(Updated at 3:53 p.m., Oct. 3)
Augsburg College is committed to fostering an environment where students of different backgrounds and perspectives can grapple with challenging topics. The College is committed to supporting students in determining their own decisions and actions relative to challenging topics.
On Oct. 2, Augsburg College President Paul C. Pribbenow underscored via email to faculty and staff the College’s commitment to creating an open community that welcomes an intentionally diverse mix of people, calls for civility and fairness on all sides of the discussion, and aims toward increased clarity and understanding, even if it does not lead to agreement.
On Oct. 3, the College completed a review relative to Day Student Government and Students Supporting Israel. Details of the review are below, in addition to further important factual information about Augsburg College, Augsburg College Day Student Government, the role of the Day Student Government in chartering student organizations, and the rights that the College supports for all student organizations—chartered or unchartered. This post will be updated as new information is available.
What actions were taken relative to the group called Students Supporting Israel?
On Sept. 17, the Augsburg College Day Student Government, as one of the student bodies with the authority to charter student organizations, voted against chartering Students Supporting Israel this year. Augsburg College supports the role and authority of the Day Student Government to consider all groups that come before Day Student Government with an application to be chartered. Day Student Government has the right to approve or decline any student organization’s charter as long as the decision does not violate the College’s nondiscrimination policy.
Augsburg College Day Student Government communicated with the student leaders of Students Supporting Israel about the reasons for its decision and provided specific information about the statement in the Students Supporting Israel constitution that was the basis for denying the charter application.
On Sept. 22, the student leaders of Students Supporting Israel requested an investigation of the Day Student Government vote. This investigation was led by the College’s Campus Activities and Orientation office and was completed on Oct. 3.
What was the result of the Campus Activities and Orientation investigation?
Based upon the findings of the review submitted Oct. 3 by Campus Activities and Orientation staff to the Augsburg College Vice President of Student Affairs, the College administration made the following decisions and took the following actions:
- Students Supporting Israel was granted charter status effective immediately. No evidence, however, was found of anti-Semitic or personal bias pertaining to race, religious belief, national or ethnic origin, or any other category of discrimination in the nondiscrimination statement of the College. Further, in reviewing the Day Student Government consideration of the charter application, Campus Activities and Orientation determined – and administration agrees – that germane discussion was held relative to support of or opposition to the policies and actions of the government of Israel. It is within the authority of the Day Student Government to review student organizations for chartering based upon what an organization submits for application, including that organization’s proposed constitution. Given that SSI’s proposed constitution included support for the government of Israel, discussion on this topic was germane. Debate that pertains to the merits of recognizing a group that supports a particular government, organization, or political ideology does not violate College policy. There were, however, procedural errors and topics discussed that were not germane to the consideration of the student group’s application for charter. These latter issues were the reasons for the original vote being nullified and the charter being granted.
- Augsburg College Day Student Government will suspend all student organization chartering effective immediately. The review found that the current language guiding the chartering and appeals processes is vague. This allowed for Day Student Government to consider topics not specific to the chartering application of Students Supporting Israel. Until clear and thorough guidelines and procedures are developed to guide chartering and appeal activities, the Campus Activities and Orientation office will work with student groups that have pending charter applications to ensure those groups have access to services available to chartered organizations, with the exception of applying for funding.
- Augsburg College will meet with representatives of Students Supporting Israel and Day Student Government to address specific behaviors by individuals in both groups that resulted in procedural errors and/or actions inconsistent with the Augsburg College Code of Conduct.
The College wishes to thank Day Student Government and Students Supporting Israel for their commitment to open dialogue throughout this process and for finding a mutually agreed upon path for moving forward.
Was Students Supporting Israel banned from Augsburg College at any time during this process?
Augsburg College did not, at any time, prohibit Students Supporting Israel from assembly on campus. No student group or organization requires formal approval to organize, assemble, or express their opinions.
The Sept. 23 meeting of people who identified themselves on Facebook as members of Students Supporting Israel — which was not a chartered organization at the time — took place in Oren Gateway Center on Augsburg College’s campus, and was scheduled using the College’s standard meeting and events scheduling process, which is available to all students, faculty, and staff. Augsburg College did not limit or impede this meeting in any way, nor did the College remove messages posted to the College’s Facebook page about the meeting or the group.
In addition, students of Students Supporting Israel used the College’s standard tabling permitting process to request and receive approval to table in the College’s student center on Oct. 2, at a time in which the group was not yet chartered.
Student groups are not required to be chartered to hold meetings on campus or to table, although they are required to go through the appropriate processes to request meeting space and tabling permits.
What are the rights of a non-chartered and chartered student group at Augsburg?
Any non-chartered student groups can reserve tables and rooms, post fliers (once approved), hold meetings, and express their opinions. Following the vote by the Augsburg College Day Student Government regarding Students Supporting Israel’s application to be chartered, the students who submitted the application were informed of these rights, as well as their options in response to the Day Student Government decision.
Benefits of being a chartered student organizations include being listed on the College’s Campus Activities and Orientation web site and the option to participate in the fall and spring Student Involvement fairs. Chartered organizations also may apply for funding from student activity fees, hold fundraising activities on campus, and purchase materials using the College’s tax-exempt status. They also may request supplies, a locker in the CAO space on campus, and an email account and/or website for the organization.
What are the options for student groups that wish to appeal Day Student Government decisions relative to student organization charter applications?
If a student group’s application to become chartered is declined, the student group has the option to select additional actions, including one or more of the following:
- To let the decision by the Augsburg College Day Student Government stand,
- To submit a modified application to Day Student Government for reconsideration,
- To seek to hold a referendum with the help of the Augsburg College Campus Activities and Orientation office to attempt to have the decision of Day Student Government overturned by garnering more than two-thirds vote by the full Augsburg College student body, or
- To file a complaint with the Campus Activities and Orientation office if the student group feels there was bias (as defined by the College’s discrimination and bias policy) in the vote by Day Student Government or if Students Supporting Israel felt there was gross misconduct by Day Student Government.