FPU does not fully disclose its religious exemption to Title IX.
Fresno Pacific University has a religious exemption to parts of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972. The university is legally required, in five specific ways, to disclose its exemption, including the ways the university can exercise its exemption. Fresno Pacific University is not meeting legal requirements by not disclosing its religious exemption in all ways mandated under California Education Code Section 66290.1.
Fresno Pacific University’s Anabaptist tradition alters how the university is able to apply the federally mandated Title IX policy to students, staff, and faculty. Therefore, the university can legally choose to not afford the same protections to those that do not act in accordance with beliefs shared in Mennonite Brethren Churches’ Confession of Faith regarding sex, gender, gender identity, and marriage. Ways that the university is exempt from applying the same legal protections include, but are not limited to, admissions and recruitment practices, housing policies, employment policies, benefits and services, and financial assistance.
California’s Education Code (CEDC) section 66290.1 requires California universities with a Title IX exemption to disclose the exemption and the scope of activities it covers in various ways. According to the aforementioned CEDC section, the disclosure must be placed in a prominent location on campus, in written materials sent to prospective students, in orientation programs for new students at the beginning of each semester, any publications of the university’s standards of conduct, and provided for each employee upon being hired.
One way Fresno Pacific University is not fully complying with CEDC sections 66290.1, is the university’s oversight to integrate the full scope of activities allowed by their religious exemption within all publications of the institution’s rules, policies, and procedures. When any student tries to obtain information about the full scope of activities allowed by the university’s religious exemption, they are unable to locate the information within the university’s Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure because it is not stated. Students are not the only members of Fresno Pacific’s community unable to access this information. Fresno Pacific University’s faculty handbook has no mention of the university’s religious exemption, which is required by CEDC section 66290.1.
Vice President of Student Life and former Title IX coordinator for Fresno Pacific University, Dale Scully, sat down with the Syrinx to discuss the university’s Title IX policy and its religious exemption.
“A policy in the federal regs that basically says that you cannot discriminate against anybody based upon sex. And so, that one little thing has actually taken on a life of trying to understand how that applies to a college campus,” Scully said.
Due to the university following the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Church’s Confession of Faith, the university was granted an exemption from following the totality of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972.
“The religious liberty exemption which basically says, an institution like ours, a faith-based institution who has deeply held religious beliefs, is allowed to create basically their interpretation of sex, gender, gender identity, marriage,” Scully said.
When asked, “Are you aware that Fresno Pacific University has a religious exemption to the Title IX policy?” Fresno Pacific students answered:
“No, I’m not aware of that,” sophomore Pre-Law student Laiba Faheem said.
“No, I was not aware that FPU had a religious exemption,” senior Criminal Justice student, Elizabeth Huerta Chaidez, said.
Of the Fresno Pacific students interviewed, none were aware that Fresno Pacific University has a religious exemption from the Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 despite CEDC 66290.1.
Fresno Pacific University’s Assistant Dean of Student Development and Title IX Coordinator, Pam Schock, commented on whether the exemption is posted in a physical location on campus, as required in CEDC Section 66290.1.
“This is not physically posted anywhere at the university given that the Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures is over 40 pages long. However, anyone can make a request for a paper copy to the Title IX Office in the Steinert Campus Center,” Schock said.
When an attempt was made by the Syrinx to verify that any student can acquire a physical copy from the Steinert Campus Center, the staff members handling the request did not know how to provide a physical copy of the exemption or the current Discrimination, Harassment, Sexual Misconduct and Title IX Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures. If members of the Fresno Pacific community want a physical copy, they must directly contact Pam Schock.
As of the publication of this article, it is unknown if the university plans to rectify the situation and comply with CEDC’s Section 66290.1.
This is the first in a series of articles covering Fresno Pacific’s Title IX policy and the LGBT+ Pride club trying to be recognized by Fresno Pacific University. The next article will be focusing on the Board of Trustees’ decision to grant recognition to the LGBT+ Pride Club.
If you have any inquiries regarding Fresno Pacific University’s Title IX policy and its exemption, please feel free to contact the university’s Title IX Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any inquiries regarding Fresno Pacific University’s LGBT+ Pride Club, please feel free to contact the university’s Director of Campus Life at email@example.com.If you wish to submit a letter to the editor to share your thoughts on the matters discussed in this article, please submit your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Alyssa Stuebner | Executive News Editor
Graphic by: Alyssa Stuebner | Executive News Editor