Letter to Al Baird

A letter from Boston University Dean of Students, Ronald L. Carter to Albert W. Baird, Elder of the Boston Church of Christ

August 19, 1987.

Dr. Albert W. Baird, Elder
The Boston Church of Christ
PO Box 313
Boston, MA 02117

Dear Dr. Baird:

After careful consideration and extensive discussion, we have reason to believe that certain members and leaders of the Boston Church of Christ, acting for and on behalf of that organization, have repeatedly engaged in actions which interfere with the privacy of Boston University students and the policies of the University in the residence halls. Accordingly, we must inform you that pending review of these allegations by the University’s Religious Life Council, the leaders from your church assigned to this campus, Mr. Steve brand, and others will not be authorized or permitted to enter any of the residence halls of the University. In addition, the concerns regarding the activities of your organization on campus will be subject to review by the Student Activities Office in order to determine whether the Student affiliated organization and thus enjoy the use of the facilities of the University.

This action is very grave because we consider the situation with our students to be most serious. Long discussions between the University chaplain and leaders of the Boston Church have sought to emphasize that the continued pressure and harassment of students to attend meetings, to leave other faith traditions and join the extensive activities of the Boston Church of Christ will not be tolerated. These actions have been carried out both by Boston University, many of whom have entered the Residence halls be means considered illegal. These harassment’s come by means of repeated and insistent solicitation in residence halls and campus dining facilities as well as by direct telephone calls to students in their rooms. The allegations we have received from many students are that Mr. Brand and others have repeatedly crossed over the line separating legitimate efforts to communicate and persuade and harassing efforts which fail to honor or respect the student’s right to say ‘no’ and be left alone. The allegations include repeated incidents in which individuals associated with the Boston Church of Christ abused the privilege they had been granted to enter a residence hall as a guest of a resident and then proceeded to make door-to-door solicitations in flagrant violation of the residence hall policy and their status as guests of a particular resident.

These actions by persons representing your organization have continued so intensively during the summer terms just finished that we may conclude that you are either unwilling or unable to change this pattern. We have recorded complaints from staff of the Office of Residence Life, faculty persons and staff members as well as numerous parents. Their testimony concerning harassment and pressure tactics of students is always the same. Thus this drastic action is necessitated. As I am sure you are aware, the alleged activities of these representatives of the Boston Church of Christ violate fundamental policies of the University and the guidelines concerning religious activity which we have repeatedly shared with the Boston Church of Christ and all other religious organizations and groups which seek to find welcome at Boston University. In addition, we have serious concern that these activities may constitute acts of hazing which in addition to being prescribed by University policy are prohibited by the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Every student organization on campus is required to act in accordance with both the policy and the law.

We must emphasize that this action cannot be interpreted to reflect either positively or negatively on the beliefs or philosophy of your church, nor does it abridge your rights to promulgate your beliefs in public places. However, the repeated documented cases of infringement on the rights of some students in residential, instructional or other University space and the destructive consequences in the lives of so many other students necessitates that we make the strongest possible response. Similarly, nothing in this letter nor in the proposed actions is intended to prevent any Boston University student from freely choosing to investigate, join, or actively participate in the religious faith and engage in the religious activities of any sect or denomination.

This matter will be presented to the Religious Life Council for consideration Wednesday, September 9, 1987 at 4:00 p.m. The designated representatives of the Boston Church of Christ, if the choose to do so, may appear before the Religious Life Council to present any information bearing on these matters in order to assist the Council in presenting recommendations to the Dean of the Chapel and the Dean of Students regarding whether the facilities of the University may be made available to your organization in the future. Pending the outcome of that review or any change which we might find to be appropriate, neither Mr. Brand nor other non-student representatives of the Boston Church of Christ will be permitted to enter any residence hall facility. Any abuse of these restrictions may require that more severe action be taken.

If you wish to have a representative of the Boston Church of Christ appear before the Religious Life Council in person or if you wish to submit a written statement for the consideration of the Council, please let us know by writing to the Dean of the Chapel. Consistent with the privacy rights of students and others, and subject to establishing appropriate mechanisms to insure that individuals will not be subjected to further harassment, we will arrange to share with the representative of your organization an outline of the consistent pattern of violation of University policy which we find to have been exhibited by your representatives.

We regret that this action has been found to be necessary. Boston University has a long and proud tradition of respecting religious diversity. But that tradition is premised on a respect for the right of each individual to make an individual choice, free from harassment or perceptions of intimidation. With reluctance, but in order to protect the tradition, we have taken this unprecedented step. We hope that more drastic action will not be required.

Sincerely,
Ronald L. Carter, Dean of Students
Robert Watts Thornburg, Dean of Marsh Chapel

cc: Mr. Steve Brand


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