Senate chair provides update on religious freedom restoration act

March 31, 2015  

Provided by Patricia Hart, chair of the University Senate 

Widespread opposition to Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has been expressed in every corner of the Purdue campus. The University Senate, Purdue Student Government, and Purdue Graduate Student Government are presenting virtually identical resolutions to their respective bodies. The resolutions oppose the legislation and strongly urge Governor Pence and the state legislators to repeal the act as soon as possible.

Several standing committees of the University Senate are co-sponsoring the resolution, which, in fact, has already been signed by more than half of the senators. Petitions are being circulated that are collecting dozens of signatures from staff, students and faculty. At this writing, the leadership of the Senate has received several hundred messages from Purdue employees and students opposing RFRA and only a couple to date in support. Various organizations around campus are collaborating to oppose the measure, and the recurring theme is the desire to maintain an environment that is safe, respectful and welcoming.

The resolutions underway all stress that Purdue University prohibits discrimination and aver that RFRA is damaging to our reputation and will make it harder to recruit and retain faculty, students and staff.

Here is a key passage that appears in all the resolutions:

"Purdue University is committed to maintaining a community which recognizes and values the inherent worth and dignity of every person; fosters tolerance, sensitivity, understanding, and mutual respect among its members; and encourages each individual to strive to reach his or her own potential. In pursuit of its goal of academic excellence, the University seeks to develop and nurture diversity. The University believes that diversity among its many members strengthens the institution, stimulates creativity, promotes the exchange of ideas, and enriches campus life."

At a large workplace like Purdue, there is bound to be a broad spectrum of ideas, and we think that it is important to be respectful and thoughtful as we discuss public policies that go right to the heart of the educational mission of the university. This discussion touches on our deepest beliefs about who we are and what we want for Purdue.

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