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The Blue & Gray Press | August 19, 2019

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Senate bill promotes safety and privacy, not discrimination


The recent Senate Bill 1074, mentioned in a letter to the editor in the Feb. 28 issue of the Bullet, regarding student clubs’ right to ban members who do not align with their values, is still awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s decision. However, if this bill is passed, the implications for the University of Mary Washington will be virtually nonexistent.

The purpose of SB1074 is to protect religious or political minorities on campuses and uphold the right to assemble freely, safely and publicly. At other universities, there have been issues regarding disrespectful behavior because students join these clubs to ridicule or judge, making members uncomfortable.

Ideally, UMW’s Statement of Non-Discrimination should protect the clubs just as much as it protects the students’ right to join. Hate speech, hate crimes and other appalling acts are prohibited of course. However, what about those instances when it’s more subtle, and thus unworthy of judicial proceedings?

For instance, as chairman of College Republicans, I have noticed that our club has occasionally seen backlash from a small number of students on campus. We have historically held our meetings in Virginia Hall Parlor. Last year, two students entered our meetings every week and sat across the room, making snide comments and laughing. When our then chairman confronted them, the girls told us they did not have to leave. And they were right–they didn’t. So we just dealt with it week after week until they lost interest, and this year we opted to move our meeting place to avoid that situation.

I am also an active member of UMW’s Black Student Association, even though I am not black. UMW’s Statement of Non-Discrimination means they cannot ask me to leave their group. However, if black students on campus wanted their group to be exclusive–perhaps this club being their only escape from a campus dominated by white students–and they looked to ban me from their club, that should be their right. It is reasonable for them to want that private space. As a student who does not fit the very basic description for membership, I am not being discriminated against for being removed.

Furthermore, the significance of this bill largely targets religious groups across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Spirituality is both intimate and private; it is invasive to have outsiders present. I like to think we don’t have a tolerance problem at UMW because we tend to be very respectful, and hopefully religious groups here do feel secure.

Nonetheless, not every college across the Commonwealth fosters the same unbiased, accepting community we are privileged to have at UMW. Larger universities in particular are more at risk for intolerance because there is not a focus on the individual. This bill is not an attack on UMW’s Statement of Non-Discrimination and Diversity Inclusion policies, but rather protection for student groups who feel marginalized and alienated from the majority viewpoint.

Personally, I would hope that each university could be responsible for their diversity and inclusion discrepancies rather than having state government involvement but here we are. Nonetheless, the culture at UMW is one of integrity and respect. We are open-minded and actively invested in a community that fosters tolerance and understanding. SB1074 will not change that.

Elizabeth Brennan is the JRB president.


  1. Mambo No. 5

    If I want to join the Republicans and I’m a pro-choice, atheist Republican who supports gay marriage and nobody else in that club does, they should not be allowed to kick me out. Period. That is discrimination and persecution. Just because you had a couple people trolling you for a few meetings doesn’t mean a bill should pass that would allow me to get kicked out of any student association for any reason they gin up and are totally protected by law in doing so.

    I cannot believe you are the JRB president.

  2. Will Bailey

    Sounds like 1960 in reverse to me. I think there is a reason UMW has a non discrimination policy and you just walked all over it. I think students should conduct themselves with proper behavior, but should discriminate. I mean if a gay student goes to an organization on campus that might have religious or contrary political undertones, why should be be kicked out because of sexual preference. I am surprised a student leader would be promoting that sort of behavior, especially one that should be representing students. I hope the SGA does not let this bill pass.

  3. Dumb

    This has literally nothing to do with SGA or JRB. “I hope SGA does not let this bill pass”–good luck with that. The Governor of VA makes this decision. If you think SGA has any significant influence in Richmond, you’re mistaken.

    While I disagree with the premise of some of the arguments above, Liz has been BY FAR the best JRB president this campus has seen in my four years. Bullet editors added her position at the end of the piece–not the author (which was my problem with the other letter to the editor about this issue).

    Attack the issues. Respect the person. Otherwise, you’re just an ignorant asshole.

  4. Semi-Charmed Life

    I wasn’t trying to attack her specifically with my comment; I was simply stating my surprise that the JRB president–who is essentially the student body’s judge and you’d want to be all for fairness and equality–is the same person writing a letter to the editor about how a bill that would forever legalize discrimination in student organizations.

  5. Jumper

    …is good.

    I forgot to put “is good” at the end of that last post. OK. Carry on.

  6. Will Bailey

    I don’t see why the JRB President supports reverse discrimination.

  7. Damn Jeremy, you really had to trawl hard to find this one from a few weeks ago.

  8. Please

    Would you please stop? Why do you bully everyone on the comments of all of Liz’s articles?