You'd better Recognize
*I now think I had better preface this post by saying that the views expressed here represent only the views of the author and not the [UW] KC council 6568 or its leadership.*
Blog by request. Badger Tracker asks: “Does anyone know about this situation with UW derecognizing the Knights of Columbus as a student group? Fill us in if you do!”
As the former Grand Knight of the group formerly known as the UW-Knights of Columbus, and as the only member with a blog, I figured I should field this.
The KC council reapplied last May, using the same application as they had used in previous years. This was the response: (thanks to Brad Vogel)
We have received your application for student organization registration for
the Knights of Columbus Council (UW). In reviewing your application, I have
1) In the application under membership requirements you list "Any UW student with an interest in Catholicism." Yet on your website under the How to Join section, you list "Membership in the Knights of Columbus is open to practicing Catholic men in union with the Holy See, who are at least 18 years old. A practicing Catholic is one who lives up to the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church. Application blanks are available from any member of the Knights of Columbus."
Per the statement of non-discrimination which you agreed to when you filed the application, student organizations must abide by the following: University policy, as well as Federal, State and City laws, prohibits discrimination by Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, disability, ancestry, age, sexual orientation, pregnancy, marital status, or parental status. University-affiliated groups may not discriminate on these prohibited grounds in selecting or initiating new members, in selecting officers, or in providing any aid, benefit, or service. Most groups receiving funds, office space or other significant assistance from the university are also prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex in choosing members or providing services. Each student organization is responsible for assuring that its membership procedures and service provision are nondiscriminatory. Do you or would you accept as a member a woman or a person of another faith? Could you also please share an application blank with me.
2) Regarding your membership, how many members are students and how many non-students?
3) How are decisions made? Do you have an advisory or executive board and if so, how many of the board members are students? How many are non-students? How many of your officers or execs are students? How many are non-students?
4) What the requirements to hold an officer or executive level position?
5) Could you also provide further information on how your group is "related to student life"? In addition to the activities of any Knights of Columbus Council, how is the UW Council specifically related to student life?
I look forward to hearing back from you. Thanks. Yvonne
Yvonne Fangmeyer, Director
Student Organization Office
The group then submitted an application for an affiliate group. One without any membership restrictions, allowing women, non-Catholics. This has not been accepted yet.
The issue is the council requirement, established by the Supreme Council laws, that members must be practical Catholics. The University has also derecognized the UW Roman Catholic Foundation on similar claims. The Alliance Defense Fund has taken up the issue with the University, citing precedent. They are arguing that refusing to recognize the KC’s is a violation of their First Amendment rights to speech and association. Their letter to the UW can be found here.
Personally, I agree that the council does violate the University’s anti-discrimination policy. And not giving the group University recognition does not prevent the group from meeting (as we have continued to do all summer). But the proposed affiliate group does not discriminate, so there should be no issue with that. And I actually prefer having an affiliated group as the SRO. It should get more people involved in the activities the KC council does, which is something I think the council needs. So what if it doesn’t result in more official members? The council exists to provide an opportunity for UW students to actually practice their faith, to help others, and to get to know others with similar intentions. And it is my hope that enough female students would be interested that they could form their own “sister group” to the KC council, both linked to the affiliate group.
I have a feeling the University will happily accept the affiliate group proposal, rather than take the issue to court. And that’s probably best for everyone, in my opinion. If you’ve got a better idea, let me know.
*UPDATE: The University of Wisconsin announced that it reached an agreement with the Knights of Columbus yesterday to create a student group open to all students that will be recognized by the University in time for the beginning of Fall semester.
UPDATE: On Thursday, the faculty adviser to the Knights of Columbus denied that an agreement had been reached with the University of Wisconsin.
UPDATE: Later on Thursday, the University apologized for its erroneous announcement of an agreeement with K of C. (Gazette Extra).
UPDATE: Mark Green senses an opportunity to bash Doyle and the UW regents.