I mentioned a few weeks ago the situation at the University of Wisconsin where the university told dorm RAs that they could no longer host bible studies in their dorm rooms because they were afraid that would make them less “approachable” to other students. This was a ludicrous argument then and it still is, especially since the university had no problem with RAs engaging in all sorts of controversial political and cultural activities that might similarly put off other students. UW temporarily suspended the policy pending review and appointed a committee to make recommendations.
That committee has now issued its report and recommended that the two UW campuses that have this policy be allowed to continue with it. The report is a typical collection of empty platitudes. After declaring UW a “marketplace of ideas and free expression”, they still support the university’s “right to establish reasonable restrictions on RA activities as a condition of employment”, including apparently this restriction on private and non-coercive bible studies in their room.
The problem with all of this is that their policy doesn’t support their alleged goals. They defend the policy by saying that RAs “must be prepared to fulfill employment-related responsibilities any time they are in their room or residence hall.” But if this is really the reason for the restriction, why don’t they ban all meetings in the dorm rooms of RAs? Wouldn’t an RA having a chess club meeting or even a poker game make them unavailable in exactly the same sense? They don’t have a ban on RAs having political meetings in their room, they only ban them from having bible studies.
This is very much like the issue of singling out evolution for a disclaimer that applies equally well to every scientific theory. If their justification for this policy is that a bible study makes an RA “unapproachable” then they should also be banning any political activity that might make them less approachable to those who hold the opposite political views. For that matter, they should make the same rules for professors and guidance counselors and anyone else a student might view as someone they could turn to for help. And if the concern really is that the RA won’t be available at all times, then they should also be banning all group activities in their dorm rooms and require that the RAs just sit in their rooms waiting in case someone stops by. Their excuse for the policy doesn’t match their actions. The UW is already facing one federal lawsuit over this and they’re gonna lose it if they don’t change their position, just as they lost an earlier lawsuit on their student hate speech code.