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The Perversity of Diversity

In California's state colleges, it's diversity yes, pluralism no

You’ve heard, perhaps, of the new California state university system policy that forces recognized campus groups to disallow any bar to leadership. Virginia Postrel explains how the policy’s effects fall particularly hard on the state’s minority students, who make up a majority of the overall student body (whites are only 29 percent).

Many of the upwardly mobile first- and second-generation immigrants who populate this proudly diverse system don’t think like the people who run it. The faculty and administration tend to be secular and socially liberal, while many students, particularly students of color, are traditionally religious and socially conservative.

“In their science classes or in their literature classes, what’s understood as the normative world view is different from their conservative evangelical world view,” says Rebecca Y. Kim, a sociologist at Pepperdine University who studies the religious experiences of Asian-American students, particularly the children of Korean immigrants, who dominate evangelical groups on many U.S. campuses. For these students, she suggest, Christian fellowship meetings provide what sociologists call “plausibility structures” — social groupings in which students’ religious beliefs and mores are treated as normal. “They get that space within the secular institution,” Kim says.


If the all-comers policy worked the way it sounds on paper, it would destroy the qualities that make religious fellowships valuable to students, especially ethnic minorities. “If you force them to have leaders who don’t have this distinct world view and belief system, it completely goes against the reason for their existence,” says Kim.

This week, Cal State de-recognized its InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapters under the rule. Yes, as crazy as it sounds, the university withdrew certification from a Christian organization because it requires its leaders to affirm a statement of faith. Let me repeat that: because a Christian organization will not agree to let a non-believer hold a leadership position within the organization, it is demoted to second-class status on campus. From the story:

Gregory L. Jao, the national field director for InterVarsity, which has 40,299 students and faculty participating in 949 chapters on 616 campuses across the country, said the policy’s impact started to be felt in the spring of 2013, when chapters submitted registration forms that were rejected by CSU campuses.

The conflict is part of the ongoing battle across the U.S. between religious freedom advocates and college administrators charged with creating inclusive environments on campus.

“There’s a chilling effect,” Jao said. “Your religious beliefs are so unimportant they can be replaced by a democratic election. Students understand it means they’re not welcome there because their religious convictions are outside the pale of what the university is willing to tolerate.”

This quote from Cal State’s lawyer exemplifies the idiocy of the thinking behind this policy:

“It doesn’t make sense to allow any group to discriminate on any grounds,” Westover said. “These are not private organizations existing out there. These are student groups that are based in our education setting. Our entire purpose is education. This is when our students are supposed to be exposed to new ideas, especially those that are in conflict.”

All student groups are debating societies, then? Really? The point of most religious organizations is not to debate whether or not the religion is true; the point, broadly speaking, is to come together for fellowship and worship, and perhaps evangelization, around a common set of beliefs. But then, the secular liberals who run the university system wouldn’t understand that, would they? And they can think of themselves as enlightened and tolerant by refusing to understand it.


InterVarsity’s chapter at Cal State Long Beach continues to hold its Soul Thirst gathering on campus Thursday nights in Room 100 of the Hall of Sciences.

Close to 100 students attended last Thursday’s meeting, which resembled a church service featuring praise music, prayer and testimonies, among other activities typically seen in evangelical gatherings.

Jasmine Kim, a 22-year-old music performance major, said she’s been a part of the group since her freshman year.

“It’s done so much for me,” Kim said. “I think it helps me see more of a spiritual life with God. I love how there’s such a diverse community.”

Ah, Miss Kim — that’s a Korean name, right? — what you don’t see is that this is not really diversity, not in the eyes of the California State University system. You will not be sufficiently diverse until you elect a lesbian pagan as your group’s recording secretary.

I’m not Evangelical, and I cannot bear praise music, but if I were out there, I would find it within me to go stand with those students, just because they’re refusing to be part of the California version of the Three-Self Patriotic Movement. 



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