SPOKANE, Wash. — The Knights of Columbus applauded a decision by Gonzaga University to grant them recognition as a sponsored organization after their application to be acknowledged as a student club was denied.
“We welcome this development and appreciate that our college Knights of Columbus Council #12583 has received official approval” as a sponsored university organization, the group said in a statement.
“We express our gratitude to the president of Gonzaga University, Dr. Thayne McCulloh, for his support and for asking for a review of the current 'Clubs and Organizations Recognition Policy and Process' to deal with any inconsistencies.”
On April 30, Gonzaga's president, Thayne McCulloh, granted the Knights of Columbus status as a student club, after an earlier decision by the school’s student-life office suggested that they would not be granted this recognition.
“The Knights of Columbus St. Aloysius Gonzaga Council #12583 is approved as a sponsored organization at Gonzaga,” said a statement released by McCulloh's office.
“This sponsorship is granted under the university's 'Standards for On-Campus Religious Activities Policy.'”
On March 7, the university's student-life division had denied the council's application for recognition as a “student organization,” according to a report by the Cardinal Newman Society.
The Knights of Columbus is a Catholic charitable fraternal organization with 1.8 million members globally. It has more than 14,000 local councils, including numerous college councils, throughout the U.S. and overseas.
The vice president for student life at Gonzaga, Sue Weitz, had written the March 7 letter to the Knights' council saying it could not be recognized as a “student organization” because the group is closed to women and non-Catholics.
“These criteria are inconsistent with the policy and practice of student-organization recognition at Gonzaga University, as well as the university’s commitment to non-discrimination based on certain characteristics, one of which is religion,” she wrote.
Weitz said that the decision is not “some kind of litmus test of Gonzaga's Catholicity,” according to The Gonzaga Bulletin.
“It is a decision about social justice, equity and the desire of the university to create and maintain an environment in which none are excluded,” she added.
The decision drew criticism, and McCulloh announced April 6 that he would be reviewing it and was expected to take 30-45 days in doing so. He completed the review in 24 days.
His newly announced decision ensures that the Knights may use Gonzaga's name in its title, fundraise on campus, meet in campus facilities and recruit members at events such as the semiannual Club Fair.
“Also, as a result of his review, Dr. McCulloh has directed the student-activities department to review and update the 'Clubs and Organizations Recognition Policy,' with the goal of more clearly and explicitly identifying benefits of recognition and criteria for club eligibility,” the statement from the president’s office said.
Mary Joan Hahn, the university's communications director, told Catholic News Agency April 30 that the policy review is “designed to take the opportunity to update club-recognition policies in light of our Catholic, Jesuit mission and heritage. The study will review policies and processes which have not been examined in some time.”
“It is expected to identify any inconsistencies in how policies may have been applied previously and also to evaluate the university’s provision for recognition of clubs that may be selective in their membership.”
McCulloh's office indicated that the revised norms for club eligibility should be in place in time for the next academic year.
The statement also reaffirmed “the university's value, respect and support for the purpose and good works of the Knights of Columbus.”