FIRE is not alone in noting that the student organization Vanderbilt Catholic has withdrawn from Vanderbilt University due to Vanderbilt University’s infringement on student groups’ freedom of association. Writing for The Huffington Post, Tyler Kingkade points out that under Vanderbilt’s new non-discrimination policy, a faith-based organization like Vanderbilt Catholic can no longer require that leaders of the group share its core beliefs and values. This fundamental denial of students’ right to associate around shared beliefs has forced Vanderbilt Catholic (and possibly other groups in the near future) to disaffiliate with the school and lose official student organization status, which means they no longer have equal access to university funding, meeting spaces, organization mailboxes, and other resources.
This move isn’t just unfortunate from the student group’s vantage point. As the Huffington Post article highlights, it may also prove costly for Vanderbilt:
There is a non-discrimination exemption for fraternities and sororities on campus that allows them to exist as single-sex groups, per federal law. Without creating an exemption for religious groups, however, people like Vanderbilt alumnus and donor Thomas Singleton think the school is being hypocritical.
"If they insist on implementing this policy, I will probably stop all relationships with Vanderbilt," Singleton told NPR. "Because I’m a Christian, and I feel like Christians have a right to express their views and to choose their leadership on this campus — and they seem to be the primary group that’s singled out by this policy."
Check out the full article for more perspectives on this troubling issue, including a take from Robert’s piece in The Daily Caller. Here’s hoping that Vanderbilt reverses course quickly, before more student voices are removed from the panoply of views on campus.
Schools: Vanderbilt University Cases: Nationwide: “All-comers” Policies Jeopardize Free Association Vanderbilt University: Refusal to Approve Constitutions of Student Groups that Require Leaders to Share Beliefs