and to be “de-recognized” is to be destroyed, banned, expelled (choose your term).

So, if you ever hear an administrator say, “Sure, they can form a group, but we don’t have to recognize it,” you know you are being spun. In reality, the administrator is saying, “Sure, they can form a group, but we don’t have to let it exist.” What is at stake in federal court in North Carolina today is, quite simply, the very existence of a secure, viable, and distinct religious voice in our nation’s universities.