As President of the University of Mary Washington Student Government Association and the Student Representative to the Board of Visitors, it is my honor to represent every student at the university. I represent the views of students from all walks of life and who have different ethnicities, genders, national origins, opinions, political affiliations, races, religions and sexual orientations. While I do my best to represent everyone, I also work to create a campus environment where every single student is accepted for who they are.
This past week, the Virginia Legislature passed SB1074, a bill that will let college religious and political clubs bar members who don’t share their views or the mission of the organization. SB1074 is now headed to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.
As you can imagine, this bill will create a variety of different challenges and has the potential of creating exclusion and discrimination in our learning community. Currently, SB1074 directly contradicts our university’s Principles on Diversity and Inclusion and our University’s Statement of Non-Discrimination.
Our statement of Diversity and Inclusion reminds us that our community is dedicated to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment of mutual respect for students, faculty, staff and community. The University made it clear that we will not recognize or condone any organization that discriminates in selecting members. We do not discriminate in any form because it’s our vision for a better community and our way of life. It is for these reasons that I have written a letter to Gov. Bob McDonnell stating my personal sincere disapproval of this bill.
One of the prime reasons why I came to the University of Mary Washington was our proud tradition of creating an open and diverse community where students are given a comfortable place to prepare themselves for a 21st-century global society. On campus, we value diversity in all forms and strive to create a community that values everybody, not just the few. It is my belief that everyone should feel safe and welcome at UMW.
Students at the UMW value the right of every individual to be treated with dignity and respect at all times. The signing of SB1074 would ensure that this basic principle would no longer be guaranteed at our university or any public university within the Commonwealth of Virginia. It is for these reasons that I have asked the governor to veto this legislation, and I ask that you stand with me in continuing to create a campus that values diversity and inclusion.
Jeremy S. Thompson is president of the UMW Student Government Association.