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ISSUE 119 VOL 18 PUBLISHED 4/28/2006

Proposal paused

By Emelie Heltsley
News Editor


Friday, April 28, 2006

At last Thursday's Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting, Curriculum and Education Policies Committee (CEPC) Senator Tyler Hauger '08 made two proposals regarding the affirmation of St. Olaf as a Reconciling in Christ (RIC) campus community. If approved by the Senate, one proposal would affirm and support making St. Olaf a RIC community, and the other would request that the Board of Regents create a working group to discuss the possibility of giving St. Olaf the RIC label.

Neither of the proposals would make St. Olaf a RIC college, but would express the Senate's support of the proposed designation to the Board of Regents. Senate would then request that a recommendation be made to the Board of Regents from the working group by June 2007.

Emmy Kegler '07 spoke to the Senate as one of the heads of the RIC proposal movementt and answered any questions the senators had. She defined a RIC congregation as a "Lutheran congregation [that is] fully accepting to gay members."

Kegler presented the four main steps for a school to have the RIC label. It must have a RIC congregation, it must have non-discriminatory policies, it must have support groups for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) members of the campus and it must receive affirmation from the Board of Regents.

According to Kegler, the RIC affirmation would be just that – a statement to "acknowledge what the community is doing in name and practice."

Kegler also addressed several concerns that Senate members brought to the table, the first being problems with the religious connotations of the RIC proposal. RIC is currently specifically Lutheran in nature, and only Lutheran congregations and colleges can receive it.

Kegler stressed religion’s centrality to the St. Olaf community.

"St. Olaf is a religious institution," she said.

Another concern was the political nature of the statement. Kegler said that becoming a RIC community would in no way become a main focus in admissions literature or lead to a change in the mission statement.

"It is important to be honest about who we are," Kegler said. "We are RIC in everything but name."

Instead, the proposal’s goal would be to continue dialogue about the subject around campus. Kegler stressed that being RIC "would in no way end the discussions on homosexuality," but would "welcome GLBT members to join in the discussion."

Senators also brought up the seemingly low number of signatures in support of the proposal, and wondered if it was enough to mandate campus-wide approval of the proposal. Of 714 signatures, 649 were from students.

"This is clearly more than the RIC label," SGA President Thomas Rusert '06 said. "Even though the criteria about RIC is mainly policy, it does not say anything about the state of the community."

Rusert stressed the need for senators to contact their constituents and make personal decisions about what they personally can endorse. Dean of Students Greg Kneser said that the senators had to make an important decision regarding the RIC proposal, a decision that will influence the whole campus.

"This is an issue for the college," Kneser said. "It's what you're elected to do, and it deals with who we are."

The other main concern expressed by senators about the proposals was the 13-month delay between a Senatorial vote on the proposals and the June 2007 "deadline" for the Board of Regents to decide whether or not St. Olaf would be a RIC community.

"This is the amount of time that they need," Board of Regents Student Committee Chair-Elect Peter Hill '08 said. "The Board may not know this dialogue is happening."

Kneser also expressed his approval of the time frame and of giving the St. Olaf community time to talk about the RIC proposal before asking the Board to make a decision.

"Giving them a year is the process that people felt was lacking in the WCAL decision," Kneser said, referring to the Board's decision to sell the college-owned radio station in 2004.

Kneser also said that the delay would help President-Elect David R. Anderson gauge the possible effects of the decision.

"President Anderson needs this time to take a measure of the institution," Kneser said.

The RIC proposal will be brought up again for a potential vote at Thursday's Senate meeting. If passed, Senate will officially endorse St. Olaf as a RIC community and will request the Board of Regent's affirmation by June 2007.

Senate will also ask the Board of Regents to create a working group to promote discussion about the issue. If passed, Senate hopes to talk with the Alumni Association at its October meeting.





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