Student asked to remove her cross may leave Sonoma State University

Audrey Jarvis

Student asked to remove her cross may leave SSU

Sonoma State University student Audrey Jarvis wears a cross necklace much like the one she was asked to remove while working at a school event in June. Jarvis said a supervisor asked her to remove the necklace while representing the school. SSU officials on Monday personally apologized to her.

CONNER JAY / The Press Democrat


Published: Monday, July 8, 2013 at 3:12 p.m.

Last Modified: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 9:40 a.m.

The Sonoma State student who was asked by a supervisor to remove her cross to avoid offending non-Christians says she’s not sure she will ever return to the school, but she said the university seems to be taking the matter seriously.

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“The university is doing everything right and if I do decide to attend somewhere else, it would not be for lack of effort on the university’s part,” Audrey Jarvis said Monday after she and her attorney, Hiram Sasser, met with university officials.

University spokeswoman Susan Kashack said she hoped Jarvis returns to school in the fall, but in the wake of the incident, the student says she is considering her options for her junior year.

“I have some things to figure out; I’m taking a little time for myself,” she said. “I am not really sure where my future will take me, but hopefully within the next few weeks, I will be able to make some decisions and we’ll take it from there.”

Jarvis, 19, an event planner for the student government, known as Associated Students, was working at a student orientation event last month when a supervisor approached her to ask her to remove or hide a large cross necklace, saying it might be offensive or off-putting to students looking to attend the school or join the organization.

Jarvis, upset by the request, left the orientation early. After talking with lawyers from the Texas-based Liberty Institute, she filed a complaint with the university. The story hit Fox News late last month and was picked up by news organizations as far away as the U.K.

President Ruben Armiñana and others at the university quickly apologized for the incident, saying it was a misguided but well-intentioned mistake by the supervisor.

Neither Jarvis nor the university have named the person responsible for asking her to remove the cross. Jarvis said she didn’t want to “drag anyone’s name through the mud” and the university has said it is a “personnel matter,” which they treat as confidential.

Associated Students Executive Director Erik Dickson was out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment.

Monday’s meeting, which was closed to the press, was intended for the university to pass on its apology directly to Jarvis and to explain how the matter will be handled administratively.

Jarvis had asked for a “religious accommodation,” essentially a religiously based exception to any policy the university might have about wearing jewelry or other clothing. But since the university does not have any such policy, spokeswoman Kashack said, there is nothing from which to exempt her.

“There is nothing on this campus that anyone could wear or say that would be not OK,” she said.

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