Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. has instituted a new policy that sets forth regulations for all political clubs wishing to operate on campus.
Political clubs will now be classified as “unofficial clubs” and will not receive funding from Liberty. However, they will be allowed to use Liberty’s name, “as long as they make it clear they are not being endorsed by the university,” the policy reads. They will also be able to use the school’s master calendar to schedule meeting rooms on campus.
Liberty withdrew recognition of LU’s College Democrats last month, saying it will not endorse a group that supports candidates who are not aligned with Liberty’s core values — mainly pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.
Controversy arose as local and national media reported LU’s College Democrats had been banned from campus — based on statements from the club’s former sponsor — when, in fact, they had not been banned but had been changed to “unofficial” status (meaning at the time they could not use Liberty University’s name in their activities and they were free to meet in several venues on campus, such as the Student Center, the dining hall, empty classrooms and other common areas).
“We had no policy governing unofficial clubs before all of this controversy,” Falwell said 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.”
The new policy, to take effect for the 2009-10 academic year, states that unofficial clubs “will be subject to some of the same rules and regulations as the official clubs. For example, they will not be permitted to use any of the university’s facilities or resources for purposes that are in conflict with the university’s mission statement or doctrinal beliefs.”
“Before all this happened, unofficial clubs had no privileges; they could not meet in certain meeting rooms on campus,” Falwell said. “But the other side of that coin was there were no restrictions on what they could do on campus or otherwise, so the new policy will protect Liberty by giving the university the ability to decide which events on campus are appropriate and compatible with our Christian mission. It will help the clubs because it will give them the ability to hold events on campus and to reserve meeting rooms, so it’s a positive for both.”
Falwell said the administration and current club members have “a good working relationship.”
Club secretary Jan Dervish said he is glad a new policy is in place.
“Throughout this disagreement, our goal has always been to be on equal footing with our counterparts, the College Republicans. With the new club policy in place, we were able to accomplish our goal and can all move forward."
He said the policy is a result of the administration’s willingness to reach a compromise.
“While we were initially disappointed with the decision to revoke our recognition, we are 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,” he said. “The willingness of the administration to work with our student club has been fantastic. Chancellor Falwell and Dr. [Mark] Hine have been open and accessible through this whole ordeal; Hine met personally with me after this story broke out, and the chancellor has replied back to my emails at one [o’clock] in the morning on more than one occasion.”