In the span of 48 hours, Gonzaga University enacted new policies that banned the children of faculty, staff and students from classrooms and campus offices and then rescinded the rules amid criticism from those affected.
In a memo sent Friday, Robert “Skip” Myers, GU vice president for policy, planning and administration, said he made the decision to pull the new policies after it became clear that the yearlong process to create them wasn’t collaborative enough.
The new policies also would have affected the use of university facilities, stating: “Only requests from users who enhance or promote activities consistent with Gonzaga’s educational goals and purposes will be considered.”
And a fourth new policy dictated that employees could engage in political campaign activities but were not allowed to use university resources or give the appearance they were speaking on behalf of the university. The university’s tax-exempt status prohibits the school from participating in political activities.
But it was the policies prohibiting children in the classroom and workplaces – with the exception of special circumstances and events – that garnered the most attention.
The ban on children would not have included those attending on-campus sporting events, theater productions and art exhibits.
“Our primary responsibility is to provide a safe working and learning environment with minimal distractions,” the policy stated.
The policies regarding children included those who have “a contagious illness spread by coughing, sneezing, or contact with weeping blisters that prevents the child from being accepted by the child’s regular child care provider or school may not be brought to the classroom under any circumstances.”
University spokeswoman Mary Joan Hahn said the university was simply trying to update its policies. “They’ve not been developed in response to any specific issue,” she said.
Hahn said the policy governing the use of university property was created because of the growing number of groups wanting to use the Hemmingson Center and was not written because of any previous events the university hosted.
Earlier this year Gonzaga administrators decided that a Gonzaga College Republicans-sponsored event on campus featuring conservative writer and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza wouldn’t be open to the public.
The decision drew the ire of students and influential Republican leaders in Spokane. The university eventually relented.
In his memo Myers said he had received “thoughtful and insightful perspectives” about the new policies and wanted to get additional feedback from staff and faculty.
“We want to continue the discussion and listen to people who continue to respond,” Hahn said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.