Gonzaga University to review Knights of Columbus status

Gonzaga University logo CNA US Catholic News 4 10 13 Gonzaga University logo.

Gonzaga University president Thayne McCulloh will be reviewing the school's Student Life Office decision which denied a Knights of Columbus Council application to be recognized as a "student club."

On March 7, the university's student life division denied the council's application for recognition as a "student organization," according to an April 5 report by the Cardinal Newman Society. The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic charitable fraternal organization with 1.8 million members globally.

McCulloh stated April 6 that "Gonzaga honors and respects the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus, with which it has a long tradition and mutual collaboration at both local and state levels."

He has chosen to review the decision of the Division of Student Life, and is expected to take 30-45 days doing so. The president will complete the review "as quickly as he can," Gonzaga community relations director Mary Joan Hahn told CNA April 10.

The Knights of Columbus has a council at Gonzaga University but it is not recognized as a "student club," the school has clarified, after reports surfaced that it denied the council its application as such.

"The Knights of Columbus College Council is on-campus and is supported by the University currently," Hahn said.

"There are many ways for student groups to be present and active on campus," she explained. "The initial decision pertained to recognition by the Student Life division under its current process."

"They haven't been banned," Hahn added.

Gonzaga said that "the Knights of Columbus College Council (#12583) is already present within the student body and receives support from the administration."

"Gonzaga University's core Catholic and Jesuit identity recognizes, encourages and supports many student organizations that advance faith-related issues," the school said, citing Gonzaga Right to Life and Blessed John Paul II Fellowship.

Though the Council currently exists, it is not recognized as a "student club" or a "student organization." The decision not to grant the Knights council recognition as a student group was based on the university's current "club recognition process."

The Cardinal Newman Society posted excerpts from a letter from the vice president for student life at Gonzaga, Sue Weitz, saying that the Knights of Columbus could not be recognized as a "student organization" because the group is closed to women and to non-Catholics.

"These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the University's commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion."

Weitz cited Gonzaga's commitment to "non-discrimination and inclusivity" in her letter.

"To embrace the diversity and yet endorse a group based on faith exclusivity is a challenge that cannot be reconciled at this time. It is a decision about social justice, equity, and the desire of the University to create and maintain an environment in which none are excluded."

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