Tag Archives: College

This is who we are

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a campus ministry, has been derecognized by California State University schools. 23 chapters (groups) that meet on the CSU and affiliate campuses are no longer recognized student organizations. The InterVarsity chapters affected will no longer have free access to campus facilities, will receive no campus activity fees, are barred from participating in the school activity fair, and are not allowed to include the university in their group name.

The reason for the derecognition? A requirement that leaders within the IVCF chapter affirm InterVarsity’s doctrinal basis and “exemplify Christ-like character, conduct, and leadership.” In other words, leaders of a Christian organization need to be Christian.

Leadership in a Christian organization like InterVarsity entails both spiritual and practical responsibilities. Spiritual duties include discipling younger Christians (helping them grow in their faith and to act in a Christ like way), conducting worship services and organizing outreach to seekers and other non-believers outside the group. Practical matters are the managing of funds received both from private donations and from university activity fees (which usually come with strict standards). Money is primarily used to support the spiritual aims of the group.

InterVarsity does not require its members be Christian. Typically, the only requirement of membership is two months of regular attendance to meetings. As an outreach organization, it encourages all who want to learn about Christ to become part of their group. But because leadership positions are as much about maintaining the spiritual well-being and direction of the group as they are about practical matters of funds maintenance, leaders need to be Christian.

InterVarsity doesn’t go about this in a de-facto way. It’s probably true that they could remove the requirement from their chapter constitutions, but in practice only elect believers as student leadership. CSU might not police the group as long as the official rule is struck out. But this would in effect be lying about the nature and character of the group, something InterVarsity to its credit, has chosen not to do.

Some people have compared the university’s position to allowing a democrat to be the leader of a group of young republicans. Or the leader of a music appreciation group liking Justin Bieber.

(Okay, had to insert some levity in this post somewhere).

Where these kinds of analogies break down for me is that while they get one part of the argument, that it just doesn’t make sense for a group to be lead by someone who doesn’t share the group’s common set of values, they don’t get the scale quite right. Religion is something deeply important to a lot of us. It affects the course of our lives for decades to come. I could mix religions and say something like a Jewish person leading a Muslim chapter, or a Christian heading up an atheist group, but again that almost sounds like political parties.

Here’s what this seems like to me, a drunk leading an alcoholics anonymous meeting. Meaning, someone who is actively and potentially harmfully deviating from the group’s intended purpose. You wouldn’t want someone who is actively drinking to be your sponsor. And you wouldn’t want someone who doesn’t believe in God helping you to understand your faith.

The reason for the university policies is discrimination. They see creedal organizations like InterVarsity as excluding people. But in doing so, they are committing discrimination of a different kind. They are saying that a Christian organization (or any religious group) can’t have a set of standards by which they choose their leaders that is consistent with their faith and the desired purpose and direction of the group.

This makes sense to everyone, right? I mean, really, why would a Christian want to be a leader of an atheist (free thought) group? Maybe the purpose would be to disrupt the group and “get everybody saved”, but that would be infringing on the beliefs of the people who formed that free thought group in the first place. People who believe there is no God should have a place on campus where they should meet, and so should people who do. The CSU case is not unique around the country, though it is significant as one of the largest state schools to create these sorts of policies.

My alma-mater (which has had some struggles in this area in the past) now has a great guideline for student organization registration:

“A student organization formed to foster or affirm the sincerely held religious beliefs of its members may adopt eligibility criteria for its Student Officers that are consistent with those beliefs.”

Again, we get that, right? It’s not discrimination to want to be consistent with your beliefs. And if we’re talking racial diversity, the Inter-Varsity chapters affected by this derecognition were 70% persons of color.

What can you do? Well, for one you can pray for wisdom for University officials and perseverance for the students and staff in California. You can give financially to IV chapters or if you live in the California area you can help transport students, or even just bring food. To rent college facilities absent the recognition will cost the IV chapters $13-30K a year, so every little bit helps.

Related Articles:

IVCF Campus Challenges

Access Concerns California State University System

InterVarsity “Derecognized” at California State University

Wrong Kind Of Christian

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Writing Spaces

Where I like to write has changed a little over the years.

I think part of it is that I spent a little while searching for what I had in college. For a couple of years I worked for the physics lab and the computer science department in various low-level research and programming jobs. The best perk of the job was access to labs and private spaces at night. There were public computer labs of course, but these were private spaces, places where I could go to be alone and work.

That’s been a little hard to find as a working adult. I do have my office at home, though there can be a lot of distractions from media, from pets, and from the urge to see what my wife is doing when I’m home. Truth is, I kinda like the little red haired girl and can find it hard to work when I could be spending time with her (at least some days).

Coffee shops kind of work but they don’t have the same privacy or nesting comfort. My labs were personalized, and had much better chairs, or crappy trash picked couches which were somehow a million times more comfortable. Even trips back to campus making use of spaces like Buckeye Donut or the Union isn’t the same.

Occasionally, when I’ve had to stay late at my work for another reason I get a taste of that feeling, though truthfully if I’m staying late at work it’s because I have something time sensitive and involving that doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for personal endeavors.

I gave some thought to renting office space, or even a storage container but the expense seemed more than a little impractical, especially given that I had plenty of nice spaces to work.

But lately, as a consequence of being part of the sound team / technical support for my church, I’ve found myself working here late nights, installing OS while trying to write blog posts, or even taking time before Sunday morning to write. It’s not quite the same nest as labs were, but I’m able to infuse a little of my own color into the booth, including a fractal background for the worship computer.

And a lot of nights the church is empty and quiet and once I get used to all of the weird creaking sounds it can sometimes make, it can actually be a great distraction free place away from the world. And there’s something that just feels right about writing in the sanctuary.

I’m sure the instinct to change will take hold of me eventually (there’s talk of my moving my office to the basement though our cat would need to be a lot better behaved before I really consider it). But for the moment I am happy to have a little back of that feeling of college, of quiet nights spent mostly in the dark, working on my projects.

Where’s your favorite place to write?

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Are creative writing courses a waste of time?

Or more to the point, is writing a skill that can be taught, or a talent that some have and most don’t?

Hanif Kureishi, a creative writing professor, contends that 99.9% of his students are throwing away their time and their money in his class and others like it.

In terms of college classes I paid for, I have taken one creative writing course. It was a fairly easy course to pass, involving writing two stories over the span of the quarter, and peer reviewing everybody else’s story. My main takeaways from the course were the excellent book Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway, and the impression that most people think a depressing story is a profound story (I was the first to write something even remotely funny).

I think input from other writers, or aspiring writers anyway, is valuable and can get you to think about things you might not otherwise have noticed. But all input should be taken with a grain of salt, with discernment, and it’s this discernment about the craft and how you tell a story that is one of the inherent skills of writing. The first time you hear what somebody says you should do to your story, listen to it without dismissing it, and still decide against it, you’re a writer or at least thinking like one. The key is not to be stubborn, but to know what you want to do.

I think writing exercises (prompts) can stretch your thinking and force you to consider ideas outside of your comfortable genre. The recent writing contest I entered was excellent for this.

And both of these are things you can obtain without paying any money (or at least not much), through forums like the blog, and a few excellent books.

Personally I think I’ve been taking a self-taught course in creative writing since I was about 3 years old, reading good books, and some books about the craft, and most importantly writing and putting that writing out there. I don’t want to put other people down in this situation, I think everybody has a story they can tell, they just might not have the right tools to tell it. If anything is inherent  (unable to be taught) I think it’s less the tools and more the attitude, the personality.

Writing is a solitary, introverted, frustrating and time consuming discipline. It can be wonderful, creative, imaginative, with words literally dancing off your fingers. And other days it’s a slog, and you have to be able to deal with both kinds of days.

If it takes a creative writing course to discover if this is for you, then that’s not bad in my bo0k. Frankly I recall my course being a welcome distraction from dozens of engineering courses. We all could use a tug into different lines of thinking. Maybe the course can’t really do anything to make you a writer, or maybe even a better one. But it at least can give you a taste of what it might be like to be a writer, and then let you decide for yourself.

What do you guys think? Taken any writing courses? Think your writing is God given talent?

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