Education

University of Iowa deregisters another 38 groups

Christian student group's lawsuit prompted campuswide review

Jake Estell (foreground), Liz Swanson and Brett Eikenberry, members of Business Leaders in Christ, or BlinC, set up a display in January at the University of Iowa Student Organization Fair at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. The group sued the UI to continue as a registered campus group, even though it barred a gay student from becoming a leader in the organization, violating the university’s human rights policy. A federal judge agreed the UI’s policy was being unequally enforced and allowed the group to be at the fair until the lawsuit is decided. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Jake Estell (foreground), Liz Swanson and Brett Eikenberry, members of Business Leaders in Christ, or BlinC, set up a display in January at the University of Iowa Student Organization Fair at the Iowa Memorial Union in Iowa City. The group sued the UI to continue as a registered campus group, even though it barred a gay student from becoming a leader in the organization, violating the university’s human rights policy. A federal judge agreed the UI’s policy was being unequally enforced and allowed the group to be at the fair until the lawsuit is decided. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has deregistered another 38 student groups after a federal judge found it unequally enforced its human rights policy by kicking off campus a student organization that had barred an openly gay member from becoming a leader.

At least 22 of the newly deregistered groups are organized around religion, culture or ideology.

They include Imam Mahdi, a Muslim-based student organization highlighted by the judge who found viewpoint might have motivated the university’s “differential treatment” last fall of the faith-based group Business Leaders in Christ, or BLinC.

The groups that recently lost campus affiliation — and benefits that come with it, like access to university facilities and student fees — automatically were deregistered after failing to comply with a UI request they submit governing documents proving they observe the UI’s human rights policy.

The university made that request after BLinC leaders sued the UI for kicking it off campus following a complaint it wouldn’t let an openly gay member seek a leadership post.

BLinC argued the university discriminated against it for its viewpoint, noting other student organizations also limit membership and leadership to students with similar ideology, cultural background, or beliefs — like Imam Mahdi, which is restricted to Shia Muslims, or Students for Life, restricted to individuals with “pro-life beliefs.”

The university argued it was right to deregister BLinC because institutional policy, modeled upon the Iowa Civil Rights Act, requires student organization membership be open to anyone, regardless of race, creed, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, gender identity or other protected class.

Although merits of the case have yet to be decided, with a jury trial scheduled for March 2019, a U.S. District Court judge agreed BLinC was singled out and ordered the university let the group remain on campus until the legal dispute is resolved.

Before the judge’s ruling, UI attorneys said the school did not proactively enforce compliance with its policy but rather responded only to complaints.

After the ruling, the university in late January and early February reviewed hundreds of its student organizations’ governing documents and found 356 were out of compliance by failing to have the full and correct human rights clause in their constitutions.

Of those reviewed, 157 included the full and correct clause, according to court documents.

On April 20, the university emailed non-compliant groups, giving them until May 3 to update language in their constitutions. On June 1, the university set a final deadline for compliance of June 15.

On June 8, according to court documents, the university had 561 registered student groups — 375 in compliance and 186 still had not complied. The non-compliant total included 50-plus fraternities and sororities, which have not before been required to produce constitutions.

Those Greek chapters have until Sept. 4 to comply with the university mandate, and UI spokeswoman Anne Bassett this week told The Gazette that 17 have done so.

“It is our understanding the rest of the chapters (36) are planning to return to campus this fall and vote on a change to their bylaws or constitution,” she said.  

Now that the deadline for all other groups has passed, with 38 failing to comply, the UI registered student organization total has dropped to 525, which includes the fraternities and sororities.

The university also had three organizations choose to deregister, including Global Buddies, NASP Graduate Student Organization, and Students Today, Leaders Forever.

BLinC is the only UI-affiliated student group that remains technically out of compliance, despite the university’s repeated appeals for its deregistration.

“There is pending litigation involving BLinC, and the federal district court has ordered the university to maintain BLinC’s registration status until the conclusion of the litigation,” Bassett said.

l Comments: (319) 339-3158; vanessa.miller@thegazette.com

DEREGISTERED

Here is a list of the deregistered student organizations at the University of Iowa, as of Thursday:

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Asian Pacific American Student Association (U of I)

Association of Nursing Students (UIANS)

Bass Fishing Team (Iowa)

Chinese Dance Club

Chinese in Iowa City

Christian Pharmacy Fellowship

Chinese Student Christian Fellowship

CMA EDU

Code the Change

Cookie Dokie

English Society

Financial Management Association

Geneva Campus Ministry

German Club

Hong Kong Student Association

Imam Mahdi Organization

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers

InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship

Iowa American Student Dental Association

Japanese Students and Scholars Club

J. Reuben Clark Law Society

Korean Conversation Group

Korean Uiowa Students Association

Latter-day Saint Student Association

Malaysian Student Society

MEDLIFE (Medicine, Education and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere)

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (UI Chapter of NAACP)

Persatuan Mahasiswa Indonesia di Amerika Serikat (Indonesian Student Organization)

Phi Beta Lambda

Public Relations Student Society of America

Red Shamrock Student Organization

Revolution Dance Company

Sikh Awareness Club

Student Iowa School Counseling Association

Students for Human Rights

Wall-Breakers

Young Americans for Liberty

Young Life

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