Friday, December 07, 2007

College Christians accomplish coup

Subtle as serpents

One of my former students is a full-time math professor in Sacramento. We stay in touch and I usually enjoy talking shop with him. Math teaching, however, was not the topic of our conversation the last time we got together. He handed me a copy of the latest edition of his school's newspaper (American River College's Current) and said, “Here, you take it. I don't want it.” The headline emblazoned across the front page told the story: My friend's college has been taken over by a right-wing Christian coup. Well, sort of:
Christians sweep SA elections

Bloc could take 9 of 10 seats if results are ratified

By Matthew Gerring
Staff Writer

It's not completely official yet, but early results indicate nine out of the 10 candidates elected in the recent Student Association election are members of the former Christian Civilization Club.

The near-sweep is historical in that representatives generally are elected as individuals, rather than as a bloc.

Members of the former club, known for hosting a booth in the Library Quad denouncing Islam, organized an electoral campaign promoting club members, candidates who were on the CCC mailing list, or candidates who ascribed [sic] to the principles of the Christian Civilization Club.
Some of this sounds familiar. Several college campuses, including my own, were treated in recent weeks to “Islamo-fascist Awareness Week.” As noted by The Current, the Christian Civilization Club was an eager participant in the days when it was an officially recognized campus organization. Apparently the resignation of CCC's faculty advisor (and its inability to find a new sponsor) cost the organization its academic standing. Perhaps that was the impetus for the club's behind-the-scenes campaign to take over the Student Association.
The group “targeted especially Christians,” according to Yuriy Popko, a member of the former club.

“We basically consider ourselves Christians, so we go to our base,“ said Popko.

That base includes both Christian students and ethnic communities on campus that closely identify with the Christian community, including Slavic and Romanian students. “The communities are close-knit,” Popko said.

While the former club members distributed literature on campus, they also asked representatives supported by their campaign to go [to] their respective churches to campaign.
The community of Slavic Christians in the Sacramento region has drawn some attention because it contains a core of virulently anti-gay activists. One is awaiting trial related to the death of Satender Singh in a capital city park, while another reportedly fled to Russia. If the CCC went to those churches seeking support, it was appealing to groups suffused with an extremist element.
When asked about a specific agenda, Popko said, “We [the coalition put together by the CCC] haven't discussed that yet.” Popko, however, did say one of his goals was to pass a bill of rights protecting students from bias on campus. He added, “on campus ... I would call it a liberal bias.”

The other former member club member elected to the Student Association, Dennis Choban, listed his goals on his Student Association application form. They included “removing humanistic bias from certain courses (such as evolution science), and encouraging live discussion of nontraditional views in all classes.”
Nontraditional? Actually, Choban sounds very traditional—for perhaps the 15th century.

The Current reporter, however, had a good counterpoint for Popko and Choban's vision of a non-humanistic future for their college:
This goal may not mesh with reality, however.

“Students do not have the right to determine curriculum,” said Student Association President Lou Martinson. He elaborated that though representatives can propose programs and new classes, they have no binding power.
Spring semester is going to provide the CCC bloc with an unpleasant educational experience. While it may be able to use its new Student Association majority to insist that Martinson appoint people from its ranks to the student slots on college committees, a single CCC student representative on the curriculum committee is not going to be enough to write creation science into the anthropology and biology syllabi. The same will be true on any other college committee where the CCC tries to advance its theocratic mission.

Furthermore, The Current reports that the CCC bet all its chips on a special election for half-terms on the Student Association governing board. The newly elected student senators will serve for only one semester before the college student body is asked to elect new representatives. If, as seems likely, the CCC overplays its weak hand, the next SA election will not be susceptible to the stealthy come-to-Jesus campaign that swept these narrow sectarians into office. More mellow Christian groups on campus may well come to resent the CCC's insistence on its own highly particular approach to their supposedly common faith. Secular students, of course, should now be fully awake to the CCC's eagerness to stifle their voices.

I'm expecting regular reports from the front as the battle rages during the 2008 spring semester. I just hope that my friend doesn't do anything to get himself listed on the Report Your Liberal Professor page of the Christian Civilization Club's unhinged website. You might want to check it out yourself, and don't miss the videos of the club's disruptive campus activities—of which I am sure they are very proud.

Coming soon to a campus near you? God forbid!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for bringing attention to this development. It shows the importance of organization. As Chip Berlet of Political Associates once remarked to me at a conference in NYC concerning the religious right, the key to promoting and defending human rights is simple and not secret, and it's the lesson of the civil rights movement: "Organize, organize, organize." The CCC students organized, and benefited. Students who value human rights must now do the same on ARC's campus.
- Religious Right Watch

Paul Sunstone said...

When conservative Christians took over the county government here a few years back, they proved to be incompetent. For one thing, they were fanatically concerned with debating such things as whether to rename Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. because King cheated on his wife. But they didn't have much stomach for filling potholes, adequately funding the fire department, or arranging for snow removal. The voters turn the worse of them out after one term.

Anonymous said...

Seems like this post is full of Christophobia or something... What's wrong with a segment of a diverse college campus wishing to be involved in the decision-making process on campus?
Most community colleges are starving for people to even run for Student government positions, it seems like there's no lack at this college. Good for them! They should stir up some dialogue on the campus and actually cause some critical thinking.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Ron Paul? Critical thinking and fundamentalist Christianity have never mixed.

Nothing these "Christians" are doing relate to the teachings of Jesus. The only people with "Christophobia" are the far-right wing, which outright ignore anything He had to say in favor of their personal biases and political leanings.

Anonymous said...

Hey, "Ron Paul", identity theft is a crime . (Not that your foolish comments aren't the sort of thing the real Ron "America is a Christian Nation" Paul might not say).

Anonymous said...

College Christians Accomplish Coup? Do you even know what a coup is? Seems to me this is pure propaganda and rhetoric. Show me what rules or laws these "Christians" broke in order to get elected into positions on the Student Council? Does anybody posting here even know what happened at this college? If we'd be any better, we would judge righteously, which is what Jesus really said to do. I think it's great students are getting involved on campus (since in this case there was a record turnout). And if you think this is disproportional representation, just come to my college, where the student government is made up of homophiles, pedophiles, and 'students' old enough to be my grandfather. My guess is that they make up less than 3% of the real student population. Talk about being ineffective!

Zeno said...

Thank you for your comment, Anonymous. May I ask you what's wrong with senior citizens going to school? Does it offend you that some of your schoolmates are old enough to be your grandfather? And what is wrong with you that you think that?

As for "pedophiles" being in your student government, let's just say I don't believe you. Okay?

By the way, the Christian student coalition did not actually take over the student government at my friend's school. It seems they spent all their time on politics and prayer and forgot to do their homework. Three were disqualified for failing to meet eligibility requirements for extracurricular activities and that was the end of the right-wing Christian majority.

Anonymous said...

I happen to actually go to ARC, the campus you are so viciously speaking of, and I know what happened. It doesn't matter if you believe it or not but Christians have been making a POSITIVE impact on this campus. They have gotten students interested in student government, campus regulations, and God. It takes courage to stand up against something that is wrong even when everyone is saying its right. Its not their fault they get so much opposition. Its the opposers that are causing all the turmoil. The best thing, however, is that God is on the Christian side and He's been helping them through all of this drama. And they're not quitting. Its been more than a year now since the CCC has been active on campus and they still are today. This last election, they got three more Christians into student government. And they are trying to make ARC a stronger college. So, if you have something against Christians being active on their campuses, do something about it. Make your own campaigns, set up a booth every day in front of library, go to all the student council meeting, sacrifice your time, and then you'll see what it takes to do what they do.
Talk is cheap.

Zeno said...

I have no objection, Anonymous, to students being active on their campuses, whether they are Christian or not. I do, however, object to silly people who think geology classes should say the earth is only a few thousand years old, that anthropology classes should give creationism equal time, or that history classes should treat the Bible as a literally true account. Public schools are nonsectarian and you don't get to redesign the curriculum to suit your religious preconceptions. That's not going to happen at ARC or any other California community college. Or imagine the fun that would ensue if your student government acquired a Muslim majority. Schools would be scrambling back and forth with every shift of the breeze.

Work hard at your school. Participate and learn. One of the things you will learn is where the boundaries are, and that will be a good lesson.

Matt Gerring said...

Wow, I had no idea this story was cited anywhere. Thanks for this!