Vanderbilt University, one of the finest schools in the South and indeed, in the nation, has a strong anti-discrimination policy in place, which applies to all organizations on campus. There has been controversy recently, stemming in part from a Christian fraternity’s decision to kick a member out for being gay. Vanderbilt has no problem with religious organizations — indeed, there are thirty-six of them on campus — but is standing firm against pressure to allow certain groups to discriminate against students based on their beliefs:
“Student groups that wish to practice their faith are welcome at Vanderbilt; however, it is incumbent upon them to decide whether they wish to become registered student organizations at the university,” the statement read. “One of the requirements to be a registered student organization at Vanderbilt is that student organizations’ constitutions be in compliance with the university’s nondiscrimination policy and that they sign a statement that they will comply with the policy.”
There are 380 recognized student organizations at Vanderbilt, 36 of which are religious student groups. A university review found that 32 of those religious groups are in compliance with the school’s diversity policy. The remaining four have been placed on provisional status while the university review continues.
Vanderbilt’s review of its student organizations comes a year after a gay student accused a campus Christian fraternity of dismissing him because of his sexual orientation.
The above link notes that even the Congressional Prayer Caucus, including Tennessee’s shame [one of them], Rep. Marsha Blackburn, is exerting pressure on Vanderbilt, a private university, to give these four groups a special pass to discriminate.
The president of the College Republicans at Vanderbilt, of course, has been whining:
Siao also said he believes Vanderbilt is using the nondiscrimination policy to specifically target religious and conservative groups.
“I think what they’re trying to do is be a national leader on a progressive issue to get Vanderbilt’s name out there and show it’s not the school it used to be,” said Siao, “But I think it’s going to harm our community and the Christian faith.”
Siao also stated, “There are many devoted Christians on campus. They should have the right to govern their own clubs and assemble.”
Of course, but when 376 out of 380 organizations are able to comply with the policy, and 32 out of 36 religious organizations, perhaps the problem is the wingnut organizations, rather than the school’s policy.
This story has been brewing for a while — both of the above links are from the past couple of months — but the reason I bring this up now is that the Tennessee Equality Project has started a petition on Change.org, to support and encourage Vanderbilt in their decision to stick by their principles. Here’s what TEP has to say about it:
Tennessee Equality Project wants Vanderbilt University to know that people from all over the country support them in their decision to apply their non-discrimination policy consistently to all campus organizations. We have been hearing that the Board of Trust is under intense pressure to scale back the application of the policy. The Congressional Prayer Caucus and Family Action Council of Tennessee have criticized the University. We ask Chancellor Nick Zeppos to pass along our views to the Board of Trust at their meeting this week.
Of course the Family Action Council of Tennessee is involved. You’ll remember, from yesterday, that FACTn is a wang of the national hate group Family Research Council, and that it was recently revealed that they used a state senator, essentially, as a puppet, in the passage of the recent bill which disallows Tennessee’s cities from setting strong nondiscrimination policies, a direct attack on the LGBT people of the state. While I doubt that the overlap between FACTn donors and Vanderbilt parents is significant, far be it from a Religious Right organization to mind its own damn business.
Head over and sign the petition, please.