An article run in the Collegiate Times news section, titled “Bill sitting on Gov. McDonnell’s desk to affect student organizations,” by Melissa Draudt, highlighted two bills that are currently awaiting the signature of the governor. SB 1074, and its House counterpart HB 1617, represent a shocking new step in the direction of what some are calling “religious freedom” at public institutions of higher education, but nothing fits the bills better than the term “intolerance.”
HB 1617 asserts, “A religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization’s internal affairs … are in furtherance of the organization’s religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities,” essentially equating to the ability of a religious or political student organization to discriminate against other members of the student body with regard to membership, policies and leadership selection.
George Barker, one of three Democrats that voted in favor of the bill, defended his position, stating, “We shouldn't force someone who is going to be antithetical to the group's mission to be allowed to join that group.” However, this is shortsighted.
While the bill possesses the words “religious” and “political” to describe which groups may discriminate, with enough manipulation, nearly all student organizations could be allowed to discriminate against other members of the student body.
That being said, individuals that pose as antithetical to a group and pursue a course of disruption would undoubtedly be in violation of harassment policies not only here at Virginia Tech, but at most universities across the state and would certainly not have the ability to possess a leadership position anyhow.
It is also important to note that there is a differentiation between honor societies, fraternities and sororities, and ordinary student organizations, as the former molds its membership through academic, extracurricular and personal evaluation, but does not discriminate against any one group of individuals.
Not only does this bill allow for organizations to both exclude individuals and possess sole discretion over exclusionary bases, it also bars public universities from reprimanding student organizations by denying the organizations funding and other resources, according to metroweekly.com.