“Sufficient Support”

To show “sufficient support” for removing the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw please sign the petition and/or leave your thoughts in the box to the right.

We believe that a change in the bylaw is consistent with the values of our community–values which we recognize have been deeply shaped by our Presbyterian tradition, but that are by no means exclusive to it as made evident by the diverse members of the college community.

Amend the bylaw. Affirm our tradition. 

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Why I still give

Dear Friends,

A few days after graduation last month a reporter asked me if the Trustee’s decision to not change the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw would affect my future giving to the college. Without hesitation, I told him “No.”

I told him no because withholding my gift to Davidson does not honor the people who work hard everyday to provide an extraordinary education for Davidson students. I also told him no because withholding my gift to Davidson does not support the hundreds of students who depend on The Davidson Trust to afford college and graduate debt-free. Quite simply, I made my gift this year for the many people who made my education special, not for the few Trustees who decided to prolong an outdated policy.

Make your gift now and leave the phrase “Sufficient Support” in the comments box to show that you are committed to supporting the Davidson that prioritizes people, not backwards policies.

I also made my gift this year because withholding a gift to the college on the grounds of the Trustee decision does not move our Sufficient Support campaign forward. The unfortunate reality of our world is that those who have the ability to give the most are often heard the loudest. So if we who believe so strongly in Davidson’s commitment to inclusivity express our displeasure with the Trustees by withholding our gifts, then we are in effect minimizing our voices in this community. Let’s not be minimized.

Instead, I am asking all of you to speak up now as you’ve spoken up before, both for the special people of Davidson and for the Sufficient Support campaign. With a day to go before the end of the fiscal year, the college is just over 600 gifts away from breaking 60% alumni participation for the 11th year in row. Make your gift now and leave the phrase “Sufficient Support” in the comments box to show that you are committed to supporting the Davidson that prioritizes people, not backwards policies.

Together, we will continue to work to put pressure on the Trustees to honor our school’s heritage of inclusivity and equality by amending the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw.

Sincerely,

J.D. Merrill ‘13

Charlotte Observer endorses equality at Davidson

Earlier today the Charlotte Observer announced their support for removing the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw. Here’s an excerpt from their piece:

Opponents of the religious requirement for presidents say they understand and embrace Davidson’s relationship with the church. In fact, they say, that bond is so strong that it wouldn’t be threatened by removing the bylaw. We agree. The bigger threat to Davidson might be the rigid message trustees would send to future students and faculty by keeping the bylaw, especially now that the issue has become more public.

Official statement from SufficientSupport.com:

We are thrilled that the Observer decided to take a stand in support of preserving Davidson’s historic values of inclusivity and equality, especially at such an important time. As the Trustee Executive Committee prepares to meet tomorrow, they will have no choice but to confront this issue. We are calling on the Board to take specific action to resolve the differences in opinions between their members in order to better represent the beliefs of the rest of the Davidson community. We believe that updating the bylaw to align with the values of our community is a critical step in strengthening our relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and honoring our heritage as a school that promotes inclusivity and equality.

Student Body Submits Official Opinion to Board of Trustees, Calls for Change

On Monday May 13, 2013 the student body voted to express their official position on the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw to the Board of Trustees through a student referendum. Student Government Association President Chris Ragsdale ’14 released the results of the referendum earlier today. In an e-mail to the student body, he wrote:
Dear classmates:
 
In times like these, we are reminded of the importance of our opinions as students and of our responsibility to express those opinions to the administration. Thank you all so much for participating in Monday’s referendum and sharing your individual views. 
 
The SGA Elections Council has certified the results of the referendum and found that a majority of the students voting agree with the submission of the below statement to The Board of Trustees as the official opinion of the student body:
 
To: Davidson College, Board of Trustees
 
believe that Article IV Section 1 of the bylaws of the Trustees of Davidson College is not an accurate reflection of the values of our institution. Please consider removing the religious requirement of this bylaw to more appropriately reflect the spirit of our community. By doing so you will help affirm Davidson’s tradition of inclusiveness and respect for people of all faiths.
 
I can now say with certainty that an overwhelming plurality of the student body of Davidson College is in strong disagreement with the Trustees’ recent decision not to change the presidential bylaw qualification, requiring our President to be Presbyterian. The referendum received a 33% voter turnout and 83% of students voting were in favor of the referendum. At this point, it is now my responsibility as SGA President to begin communicating with the Trustees about these results. According to the College Constitution, we have the right to petition the Trustees for direct action on any matter and we will now exercise that right. 
 
To the seniors: I hope that you will continue to engage in critical conversations about inclusivity and diversity. To everyone else: I will ensure that all are kept up to date on the Trustees’ response to this referendum. 
 
Have a great summer!
 
Sincerely,
 
Christopher S. Ragsdale ’14
Student Body President
Davidson College

Official statement from SufficientSupport.com:

The results of the referendum are just the latest evidence that our community overwhelmingly supports removing the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw. In both the official vote taken by the faculty last week and the official vote taken by the student body this week, more than 2/3′s of those voting supported a change. These voices can no longer be discounted. We are calling on the Board to take specific action to resolve the differences in opinions between their members in order to better represent the beliefs of the rest of the Davidson community. We believe that updating the bylaw to align with the values of our community is a critical step in strengthening our relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and honoring our heritage as a school that promotes inclusivity and equality.

Faculty Resolution Introductory Comments

The following comments were made by Professor Doug Ottati, the Craig Family Distinguished Professor of Reformed Theology and Justice, after proposing the resolution at the faculty meeting on May 9, 2013.

At the faculty meeting of May 9, I asked to speak to the motion that I made.  I did so knowing that the board and its Committee on Church Relatedness has engaged in an extended period of responsible study and deliberation, and in the hope that my comments might contribute to an on-going process of reflection. The text of my comments follow:

I have spent my career as a Presbyterian theologian reflecting on Christian theology and ethics generally, and in particular on the Reformed Christian sub-tradition of which Presbyterianism is a part.  I am a loyal participant in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and its living tradition.  I also believe that Davidson’s particular church relationship isnot an anachronism, and that it may continue to make significant contributions to a vibrant and distinctive college of liberal arts and sciences today.  Presbyterians both can and do disagree about matters of importance, and neither I nor anyone else can articulate the Presbyterian understanding of liberal arts education.  Nevertheless, my own judgment is that the Board’s recent reaffirmation of the presidential By-Law is theologically ill advised and, within the context of this College’s diverse constituents, also exclusionary and therefore unfair.

If I were asked to summarize the Reformed tradition’s interest in the College, I would say this.  It means to support a college of liberal arts and sciences that expresses and furthers true religion by encouraging people to engage in wide-ranging, critical, and free intellectual inquiries and artistic pursuits; by inviting people (both religious and non-religious) to practice and reflect upon their particular pieties, worldviews, and commitments; by ordering its institutional life representatively and fairly; and by fostering responsible participants in God’s world through the integrity of their interactions on campus and the fidelity of their wider service.

From this perspective, what is critical in a president of Davidson is that she or he support commitments such as these as they bear upon the College’s distinctive mission, understand how and why they are nourished (among other things) by the College’s affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA), ask how they may be effectively embodied institutionally, and communicate them to wider constituencies.  Whether or where she or he attends church is not critical.  Moreover, since a church participation requirement excludes many important stakeholders in the College from the presidency, it is both unfair and unwise.  Likewise, what seems critical in a Davidson board of trustees is that its members understand and support the College’s distinctive mission.  The board should include people who understand how the College’s mission is nourished by its church affiliation, as well as persons who participate directly in the church with which the College is affiliated.  These last two qualities, however, are among those the College should both seek and welcome in its board.  No doubt there are also others, including the ability to represent the College’s diverse constituencies, demonstrated leadership in various fields, and an ability to support the College financially.  That the board’s able membership include persons who represent and embody these and other qualities finally is more important than precisely how many board members are also members of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

BREAKING: Faculty and Alumni Board Express Disappointment with Trustees’ Decision

The faculty and alumni board recently voted to express their disappointment in the Board of Trustees’ decision to continue the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw. The alumni board vote was announced at the faculty meeting this afternoon. The faculty (with 100 members in attendance) then voted to express their disappointment, too. Our sources tell us that the motion passed with 87 in favor, 10 opposed, and 3 that abstained. The specific language of the motion is not available at this time, but we have been told that the faculty and alumni board statements will be delivered to the Board of Trustees immediately.

We are thrilled that both the faculty and the alumni board decided to formally express their disappointment with the Board of Trustees’ decision to continue the religious requirement of the presidential bylaw. This move affirms that the Davidson community is in alignment on this issue and that students, faculty, and alumni share the belief that the bylaw in its current state neither reflects the values of our school nor the values of the Presbyterian Church (USA). We are optimistic that sustained pressure from students, faculty, and alumni will cause the Board to rethink their stance on the bylaw.

UPDATE 8:00 p.m. May 9, 2013: The faculty motion was presented by Professor Douglas Ottati. Although we’ve been told that the motion was written collaboratively, the fact that Professor Ottati presented the motion is significant. Professor Ottati is the Craig Family Distinguished Professor of Reformed Theology and Justice at Davidson. He is a ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church (USA) and “a distinguished scholar in theology and ethics, [who] is highly respected in the academic community,” according to a statement made by Professor of Religion Bill Mahoney in a 2007 news release. In the same statement, Clark Ross, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty, said “Ottati is an ideal choice to articulate the Reformed theology and its relationship to Presbyterianism and justice.” Today, speaking as the foremost scholar of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Davidson’s campus, Professor Ottati articulated (and the faculty concurred) that the Board of Trustees should reexamine their decision to continue to exclude people of certain faiths, and people of no faith at all, from the position of president.

UPDATE 8:30 a.m. May 10, 2013: The official statements from the alumni board and the faculty are posted on talk.davidson.edu.

Alumni board statement:

The Board of the Alumni Association believes that every alumnus/a of Davidson College and every other candidate should be eligible to be considered for the position of president of the college without regard to religious affiliation.  Further, the Board believes that at those moments in time when future Davidson presidents are chosen, the best person to lead the institution may not always be found within a single religious denomination or affiliation.  To the extent the governing documents of Davidson College are inconsistent with these beliefs, they should be modified.

Faculty statement:

The faculty of Davidson College expresses its disappointment with the Board of Trustees’ decision to continue to exclude people from full participation in the life of the college because of religious affiliation. The faculty of Davidson College would like to express its solidarity with members of the board who continue to support equality. 

EVENT NOTICE: Presidential Bylaw Decision Forum

Davidson College President Carol E. Quillen will address student questions about the Board of Trustees’ recent decision on college church-relatedness at an open forum from 5 – 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, in Hance Auditorium, Chambers Building. Board Chair Mackey McDonald will also be in attendance. This event is being hosted by the SGA (not us) but we are hoping for a big turn out from you all sufficient supporters.

We want Chairman McDonald to see and hear in person a demonstration of support for this bylaw to change. Additionally, we are trying to sustain our momentum at least throughout the next month so that the Executive Committee of the Board will have no choice but to consider our request when they meet in June.

In order to make this happen we need your help. Here are three things that you can do now:

1) Tell at least three people in the Davidson community about our website: sufficientsupport.com

2) Send us (jomerrill@davidson.edu and/or nimcguire@davidson.edu) an idea about how we can sustain momentum

3) Volunteer to help us carry out your ideas

This campaign will be successful because of your energy and determination. Thank you for continuing to believe that change can be made — change that will affirm our desire for an inclusive community.

bylaw forum poster