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Sunday, April 14, 2013
I would be lying if I said I did not have qualms about Sen. Mark Obenshain’s recent Campus Clubs Bill. First of all, what specific issues or recent historical examples pre-empted the creation of this law? In my entire collegiate experience, I have never heard of something like this being an issue. Over the last few weeks, I have been researching statewide and national instances of internal or external organizational conflicts regarding membership, with little evidence for this law’s justification. Obenshain also described his bill as “equal opportunity.” By definition, equal opportunity is the act of nondiscrimination, quite the opposite of the law’s intent.
The justification that “a vegan organization can restrict membership from meat-eaters” is illogical. First, it is not often that someone seeks membership in an organization whose mission he fundamentally disagrees with. Those students who are looking to associate have every right to create their own organization, and probably would, rather than attempting to infiltrate another. How often does a member of the Democratic Party switch lines to be a Republican just to run against a Republican in a primary election, or to make the party itself suffer? Also, under this law, the Virginia Tech Student Government could theoretically pass a bylaw restricting membership of African-Americans because it believes in white supremacy. Based on the language of the Campus Clubs Bill that would technically be legal — and sickening.
Most troublesome is the fact that less than two weeks before this legislation was brought forward, more than 100 representatives from Virginia Tech met with members of Virginia’s legislature, including with Obenshain himself. I had the privilege of introducing myself to him with a firm handshake and kind words, but to my knowledge, no representative from Virginia Tech heard anything about this bill.
As a constituency directly affected by this new law, it surprises me that something so important was not discussed with the students, faculty and administration of one of the largest universities in Virginia. Within two weeks, a bill that was not presented publicly until it came up for discussion, kept away from members of the Virginia Tech community and controversial in nature seemed to slip through the legislative process without any attention at all. It appears the argument that this law is freedom of association, protected under the First Amendment, is more of a clever political association to mask an anti-inclusionary agenda.
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