The Board has asked for qualitative, individual responses about the bylaws to be sent to their email, Bylawcomments@Davidson.edu. Right now, emailing the Board outlining why you think these bylaws should be removed is the best action step. Most likely, the Board will prefer that students compose their own email outlining their personal reasons for wanting these bylaws to change. Below we have outlined several different reasons to change the bylaws, which can ideally serve as a starting point for your individual email. Please feel free to copy and paste anything from below, but make sure your email to the Board outlines your own personal thoughts on the bylaws.
Religious Discrimination: The requirement for the Board of Trustees to be 80% Christian (as well as 25% Presbyterian) and for the President to be Presbyterian directly discriminate against people outside of these faith traditions. Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Atheists, and all non Christians are either directly precluded, or significantly held back from participation in these components of our college simply due to the faith they were born into or chose to adhere to- not their potential for success in the position. We find this to be not only unethical, but antithetical to the inclusive values of Davidson College.
Racial Discrimination: As PCUSA is overwhelmingly white (almost 90%), this means that the President is significantly less likely to be non-white if they must be a member of this religious group. Although we do not think this was the intent behind the bylaws, their consequences are clear- indirect systemic racial discrimination.
Maintaining Presbyterian Values: We deeply appreciate and value the morals and ethics of the Presbyterian church, which undoubtedly make Davidson the unique school it is today. We also believe that these values can be maintained without the presence of explicitly exclusionary religious bylaws. We believe this historic connection can be maintained, and the members of our community can hold these values through education about the faith, as opposed to a requirement for their religious upbringing (something entirely out of a person’s control).
For example, why should a Muslim candidate, who has learned extensively about the history and value system of the Presbyterian Church be excluded from the presidency of Davidson college, but another candidate, who happened to be raised by Presbyterians without a deep knowledge of the faith can serve as the President?
Shrinking the Applicant pool: According to the Pew center for research, Presbyterians make up only 1.4% of the nation. Why shrink our applicant pool so significantly? If we are hoping to get the most effective President, disqualifying 98.6% of the nation immediately is an incredibly ineffective strategy. We believe the President and Board should be selected from the most capable candidates, not restricted by things such as their religious upbringing.
Thank you very much, and please send an email to Bylawcomments@Davidson.edu, and encourage your peers to do so as well.
Sample Email: Please remember that the Board is looking for personalized emails, so copying the one below, while okay, will lessen the impact of your voice.
Dear Davidson College Board of Trustees,
I am writing to share my belief that College bylaws 1.5 and 4.1 create unfair religious and racial barriers to institutional leadership. We believe these bylaws to be exclusionary, and not beneficial to continuing the morals, past and present, of Davidson College. We believe Davidson’s historic connection to the Presbyterian church is important and can be maintained without exclusionary policies. Davidson encourages us to seek greatness– not to be held back in our pursuit of success, leadership, and community change. However, the current bylaws are explicitly exclusionary, and exclusion based on any characteristic besides potential to succeed is completely antithetical to the values of Davidson College.
Intersectionality teaches that discrimination cannot be understood in monolithic terms. As such, mandates for the religious make-up of the Board of Trustees and the Presidency cannot be understood as purely religious quotas. Particularly concerning bylaws are 1.5 and 4.1, which stipulate that the President must be Presbyterian and 80 percent of the Board of Trustees must identify as Christian. Because the Presbyterian community is largely (88 percent) white, largely (68 percent) over 50, and largely (87 percent) from families who have been in the United States for three or more generations, these bylaws are disproportionately discriminatory to people of color, immigrants, and members of the Gen X (born ’65-’80), millennial (’81-’96), and Gen Z (’97-’12) generations.
The Davidson community I wish to be a part of is one whose actions reflect its stated purpose: “to assist students in developing humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds for lives of leadership in service.” How can the College claim this as its motivation when it does not offer its diverse students and alumni the equal opportunity to lead? Let us rely on our Presbyterian heritage not to exclude people based on their religious upbringing, but instead to encourage us to, as the 2017 Davidson Report of Reformed Tradition Working Group states, respect “the dignity and worth of each person,” and to create a community of “openness to and respect for diversity and differences of religion.”
Please consider amending these exclusionary bylaws.
[Name, Class Year]