Davidson College is defined by its community, for better or worse. That community has made us proud many times: in political office, in the pages of the Atlantic, in the classroom, and even on the basketball court. It’s also been a source of shame: we are only beginning to reckon with the school’s record on slavery, race, gender, LGBTQ issues, and sexual assault. However, in the last 50 years, the College community has shown an admirable willingness to reflect, change its mind, and do the right thing.
If our school is defined by its community, so should it be governed. However, Davidson’s current bylaws mandate an exclusionary, largely self-selecting governing body that does not reflect the community its decisions impact. At a school where only 58 percent of students identify as Christian, and only 8.8 percent as Presbyterian, the bylaws stipulate that 80 percent of Trustees must be Christian, 25 percent must be Presbyterian, and the President must be Presbyterian.
Intersectionality teaches us that discrimination cannot be understood in monolithic terms. These quotas create not only religious barriers to institutional leadership, but also racial ones. Statistics provided by the Pew Research Center show that the Presbyterian denomination is overwhelmingly white, with 88 percent of its adherents reporting as such. Requiring 25 percent of Trustees to be Presbyterian is as much a racial exclusion as a religious one.
The Board of Trustees chose not to reform after a similar campaign in 2012–2013. Now the Board has heeded our call and are accepting comments on the issue. We thank them for the opportunity and ask them to reflect, change their mind, and remove leadership quotas that preserve power for a homogenous group.
This website was created by Hannah Foltz ‘13, who built off the work of J.D. Merrill ‘13 and Nick McGuire ‘14. All of them belong in a long tradition of student activism around Davidson’s religious requirements. A new coalition of students have taken up this cause, and are expanding upon our predecessors’ work to continue to encourage our school to live up to its values, and change its exclusionary bylaws.
What People Have Said
An individual’s religious affiliation has little to no bearing on his or her ability to thrive at Davidson, in whatever capacity, and shouldn’t be a requirement of our leaders.Ellen Goodson
Change is the hallmark of life. The Davidson Community can only be enhanced by allowing the President to be drawn from the greater pool of humanity. It’s hard to believe Jesus would have been so picky.Cooper Geraty
The most important thing I learned at Davidson was to never fear diversity, instead to embrace it with open arms.Sarah Bach