Sonoma State University officials publicly apologized Wednesday to a student who was asked to remove her cross necklace by a supervisor who told her it would offend people.
Junior Audrey Jarvis was working at a June 27 orientation for prospective students when she was asked to remove the necklace, said SSU spokeswoman Susan Kashack.
"It was a stupid request and uncalled for and unsubstantiated and the person who did it has admitted all that," SSU President Ruben Armi?na said Wednesday.
No decisions have been made regarding any disciplinary action.
"I think I'm going to let the process dictate that," Armi?na said.
Kashack would not identify the employee. She said he is not a student and that he was hired by Associated Students, an auxiliary organization that is the student body government.
Associated Students Executive Vice President Anthony Gallino declined to comment Wednesday.
Jarvis' attorney, Hiram Sasser, said the San Diego native, who is Catholic, was "told" to remove the necklace because it might offend people and make incoming students feel unwelcome. That was a clear violation of laws governing religious freedoms.
"It would be the same whether it was a Christian cross or a hijab or a yarmulke," said Sasser, director of litigation for the Liberty Institute in Plano, Texas.
The incident has garnered widespread attention, with media outlets from Fox News to the Washington Times reporting on it. Kashack said by Wednesday morning she had received 94 messages from "angry people across the country who feel the university is discriminating against one student because of her religion."
She said: "That is not in the least bit the case," and noted it would be against SSU and California State University policies expressly prohibiting such actions.
Armi?na said there are "no constraints whatsoever, and there should not be and there will not be, about wearing what you want to wear — a cross, the Star of David, a covering on your head."
Jarvis and her family were on a boating vacation Wednesday and out of reach, said Sasser. But she will attend a Monday meeting he is having with university officials, he said.
"My assumption is that we'll probably get this thing wrapped up and be done with it at that meeting," he said.
Jarvis is not seeking any damages, he said. The goal is to establish that Jarvis can wear her necklace at any time, including while at work, and that she receive a direct apology.
University officials have tried to contact Jarvis to apologize, but she hadn't replied to their overtures yet, Kashack said.
SSU's Title IX coordinator, Joyce Suzuki, who oversees equal opportunity and anti-discrimination policies, is investigating the incident, Kashack said.
Armi?na said the employee had called him and "apologized profoundly. He's very contrite about the mistake he made."
Sasser said he did not know whether Jarvis contacted Liberty Institute or vice-versa. Regardless, the incident will serve a valuable purpose, he said.
"It's a good reminder of what the law is and what the right things to do are, and hopefully folks all over the country can learn and relearn and be educated about these types of issues," said Sasser.
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Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or firstname.lastname@example.org.