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DSG tables motion to recognize Young Life on campus

The Duke Student Government Senate voted Wednesday night to table a motion to recognize Duke Young Life until the group can provide more information about its treatment of LGBTQ+ members. 

Young Life, a national Christian organization that already has a presence on Duke’s campus, requested official recognition so that they could hold on-campus meetings. However, senators took issue with the national organization’s policy denying leadership positions to LGBTQ+ individuals. 

“They don’t have a non-discimination clause in their constitution; they have a discrimination clause,” said Senator Jackson Kennedy, a sophomore.

Senator Manish Kumar, a senior, noted that Young Life bars LGBTQ+ individuals from leadership positions and suggested that this policy violated the Student Organization Finance Committee’s requirement that every Duke student group include a non-discrimination statement in its constitution. 

SOFC chair Devin Mahoney, a junior, suggested that recognizing the group would provide greater accountability, as the group currently operates at Duke without SOFC funding or oversight. 

“They want [to be recognized] as a level of formality,” Mahoney said of the organization. “What we get out of that is a level of ability to hold them accountable.”

The group’s New Organization Registration form notes that Duke Young Life currently holds weekly off-campus meetings, and that it is looking to move the meetings on Duke’s campus if it is recognized. The application states that Duke Young Life aims to “invite Duke students into a life-changing and life-transforming leadership development program” and “train and equip Duke students to be effective Christian leaders in the local community.”

Young Life is a national Christian organization that provides a variety of programming in an effort to teach adolescents Christian values, according to its website. The group has faced controversy in recent years— Kennedy referenced the case of Conner Mertens, a bisexual football player at Willamette University who participated in the organization throughout high school but was barred from becoming a leader because of his sexuality.

The group’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, included in its ‘Statement of Faith,’ state that individuals “who practice a homosexual lifestyle” are “not to serve as staff or volunteers in the mission and work of Young Life.” 

SOFC’s criteria for student organization recognition require that each group “affirms the spirit and letter of the University’s non-discrimination statement.” This statement, found on the website of the Office for Institutional Equity, states that “Duke University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or sex, disability, genetic information, national origin or veteran status. We expand these protections further by also prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression.”

After several extensions of questioning time, the senators decided that they could not make a decision without hearing from representatives of Duke Young Life. They passed a motion to table the debate until a later date to allow for further inquiry.

In other business: 

The Senate approved a total of $9,570 in SOFC funding, including $1,500 for CommuniTEA’s tea tastings, $2,100 for the Muslim Students Association’s Fall Banquet and $5,970 for the Singapore Students Association’s co-hosted Mid Autumn Event. 

Mahoney noted that SOFC had reduced funding for the SSA event from previous years. She said that certain expenses were redundant—for example, the group had asked for funding to buy Mahjong sets multiple years in a row. 

The Senate also confirmed senior Ariel Friedman as legislative assistant. 

Correction: SOFC reduced funding for the SSA event, not MSA. The Chronicle regrets the error. 

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