Gonzaga University’s president has overturned a decision to deny the Knights of Columbus – an all-male, all-Catholic student club – recognition as a sponsored organization on campus.
“This sponsorship is granted under the University’s Standards for On-Campus Religious Activities Policy,” said spokeswoman Mary Joan Hahn in a written statement Tuesday.
Eric Cunningham, a GU professor, assistant director of Catholic studies and now adviser of the religious club, said he only became aware of the decision after being contacted by the media, and he’s not entirely sure what it means.
“I don’t get the sense the opinion of the club has changed any,” Cunningham said. “It would be nice for the administration to say the (Knights of Columbus) exemplifies the values of Gonzaga.”
With President Thayne McCulloh’s ruling, the Knights of Columbus student group can use the university’s name in its title; raise funds on campus to advance its mission and activities; use campus facilities, including to host events; and recruit members and participants in membership activities.
McCulloh began a review of the policy in March after student activities officials decided the Knights of Columbus did not qualify for club status since it did not allow women or non-Catholics as members. News of the denial spread fast, mostly through religious periodicals. Some in the Catholic community, including GU alumni and parents of current students, decried what they called a hypocritical decision.
Although the decision has been reversed, Cunningham said: “I’m not entirely sure that the campus climate is the most salubrious for the club.”
The students who belong to the Knights of Columbus club were unavailable for comment and are under instruction from Bishop Blase Cupich, of the Spokane Catholic Diocese, not to talk to the media, Cunningham said.
In addition to changing the decision on the club, which is a College Council of the international fraternal organization, McCulloh has told the student-activities department to review and update the university’s Clubs and Organizations Recognition Policy, “with the goal of more clearly and explicitly identifying benefits of recognition and criteria for club eligibility,” Hahn said. “The revisions are expected to be in place in time for the coming academic year.”
She added, “Dr. McCulloh once again affirmed the University’s value, respect and support for the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus, with which the University has enjoyed a long and mutually collaborative relationship at the local level.”