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Gov. McDonnell, veto this discriminatory bill
Jeremy S. Thompson's op-ed column on student organizations at UMW.

Date published: 3/3/2013

AS PRESIDENT of the University of Mary Washington Student Government Association and the student representative to the Board of Visitors, it is my honor to represent every student at the university. I represent the views of students from all walks of life, of different ethnicities, genders, national origins, opinions, political affiliations, races, and religious and sexual orientations. While I do my best to represent everyone, I also work to create a campus environment where every single student is accepted for who he or she is.

This past week, the Virginia Legislature passed SB 1074, a bill that will let college religious and political clubs bar members who don't share the views or the mission of the organization. SB 1074 is now on the governor's desk for his signature or veto.

As you can imagine, this bill will create a variety of challenges and has the potential of creating exclusion and discrimination in our learning community. Currently, SB 1074 directly contradicts our university's principles on diversity and inclusion and our university's statement of non-discrimination.

Our statement of diversity and inclusion reminds us that our community is dedicated to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment of mutual respect for students, faculty, staff, and community. The university has made it clear that we will not recognize or condone any organization that discriminates in selecting members. We do not discriminate in any form because it's our vision for a better community and our way of life. It is for these reasons that I have written a letter to Gov. McDonnell stating my personal sincere disapproval of this bill.

One of the prime reasons I came to the University of Mary Washington was our proud tradition of creating an open and diverse community, where students are given a comfortable place to prepare themselves for a 21st-century global society. On campus, we value diversity in all forms and strive to create a community that values everybody, not just the few. It is my belief that everyone should feel safe and welcome at the University of Mary Washington.

Students at the University of Mary Washington value the right of every individual to be treated with dignity and respect always. The signing of SB 1074 would ensure that this basic principle would no longer be guaranteed at our university or any public university in Virginia.

It is for these reasons that I have asked the governor to veto this legislation, and I ask that you stand with me in continuing to create a campus that values diversity and inclusion.

Jeremy S. Thompson is president of the University of Mary Washington Student Government Association.