An open letter to Dr. Michael Drake:
Congratulations on officially becoming the 15th president of The Ohio State University on Tuesday at your investiture ceremony. I look forward to having you lead the school throughout my next three years here and beyond.
In your investiture address, you made note of intolerance across our country and said that “universities — of all places — must welcome and celebrate all individuals, regardless of race, class, culture, orientation or identity.”
I agree. Your statement is 100 percent accurate, and that is why in light of recent legislation passed in our neighboring state of Indiana, I am asking you to ban all university-funded travel to the state as long as Senate Bill 101, in its current form, is enacted.
SB 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, allows businesses to state “free exercise” of religion and use it as a defense against lawsuits. Effectively, this will allow business owners to deny any service to individuals who might conflict with their religious beliefs and then use the law as defense in court. Opponents, such as myself, fear this will allow for discrimination against LGBT individuals.
But it does not stop there. The law would allow a Christian owner of a coffee shop to deny a Jewish man wearing a kippah service if the owner feels “substantially burdened.” The issue is that “substantially burdened” is vague and could prove to be a slippery slope.
You would not be alone, President Drake, if you took a stand against intolerance and banned university funded travel to Indiana. On Monday, San Francisco State University President Leslie E. Wong issued a statement, saying that “no San Francisco State University funds from any source — general funds or auxiliary — will be used to support employee or student travel to Indiana.” Wong called it “unconscionable” for SFSU to spend resources in a place that tries to “legislate discrimination of any kind.”
Other elected officials, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, have spoken out as well. Cuomo banned all travel that is “not essential” to the state, and Malloy signed an executive order that prohibits “state-funded” travel by the entire state government, the executive branch and, importantly, the University of Connecticut.
As you know, President Drake, Buckeyes are not just scarlet and gray. We are all unique and different. We come from varied backgrounds and unique creeds. As Buckeyes, we should take a stand nationally against discrimination of people with different faiths and rather, commit to tolerance. By banning all university-funded travel to Indiana, the university would uphold its ideals of diversity.
The Indiana legislature attempted to turn back the clock to a time in our country where discrimination was widespread. With your help, we can create enough pressure on the state to revise or repeal its unfair law and move forward to a more inclusive nation.
Please, President Drake, help our nation take a step forward by suspending all university-funded travel to Indiana until the RFRA legislation is adjusted or repealed.