Liberty U Institutes New Policy for Political Student Clubs

The chancellor of Liberty University has instituted a new policy to regulate political clubs that seek to operate on campus.

The policy, announced by Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. this past week, was created amid the controversy that arose over the school's decision last month to withdraw recognition from the student-run College Democrats.

Under the new policy, the College Democrats will be able to hold events on campus and reserve meeting rooms once again – something that "unofficial clubs" were not able to do before. Furthermore, the College Republicans, which were previously recognized by the Lynchburg, Va.-based school, will also be classified as an "unofficial club."

"We had no policy governing unofficial clubs before all of this controversy," Falwell told the school newspaper Tuesday. "The new policy will allow Liberty to protect its Christian mission and at the same time will allow the political clubs to achieve their objectives."

"Throughout this disagreement, our goal has always been to be on equal footing with our counterparts, the College Republicans," added College Democrats secretary Jan Dervish. "With the new club policy in place, we were able to accomplish our goal and can all move forward."

The creation of the new policy lays to rest the controversy that has engulfed the school since news broke of the College Democrats' change of status.

The club had been informed last month by LU Student Affairs VP Mark Hine that they could no longer be recognized after a new policy on club governance was completed, adopted, and made effective by the Liberty University School of Law.

The policy, which Hine said the College Democrats did not comply with, states: "No student club or organization shall be approved, recognized or permitted to meet on campus, advertise, distribute or post materials, or use University facilities if the statements, positions, doctrines, policies, constitutions, bylaws, platforms, activities or events of such club or organization, its parent, affiliate, chapter or similarly named group (even if the similarly named group is not the actual parent, affiliate or chapter) are inconsistent or in conflict with the distinctly Christian mission of the University, the Liberty Way, the Honor Code, or the policies and procedures promulgated by the University."

After a copy of Hine's e-mail reached media, a flurry of reports were published claiming that university officials " banned" the club from campus, banned them from meeting, and claimed that a person cannot be a Christian and a Democrat.

"The story was spun out of control from the beginning," commented Falwell less than a week after the press jumped on the story.

"The students who formed the Democrat club last October are good students. They are pro-life and believe in traditional marriage. They can continue to meet on campus," continued the chancellor, whose father, the late Jerry Falwell, founded the university.

"The only thing that has changed came about as part of a University-wide review of all student organizations for official recognition status. Official recognition carries with it the benefit of using the University name and funds. While this group will not be an officially recognized club, it may still meet on campus," he added.

Notably, however, the club diplomatically acknowledged that while it was allowed to meet on campus, without the ability to reserve space on campus for our meetings, they believe it would be "logistically impossible to function as a student group."

"We would never be guaranteed of using the same room more than once, and it would be difficult to issue meeting notices to our members without a regular location, especially as the size of our organization grows beyond what can be accommodated in the common areas," explained Maria Childress, the club's sponsor at the time of the controversy. "This remains a major hurdle to functioning as an unendorsed club."

Though the new policy won't take effect until the 2009-10 academic year, Dervish told The Christian Post on Thursday that "It's really a non-issue."

"To be honest, neither the College Republicans nor the College Democrats do much of anything over the summer (as a group)," he said. "Most of our members are spread out all over for summer break."

In his comments to the school newspaper, meanwhile, Dervish said he was "pleased that the both the College Democrats and the university were able to work together and reach a compromise that is fair to everyone involved."

"The willingness of the administration to work with our student club has been fantastic," he added.

Founded in 1971 by the late Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr., Liberty University touts itself as the largest and fastest growing Christian Evangelical university in the world.

Notable alumni include evangelist Franklin Graham, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, and Christian music artists tobyMac, Michael Tait, and Phil Stacey.