News Staff Writer
Savannah Purdy, a senior sociology student from Hickory, participated with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship since her freshman year, rising through the ranks from member to small group leader to outreach coordinator, but a recent change in policy leaves her feeling uneasy.
According to InterVarsity, the company asks employees who disagree with the organization’s positions on issues such as human sexuality to come forward for termination.
“I’m really upset about it. Kind of like I said, we’re an interdenominational group. And as far as my experience and my understanding, it’s been a space that people are coming from all different backgrounds and denominations and people have different ideas and opinions on things,” Purdy said. “And that’s something I really appreciated, that you can have open discussion and things.”
Purdy said the aim of the group is to be a space where anyone, whether a lifelong Christian or just a curious individual, can come to build community and learn more. She, along with many others, were unaware of the policy until recently and were not happy to find out.
“The students didn’t know what was going on. This whole conversation, it was all InterVarsity staff, and the students had no idea. So we were kind of blindsided. We were completely blindsided by the Time article,” Purdy said. “And so a lot of us are really upset about it. I’m upset about it, just because I feel like it puts up a barrier to loving people.”
According to the InterVarsity website, the organization has 1,011 chapters across 667 campuses, with focus outreaches such as Greek life and international student outreach programs.
Mason Logan, president of Alliance, said he thinks the policy change is unfair because the group serves a university.
“One, that’s kind of a problem in it’s own because these people are supposed to be servicing a university,” Logan said. “And the idea that a university would be having a group doing things that, for any other purpose, would constitute a Title IX violation is in and of itself a huge problem.”
Sarah Walker, a sophomore from Tallahassee, Florida, said while she doesn’t agree with the message the decision puts across, InterVarsity has the right to discriminate, but this ordeal provides an opportunity for growth.
“InterVarsity’s decision to fire anyone whose set of Christian values doesn’t align with theirs isn’t shocking or illegal, but it does put the organization in the spotlight,” Walker said. “Liberal college campuses and a new generation of Christians now have an opportunity to distance themselves from groups like InterVarsity to celebrate an inclusive and truly more Christian faith.”
Logan said he thinks this will affect the company’s LGBTQ+ workers, who might be uncomfortable with the new policy.
“On top of that, I think there’s a huge problem that goes understated in issues like this where when groups set policies in this way it kind of sets a tone where no queer people want to work for them,” Logan said. “It’s an unspoken rule that if you’re a queer person who works for this organization, you risk losing your job if you talk about existing.”
Purdy said InterVarsity is not specifically searching people out to fire, but rather is encouraging staff to step forward on their own.
“From my understanding and talking with the staff member associated with our campus, staff members who disagree with the position that Intervarsity has taken are asked to voluntarily come forward and say ‘I disagree’ and then leave,” Purdy said. “So it’s not like people are going to be ratting one another out.”
Purdy added the policy change will affect how the organization and those who participate in it are perceived, and she is worried about the association, even though those she knows personally know she doesn’t agree.
The way people perceive InterVarsity, Purdy said, could be affected by these recent developments.
“That’s something that I, and I know other people like my friends in the chapter, are really upset and worried about, because my name is attached to this organization and people know I’m a part of this organization,” Purdy said.
Logan said he expects a reaction, but not the one he wants.
“I know a lot of students outside will probably be very upset. I know there will be some faculty members who are going to question it a little bit. But in terms of how these things typically go, I would say to expect a massive outpouring of unrest wouldn’t necessarily be the most likely thing,” Logan said. “It would be the most helpful thing and it would be the thing I would like to see, is people outraged that they would hold this kind of policy that affects people this way.”