26 religious groups qualify under VU 'all-comers' policy; 14 'unwilling or unable'

Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 1:38pm
Staff reports

The student organization registration process at Vanderbilt University ended this week with more than 400 student groups registering in compliance with the school’s nondiscrimination policy, according to a release from the university.

Registration for the 2012-13 academic year ends during a week in which some, both inside and outside of the Vanderbilt community, have again raised opposition to the school’s policy.

In a release Wednesday, university officials state that 26 religious student groups have qualified as registered student organizations while currently 14 other religious organizations have said they are unwilling or unable to comply with the nondiscrimination policy.

Questions about how the university’s nondiscrimination policy impacts student organizations arose last year — and led to a contentious town hall meeting earlier this year — after a member of a registered student organization made an allegation of discrimination based on sexual orientation. As a result of that allegation, university administrators informed the student organizations of their need to comply with the university’s nondiscrimination policy.

The policy, according to school administration, requires that all Vanderbilt students must be eligible for membership in registered student organizations and that all members in good standing must be allowed to offer themselves for leadership positions — leaders are then chosen by the organizations.

“We are pleased that Vanderbilt continues to offer our students a wide variety of registered student organizations that represent the diversity of our students and their interests,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty said in a release. “It is reassuring that many of our current religious organizations understand that our nondiscrimination policy poses no threat to their religious freedom. All along, we have stressed that the policy is about rejecting discrimination and not about restricting religious freedom. We firmly believe the two principles can coexist on the Vanderbilt campus, and are gratified that many of our religious student organizations agree.”

The university has received a total of 469 submissions from student groups seeking registered student organization status. Some groups, which submitted applications with technical problems that are expected to be corrected, will be registered in the coming days. Although the official application deadline has passed, the Office of the Dean of Students has said it will continue to accept applications into the summer months.

8 Comments on this post:

By: LizzyD on 4/20/12 at 8:33

Do student organizations that are "registered" and approved by the University receive any financial "support," such as some portion of student activity fees?

By: oldbailey on 4/20/12 at 11:27

George Orwell could not have written a better example of doublethink than the Provost's absurd assertion ("It is reassuring that many of our current religious organizations understand that our nondiscrimination policy poses no threat to their religious freedom"). This whole episode has damaged Vanderbilt's reputation and standing with people of faith.

By: gabster1000 on 4/21/12 at 6:53

"As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents."
--George Orwell. Not exactly a proponent of Christianity. You might want to "doublethink" your statement.

By: pswindle on 4/21/12 at 2:09

REP. DUNN STAY OUT OF VANDERBILT'S BUSINESS. THEY HAVE BEEN DOING JUST FINE BEFORE YOU CAME ALONG WITH YOUR CRAZY IDEAS. STAND TALL VANDERBILT, AND DON'T CAVE IN TO THE RIGHT WING NUTS.

By: Ask01 on 4/22/12 at 10:09

I've many conflicting views on this subject, so please bear with me while I toss a few ideas out and attempt to reconcile my own position on this matter.

If a group was named, say, Straight Christian Men's Organization, there might be a clue in there somewhere indicating a gay atheist male might not share some of the same philosophical views as the rest of the group.

Why would a person such as this wish to be part of a group with which they share no common interests?

If the goal was to perhaps learn about the beliefs held by the group, then I believe allowing membership might be warranted.

If, on the other hand, the aim was to disrupt and splinter the organization, why should any group be forced to admit someone with malicious intent?

Organized religion and affiliate groups have often bewildered me as my perception is they frequently exclude the very people whom they are charged to exert a positive influence upon.

I am far from any type of a theologian, but I would think the best way to make contact with someone in a target group is to let them join. It seems I recall Jesus was constantly associating with the dregs of society, the individuals with which the fine, upstanding citizens wanted no contact.

This seems, with apologies to the Bard, "Much Ado About Nothing."

Of course, this is, as always, merely my humble personal opinion.

By: oldbailey on 4/23/12 at 1:20

gabster1000 -- if you re-read my original post, you will not find any refernces to Christianity, so I'm not sure what point you're making. Vanderbilt seeks to impose certain values on all faith-based organizations. The right to freedom of religious expression and the right of association are fundamental, as our nation's founders declared. Even though Vanderbilt is nominally a private institution (which nonetheless accepts federally-funded financial assistance, public grants, and the like) and can therefore sidestep many of the prohibitions on public institutions, its actions in seeking to impose its values on faith-based organizations -- no matter how well-intended -- is both dangerous and wrong-headed.

As for Orwell, he described "doublethink" as the "power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them...." The Provost's statement asks those who don't agree with the school's policy to somehow regard Vanderbilt's mandate as something other than a limitation on their freedom of religious expression. That fit's Orwell's definition pretty clearly, regardless of his views on anything else.

By: BigPapa on 4/24/12 at 7:59

Ive mostly ignored this and chucked it up to "things that only happen on a college campus". Like Ask said, if you start a group called Vandy For Obama you shouldn't have to allow a flood of GOPers into your little club.

By: Rocket99 on 4/24/12 at 8:28

I agree with pswindle. The State Legislature just needs to STAY THE HELL OUT OF THIS. Rep. Dunn needs to deal with the REAL PROBLEMS in Tennessee. Not what a private institution does.