SSU prez sorry for necklace dustup
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By Natalie Gray  July 5, 2013 12:00 am

Sonoma State University President, Dr. Ruben Armiñana on July 2 sent a mass email to all SSU officials and students addressing and apologizing for an incident that violated the right of religious freedom and the university’s claim of tolerance.

According to Armiñana’s email, sometime last week, a student employee, sophomore Audrey Jarvis was instructed by an unnamed university official to remove her cross necklace. Armiñana assured in his email that this was done without consent of the university and that the school does not stand by its employee’s actions.

“I want to be clear this was a completely inappropriate request to make,” Armiñana’s email stated. The president also moved to apologize personally to the student and stated that SSU supports all types of diversity and religions.

Jarvis was working at a June 27 orientation for prospective students last Thursday, June 27, when she was approached by a university full-time employee and told her she either had to remove or hide her cross necklace so as not to offend any prospective students. According to Jarvis’s attorney, Hiram Sasser, the employee approached Jarvis about this matter on two occasions, 20 minutes apart from each other and claimed he was acting in response to a policy he believed the university to have against wearing religious paraphernalia. 

Sasser said he was unable to find such a policy upheld by either SSU or the California State University system and believes the employee may have been mistaken and said the situation seemed unfortunate and bizarre. Jarvis did not know of any other occasions when such an incident occurred.

“This was a stupid mistake,” said Armiñana in an email interview Wednesday morning. “The employee is sorry for it and has apologized profusely. SSU does not have and will not have any policy that restrains what someone wears or displays.” 

Sasser is to meet with university officials Monday at 2 p.m. to discuss the situation and what can be done to resolve the issue.

“My anticipation is that by the end of the meeting, it will be the end of it,” said Sasser. “We are asking for an apology and for her to have the right to wear her cross.”

Another goal, though not a demand, would be for the university to review or update its policies on religious paraphernalia and that employees and students alike have the right to wear such, said Sasser. 

Sasser said he does not believe the university employee intended any foul or hateful actions, and by Monday everything will be resolved. Unless something unforeseen occurs at the meeting, Sasser said he cannot imagine the situation leading to a lawsuit. 

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