By Taylor Pittenger

During September 29th’s colloquy, President Heather Knight referenced a Senate bill that was recently passed on September 30. The bill mentioned in colloquy is SB-1146.

The Equity in Higher Education Act is a bill that congress passed in 2009 which states, “all persons, regardless of disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or other specified bases, equal rights and opportunities in the postsecondary institutions of the state.” With that being said, “Both the federal and state laws do not apply to an educational institution that is controlled by a religious organization if the application would not be consistent with the religious tenets of that organization.” This means that religious institutions have a right to be exempt from this act.

The bill mentioned in colloquy--SB-1146—is meant to regulate institutions that wish to be exempt from the Equity in Higher Education Act for religious reasons. SB-1146 wants institutions to make it clear that they are being exempt. The bill states, “An institution that has an exemption from either the Equity in Higher Education Act or Title IX to make specified disclosures to the institution’s current and prospective students, faculty members, and employees, and to the Student Aid Commission, concerning the institution’s basis for having the exemption.”

According to SB-1146, starting the 2017-2018 school year, all schools that are exempt from the Equity in Higher Education Act must disclose why they are exempt. The bill gives examples on how this can be done:

“(1) The disclosure shall be displayed in a prominent location of the campus or school site. ‘Prominent location’ being the location or locations in the main administrative building or other areas where notices regarding the institution’s rules, regulations, procedures, and standards of conduct are posted.

(2) The disclosure shall be included in written materials sent to prospective students seeking admission to the institution.

(3) “The disclosure shall be provided as part of orientation programs conducted for new students at the beginning of each quarter, semester, or summer session, as applicable.” A related bill, Assembly Bill 1888, would only give an institution Cal-Grant funding if “the institution shall not subject an applicant, student, or employee of the institution to discrimination on the basis of, among other things, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

However, Assembly Bill 1888 did not pass.

In summary, there are bills created to protect students from discrimination. Some institutions, on the basis of religious freedom, can be exempt from these anti-discrimination bills. However, SB-1146 was passed to insure that institutions which wish to be exempt from anti-discrimination bills must state they are exempt and explain why they are exempt starting the 2017-2018 school year.