Dear [first name],
The Davidson community has long considered how best to live out Davidson’s ties to the Reformed Tradition and the Presbyterian Church (USA). Expressions of this relationship have evolved over time, in part because this Tradition, faithful to its origins, has itself evolved. This evolution is reflected in the College’s governing documents, which include the Trustee Bylaws.
Since the 1960s, the Board has regularly examined bylaws that require a specific religious identity or affiliation for faculty members, trustees and the president. Amendments since 1970 include: eliminating a bylaw that required all tenured faculty members to be active Christians; and modifying a bylaw that required all trustees to be active members of a Christian church. These amendments shifted attention away from an individual’s religious identity or affiliation and towards that individual’s obligations to the Statement of Purpose. These bylaw changes helped to make Davidson more open and inclusive.
The Board is mindful of the decades of work that previous trustees have undertaken on this issue and is particularly guided by the recommendations of the 2017 Working Group on the Reformed Tradition. These recommendations highlighted our responsibility as trustees for “treasuring what has been received from forebears while actively seeking to re-form statements of the College’s mission and policies, as an educational institution, so that they faithfully engage current realities.” The 2017 recommendations further encouraged the Board to focus on the bylaws, “giving appropriate attention to language and stipulations that may be viewed as incongruent with Reformed Tradition tenets of inclusive and broad participation.” In 2020, Davidson trustees are continuing this long conversation about bylaws that require a specific religious identity or affiliation for the president and many trustees.
As part of our process, the Board invites the Davidson community to share your views on bylaws that require candidates to have a specific religious identity or affiliation. We will gather feedback through a qualitative survey; two virtual meetings in November and December; and engagement with the Student Government Association, Staff Council and Faculty Executive Committee. Further details are coming soon. You may also send thoughts to Bylawcomments@Davidson.edu. Several of you have already reached out to individual trustees, and we respectfully suggest directing your thoughts to this email address. We will disregard anonymous communications.
As a reference, the text of the relevant bylaws is appended. The Board is focusing its discussion on Article I.5 and Article IV. 1. We also include Article VIII, which outlines the process for amending the Trustee Bylaws.
Those of us who have been involved in these discussions know how complicated, even painful they can be. As we engage with these issues on which we do not agree, may we strive to remain united by our love for and commitment to this remarkable institution.
Alison Hall Mauzé
Chair, Davidson College Board of Trustees
Appendix: Text from Relevant Trustee Bylaws
(Note: the Board is not considering revisions to this article at this time)
At least 25 percent of the Board members will be a member or affiliate of a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation.
Historically, persons elected as Trustees have been active members of a Christian church. In openness to and respect for the world’s various religious traditions and the variety of religious preferences among the graduates and friends of Davidson, the Governance and Nominating Committee and the Alumni Association may recommend persons for the office of trustee who are not active members of a Christian church but who meet all other criteria for serving as a Trustee. As part of continuing the historic commitment of Davidson to the Reformed Tradition of the Christian faith, the Governance and Nominating Committee shall insure that at least 80% of all elected Trustees are active members of a Christian church.
Article IV. 1
The Trustees shall elect a President of the College who shall serve as the chief executive officer of the College. They shall elect only a person who is a loyal and active church member, whose life provides evidence of strong Christian faith and commitment. Such faith and commitment will be appropriately expressed by affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and active participation in the life of Davidson College Presbyterian Church. Unless otherwise determined by the Trustees, the President shall be inaugurated at an appropriate time during the first year of service in the office.
Article VIII (on amending the bylaws)
The foregoing Bylaws may be amended as follows: The amendment may be prepared in writing and presented by any member of the Trustees at a regular meeting of the Trustees, and adopted by a two thirds vote o