Breaking Campus News. Launching Media Careers.
Wichita State Accused of Religious Discrimination

Wichita State University recently imposed a new rule that prohibited any “non-scholarly religious” student group from receiving university funding. Almost immediately, WSU received pressure from students and religious rights groups who were upset by the rule, calling it a case of religious discrimination. This pressure ultimately led WSU to reverse its position and restore funding for student groups with a religious purpose.

The school’s reversal came about after the Student Government Association ruling prompted a WSU student to contact The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ). According to the organization’s website, the student informed them that Wichita State “had enacted a student fee policy that explicitly discriminated against religious speech.”

In response to the complaint, ACLJ wrote a letter to the University threatening to take legal action and demanding a repeal.

ACLJ asked for removal of a line in WSU’s Funding Act which read, “11.2 The following items are considered non-funded items: …11.2.15 Any non-scholarly religious activity”

The line was removed Feb. 15.

A change like this one usually requires two readings of the bill, according to an article by The Sunflower, WSU’s newspaper. In this case though, a motion was passed for immediate voting on the amendment.

The Sunflower reported that some members of the student government were reluctant to remove the line. Nevertheless, the arguments the ACLJ presented in its letter motivated all but one student senator to vote in favor of removing the funding exclusion.

The funds administered by the student government are drawn from student fees paid by all WSU students.

According to a statement released by ACLJ, “Other student groups could (and did) receive funding for a wide variety of non-scholarly activities, but religious groups faced a unique restriction. This rule clearly violated the constitution.”

Graduate senator Joe Brungardt was involved in the decision to amend the act. Brungardt said that he believes the removal of the exclusionary line in the Funding Act was warranted because of the nature of college as a formative part of one’s life.

“While you can make the argument that colleges are an academic environment, that it is a public institution and should have no ties to matters of faith, I believe that forming the whole person is of paramount importance: awakening ourselves from an anesthesia” he said.

Brungardt thinks that students learn not only from speeches and books, but also by experience.

“We can’t sit down and reduce our lives and others’ to an idea, an ideology,” he said. “If this means funding “non-scholarly religious activity,” to get to this [broader] experience, then that should be done.”

While a formal process is necessary to request funding, students requesting funding can come to SGA meetings to further their applications. “It really helps to come to the meetings and make your case in person,” Brungardt said.

The Student Government Association at Wichita State can still take a funding request into consideration and approve or deny it, according to Brungardt.

Under the newly revised rules, however, no student group will be excluded from consideration solely on the basis of religious affiliation.

Fix contributor Abigail Wilson is a student at Benedictine College.

Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter

Please join the conversation about our stories on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, MeWe, Rumble, Gab, Minds and Gettr.