SA Senate denies recognition to religous organization Campus Advance

Northern Star, Northern Illinois University/February 22, 2010

In its first rejection of the academic year, the Student Association Senate unanimously denied recognition for Campus Advance, a religious organization, at its first Sunday night meeting since Jan. 31.

Campus Advance's request proved to be controversial among the assembled senate. Of the nearly two-hour meeting, almost a full hour was devoted to discussing whether to recognize the group.

Campus Advance President Brad Procek argued before the senate that the group's questionable affiliations had no bearing on Campus Advance's activities.

"NIU has no record of the details that led to our suspension [in the past]," Procek said. "That makes every accusation against us hearsay."

Campus Advance is affiliated with the Chicago Church of Christ. This denomination has had several groups at NIU in the past, many of which were suspended for accusations of strong-arm tactics, harassment and brainwashing, according to various Northern Star articles.

Most recently, a church-backed group was suspended in 2001. Another came before the senate in 2006 for recognition but was denied.

Many senators criticized Procek's argument that he was unaware of the group's reasons for suspension.

"I'm really shocked that this group couldn't find any information out at all," said Senator George Bychowski.

Bychowski said he was able to find much information about the group from a quick Internet search, as well as previous articles of the Northern Star.

Procek said he felt discriminated against by the senate.

"Personally, I have felt unwelcome at my own university," he said.

Procek claimed the group merely wanted to serve as a fellowship group for Christian students. "We want to create an environment for Christians to grow spiritually while furthering their studies," Procek said.

Procek argued that the group was most recently SA-recognized nearly a decade ago and that no members currently active would have been involved in the group at that time.

"I don't understand the reasons why we were kicked off," Procek said. "I wasn't around then."

This assertion - that no current members of Campus Advance were at the university and therefore had nothing to do with any controversy that previously occurred - caused some senators to cry foul.

"This gentleman said they were a part of the Chicago Church of Christ," said Senator Austin Quick. "That has not changed."

Senator Josh Kreft questioned Campus Advance's recruiting policies, which were cited as a reason for the group's previous suspension.

"If someone's not interested, I'll stop pursuing," Procek said. "It's never a point where I pressure someone. They have free will."

Also speaking on behalf of the group was Joe Dubowski. Dubowski's daughter, Gayle, was an active member of the group and was one of the victims of the Feb. 14, 2008 shootings.

"This church was a vital part of our daughter and her success and happiness as a Huskie," Dubowski said.

Quick disagreed with the organization's decision to bring Dubowski before the senate.

"It saddened me that [Campus Advance] brought the Dubowski family in order to boost support for their organization," Quick said later in an interview. "It was clear a lot of us were put off by their involvement to gain sympathy given [the group's] shady past with NIU and other colleges across the country."

Senator Arlieta Hall suggested the group table the discussion to do more research, but other senators dissented.

"This legislative body for this year should decide this tonight," Quick said. "I believe this group has not changed."

Ultimately, the senate decided to vote on the issue. In a unanimous vote, the senate rejected Campus Advance's bid for recognition.

"My role ... is to remain as impartial as possible," said President Pro Tempore Ryan Smith. "But the senate had a few very substantial concerns and they acted accordingly."

The Emmaus Center, 901 Lucinda Ave., another Christian organization, was recognized unanimously by the senate.

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