University of Wisconsin sets policy on disputed Bible studies

March 16, 2006

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Resident assistants are free to host Bible studies in their rooms, as well as sales or political meetings, under a policy adopted unanimously by the University of Wisconsin system’s Board of Regents.

The assistants, who receive stipends in exchange for supervising students in residence halls, are warned that they should create an inclusive environment and not use their positions to coerce people to attend.

University President Kevin Reilly said the policy balances students’ first amendment right to free speech against their duties as state employees.

The new policy applies to the system’s 13 four-year universities. Each campus will have to set up ways to address student complaints about their resident assistants, Reilly said.

The regents in effect rescinded policies at the Madison and Eau Claire campuses, where assistants were barred from religious or political meetings in their rooms.

Last fall, an Eau Claire student challenged the unwritten policy after he was warned he could face disciplinary action for hosting Bible studies. The student filed a federal lawsuit against the university.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which defends free speech rights on campus and supported the student’s claim, praised the new policy.

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