Bob Dunning

Once is an error, twice is a pattern

By February 18, 2011

It’s not often you see a major university make headlines for dunderheadedness. But when the university making such headlines happens to butt up against the Davis city limits, I sit up and take notice.

Yes, there was our beloved institution of higher learning, UC Davis, scrambling to explain away charges that the campus somehow discriminates against Christians. While that charge would be hard to prove in any concrete way, an official UCD definition of “religious discrimination” outlined in the campus’ “Principles of Community” raised alarm bells for 25 Christian students who wear the Blue and Gold.

According to a statement by Alliance Defense Fund attorney David French, “Christians deserve the same protections against religious discrimination as any other students on a public university campus. It’s ridiculously absurd to single out Christians as oppressors and non-Christians as the only oppressed people on campus.”

According to a glossary of terms provided by the Office of Campus Community Relations – presumably for the benefit of students who might not otherwise know these definitions – the term “Religious/Spiritual Discrimination” is defined as “The loss of power and privilege to those who do not practice the dominant culture’s religion. In the United States, this is institutionalized oppressions toward those who are not Christian.”

In other words, Christians can be guilty of oppression toward non-Christians on the UC Davis campus, but non-Christians are somehow not capable of oppressing Christians.

I’ve seen bizarre definitions before, but this one is at the top of the list. Especially on a public university campus that presumes to be educating the very cream of the crop.

In a letter to UCD officials, Alliance Defense Fund-allied attorney Tim Swickard noted: “It is patently clear that UC Davis’ definition of religious discrimination is blatantly unconstitutional under both the Federal and California State Constitutions. The policy singles out some faiths for official school protection while denying the same protection to others solely on the basis of their particular religious views.”

Constitutionality aside, any third-grader could tell you that religious discrimination can cut more than one way.

To his credit, UCD administrator Rahim Reed said he removed the definition Wednesday afternoon, shortly after receiving the ADF’s complaint.

“I certainly can see how a Christian student reading that definition might feel and that’s why it was immediately disabled and taken down,” Reed told a national radio network. “This is not how we define religious discrimination.”

It may not be how it’s defined today on the Aggie campus, but it’s certainly how it was defined before the ADF got involved.

Unfortunately, while the ADF’s concern simply involved UCD’s religious discrimination definition, a quick look through the glossary from the Office of Campus Community Relations shows there are other definitions that Rahim Reed might wish to immediately disable.

For instance, under the definition of “racism,” we learn that “In the United States, it is the systematic oppression of people of color by white people.” I am not making this up.

Let’s go over that again. According to the definition provided by UC Davis to its 30,000 students, in the United States only white people are capable of racism. I may have to go back to college to understand this new way of thinking.

While there are even more official definitions that need to be disabled, there is a silver lining to all this.

At the very bottom of this goofball glossary are the words “Copyright the Regents of the University of California, Davis campus. All rights reserved.”

And that’s a good thing. I mean, the fact that it’s copyrighted means we can rest assured that no one else will spread these misguided notions to vulnerable students on other college campuses across the nation.

— Reach Bob Dunning at  [email protected] Comment on this column at www.davisenterprise.com

Bob Dunning

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