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Catholic University of America reversed course last week to allow an NAACP chapter on campus after students assured school officials they would not advocate issues like abortion rights that run counter to university policy. Twenty students met last week with CUA president the Rev. David M. O’Connell and persuaded him to ask the student life staff to revisit the issue. The university had denied an application to form the student chapter in April on grounds that other campus groups already met the needs of minority students. Administrators also opposed what they said was the national NAACP’s promotion of abortion rights, which conflicts with Catholic Church policies. “We said all along we would be willing to revisit this issue when the students came back in the fall,” said university spokesman Victor Nakas. “They felt it was important for them to have a civil rights organization on campus.” Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, met with O’Connell over the summer and threatened to bring a lawsuit against the university. Mfume told The Associated Press the NAACP has no official position on abortion and such a decision would require a vote of the group’s more than 25,000 members. He speculated that university administrators misinterpreted the NAACP’s support of a women’s rights march last spring. “This sort of bump in the road is unfortunate,” Mfume said. “The larger Catholic community has been one of our strongest allies over the years” on issues of discrimination, equal opportunity and civil rights. In a statement, O’Connell wrote that students “made a compelling case demonstrating how and why a student chapter of the NAACP would be an important addition to our roster of student organizations, particularly in advancing the cause of civil rights.” Law student William Jawando of Washington, who filed the original application to form an NAACP chapter last October, said, “We want to talk about education, health care, voter registration, activism.” “It’s a good university,” Jawando said. “I’m not trying to be a destructive force from within. Like the country, it just has some issues, some problems, and it’s making progress.” Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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