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Statement on non-discrimination policy and student groups

Posted on Tuesday, Sep. 27, 2011 — 5:07 PM

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. Some student religious organizations have raised concerns about how the policy might affect eligibility for leadership positions within their organizations. As a result of those concerns, we are exploring the issue.

We are still in discussions and no decisions have been made – any information to the contrary is just speculation at this point. We have 380 student organizations currently registered at Vanderbilt. Of the 36 religious student groups registered, 32 are in compliance. All other student groups are now in compliance with the policy. Note: These numbers may be updated again as the Office of the Dean of Students continues to work with the individual student groups).

Those student organizations not in compliance with the university’s nondiscrimination policy have been placed on provisional status, meaning they have the same full access to the Vanderbilt campus as they have had in the past while the university continues to listen to and discuss their concerns. We are committed to finding a solution to this issue.

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.

View an earlier statement about this issue.

Update timeline:

Updated 2:10 p.m., Sept. 30, 2011. Two additional groups have come into compliance with the university’s non-discrimination policy, bringing the total of groups in compliance to 376.

Updated 11:17 a.m., Sept. 29, 2011. Two of the affected groups have come into compliance with the university’s nondiscrimination policy, bringing the total number of groups in compliance to 374. updates below.

Media Contact: Beth Fortune, (615) 322-NEWS


  • VandyAlumniJAC

    This was quite helpful and very informative. Thank you for posting this.

  • VandyAlumniJAC

    This was quite helpful and very informative. Thank you for posting this.

  • VandyAlumniJAC

    This was quite helpful and very informative. Thank you for posting this.

  • Frustrated Alumnus

    The solution is simple: quit harassing the student religious organizations. There’s no need for a Christian to be able to be a leader in a Jewish group or a Catholic to run the Baptist group.u00a0nnHas my alma mater lost its common sense?

  • Frustrated Alumnus

    The solution is simple: quit harassing the student religious organizations. There’s no need for a Christian to be able to be a leader in a Jewish group or a Catholic to run the Baptist group.u00a0nnHas my alma mater lost its common sense?

  • Frustrated Alumnus

    The solution is simple: quit harassing the student religious organizations. There’s no need for a Christian to be able to be a leader in a Jewish group or a Catholic to run the Baptist group.u00a0nnHas my alma mater lost its common sense?

  • Bluesky-43

    I hope you people have read Brave New World? This is starting to sound a lot like “Big Brother is Watching YOU. u00a0I live in California and I heard a discussion of this subject on a Christian Radio Program. u00a0You had really better be more wise. God is not mocked.He has ways of dealing with political decisions that have nothing to do with human action.Making policies that you think are going to cause the Christian organizations to u00a0″rot from within” by being infiltrated byu00a0atheistic groups is not a wise decision. Why do you think that the Bible is still the best selling book in the World; even though throughout time, foolish men have tried to destroy it.u00a0nnThink about what you are doing.Christianity thrives the best where Christians are persecuted.u00a0nActually, maybe we should thank you for giving Christian students at Vanderbilt a heads up!!nnSincerely, Karen L. Cudaback

    • commodoresss

      Big Brother was a 1984 reference. I am a Christian and have no problem with the university’s stance. If groups remain noncompliant, then they can operate off campus.

  • Bluesky-43

    I hope you people have read Brave New World? This is starting to sound a lot like “Big Brother is Watching YOU. u00a0I live in California and I heard a discussion of this subject on a Christian Radio Program. u00a0You had really better be more wise. God is not mocked.He has ways of dealing with political decisions that have nothing to do with human action.Making policies that you think are going to cause the Christian organizations to u00a0″rot from within” by being infiltrated byu00a0atheistic groups is not a wise decision. Why do you think that the Bible is still the best selling book in the World; even though throughout time, foolish men have tried to destroy it.u00a0nnThink about what you are doing.Christianity thrives the best where Christians are persecuted.u00a0nActually, maybe we should thank you for giving Christian students at Vanderbilt a heads up!!nnSincerely, Karen L. Cudaback

  • Bluesky-43

    I hope you people have read Brave New World? This is starting to sound a lot like “Big Brother is Watching YOU. u00a0I live in California and I heard a discussion of this subject on a Christian Radio Program. u00a0You had really better be more wise. God is not mocked.He has ways of dealing with political decisions that have nothing to do with human action.Making policies that you think are going to cause the Christian organizations to u00a0″rot from within” by being infiltrated byu00a0atheistic groups is not a wise decision. Why do you think that the Bible is still the best selling book in the World; even though throughout time, foolish men have tried to destroy it.u00a0nnThink about what you are doing.Christianity thrives the best where Christians are persecuted.u00a0nActually, maybe we should thank you for giving Christian students at Vanderbilt a heads up!!nnSincerely, Karen L. Cudaback

  • Rchaney

    Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zepposu00a0wants to discriminate against organizations that establish basic guidelines for members.u00a0u00a0He calls this discrimination.u00a0 The Supreme Court has already ruled that this is not discrimination.u00a0 The Chancellor is in over his head and should resign.u00a0 His mainu00a0issue is that he wants tou00a0discriminate against organizations that would not allow a person such as he to be a leader of that organization – they have higher standards.

  • Rchaney

    Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zepposu00a0wants to discriminate against organizations that establish basic guidelines for members.u00a0u00a0He calls this discrimination.u00a0 The Supreme Court has already ruled that this is not discrimination.u00a0 The Chancellor is in over his head and should resign.u00a0 His mainu00a0issue is that he wants tou00a0discriminate against organizations that would not allow a person such as he to be a leader of that organization – they have higher standards.

  • Rchaney

    Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zepposu00a0wants to discriminate against organizations that establish basic guidelines for members.u00a0u00a0He calls this discrimination.u00a0 The Supreme Court has already ruled that this is not discrimination.u00a0 The Chancellor is in over his head and should resign.u00a0 His mainu00a0issue is that he wants tou00a0discriminate against organizations that would not allow a person such as he to be a leader of that organization – they have higher standards.

  • Volfan727

    Really think you folks at Vandy need to rethink this entire process!!

  • Volfan727

    Really think you folks at Vandy need to rethink this entire process!!

  • Volfan727

    Really think you folks at Vandy need to rethink this entire process!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AXYR46RQP6CWBIQQB5NJXQJPIU Uncle

    I think you should leave the policy the way it is; that way, Christians on campus can join non-Christian organizations en mass and take them over. Can you imagine? A future Baptist preacher running an Islamic Students’ group and teaching them about Christ!? What a wonderful opportunity. And all under the auspices of non-discrimination and paid for by the university! What an opportunity.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AXYR46RQP6CWBIQQB5NJXQJPIU Uncle

    I think you should leave the policy the way it is; that way, Christians on campus can join non-Christian organizations en mass and take them over. Can you imagine? A future Baptist preacher running an Islamic Students’ group and teaching them about Christ!? What a wonderful opportunity. And all under the auspices of non-discrimination and paid for by the university! What an opportunity.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_AXYR46RQP6CWBIQQB5NJXQJPIU Uncle

    I think you should leave the policy the way it is; that way, Christians on campus can join non-Christian organizations en mass and take them over. Can you imagine? A future Baptist preacher running an Islamic Students’ group and teaching them about Christ!? What a wonderful opportunity. And all under the auspices of non-discrimination and paid for by the university! What an opportunity.

  • Guest

    nnWhen the very first sentence in the aforesaid statement isncarefully read, it infers that preexisting student organizations’ constitutionsnmust now be rewritten to mirror image Vanderbilt University’s “EqualnOpportunity and Affirmative Action Policy (EOAAP);” further, thenprincipals of the organizations must swear a type of allegiance to the policynon behalf of their organizations which would include themselves as individuals.nVanderbilt University’s EOAAP has as its centerpiece, employment; therefore,nfor student organizations to adopt the EOAAP, it would be relevant only tonmatters of employment. If Vanderbilt Universityu00a0 as an entity perceivesnthat the student organizations are employing personnel on behalf of thenuniversity then a conflict would most certainly exist should a studentnorganization’s constitution not conform with the EOAAP; however, if annorganization is a nonprofit with none of its members receiving compensationnfrom the organization and Vanderbilt is simply lending support to the organizationn– support that is sufficiently inexhaustible and therefore, can be lent tonothers — this charitable overture on behalf of the University cannot benregarded as “compensation” and it can be presumed that if it isnregarded as compensation, it would be a matter disclosed and subsequentlynscrutinized by taxing authorities such as the IRS. Further, the compensationnpaid to Vanderbilt University by the individual members of studentnorganizations even though their attendance is coupled to other qualifying criteria,nrepresents earnings to the University; therefore, individually or jointly,nstudents and their organizations cannot be regarded as employees or departmentsnof Vanderbilt University, quite the contrary! nnThere are, “380 studentnorganizations currently registered at Vanderbilt. Of the 36 religious student groupsnregistered, 31 are in compliance. Among thenother registered student organizations, 341 are inncompliance. Currently, only eightnregistered student organizations are not in compliance with the universityu2019snnondiscrimination policy u2013 of these eight, only fivenare religious student groups.”nnThe aforesaid statement is a testimonial telling of the tolerances exercised bynthe vast majority of the student organizations at Vanderbilt. The wordn”tolerance” does not necessarily mean that an organization does not discriminate;nit simply means that the members of an organization will do their best individuallynand corporately to welcome all comers and thereafter, encourage the newcomer tonlend gifts and talents to the pursuits of the association. u00a0Should a newcomer be desirous of steering thenassociation in a direction that runs contrary to the delineated pursuits of thenorganization then it would seem reasonable to formally consider the ideology ofnthe newcomer and how such doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs, or principles mightnbe integrated into the policies, practices, or procedures of the associationnthereby better equipping the association to meet its predefined pursuits. Ifnthe majority of the members in the student organization cannot or will notnentertain one or more aspects of the newcomeru2019s ideology then it would benrequired of the newcomer to adopt without personal discomfort the ideology ofnthe association as it had existed before the newcomer joined its ranks. Bynjoining the ranks of the association, the newcomer indicated that for better ornfor worse u2013 the association was a desirable mind, body, and spirit with whichnto be partnered. u00a0Subsequent to beingnwed, if compromises are made predicated upon one or anotheru2019s ideologies andnthereafter there remains disquieting contentions or inharmonious, disjointed aftereffectsnthat negatively impact the health and well-being of the association or morenspecifically the union, then the bones of contention must be buried. Both thenassociation as well as its dissenters must separate u2013 call it a u2018no-faultndivorceu2019 and thereby both parties that had been joined together can go theirnseparate ways and if inclined, create new unions. nnn

  • Guest

    nnWhen the very first sentence in the aforesaid statement isncarefully read, it infers that preexisting student organizations’ constitutionsnmust now be rewritten to mirror image Vanderbilt University’s “EqualnOpportunity and Affirmative Action Policy (EOAAP);” further, thenprincipals of the organizations must swear a type of allegiance to the policynon behalf of their organizations which would include themselves as individuals.nVanderbilt University’s EOAAP has as its centerpiece, employment; therefore,nfor student organizations to adopt the EOAAP, it would be relevant only tonmatters of employment. If Vanderbilt Universityu00a0 as an entity perceivesnthat the student organizations are employing personnel on behalf of thenuniversity then a conflict would most certainly exist should a studentnorganization’s constitution not conform with the EOAAP; however, if annorganization is a nonprofit with none of its members receiving compensationnfrom the organization and Vanderbilt is simply lending support to the organizationn– support that is sufficiently inexhaustible and therefore, can be lent tonothers — this charitable overture on behalf of the University cannot benregarded as “compensation” and it can be presumed that if it isnregarded as compensation, it would be a matter disclosed and subsequentlynscrutinized by taxing authorities such as the IRS. Further, the compensationnpaid to Vanderbilt University by the individual members of studentnorganizations even though their attendance is coupled to other qualifying criteria,nrepresents earnings to the University; therefore, individually or jointly,nstudents and their organizations cannot be regarded as employees or departmentsnof Vanderbilt University, quite the contrary! nnThere are, “380 studentnorganizations currently registered at Vanderbilt. Of the 36 religious student groupsnregistered, 31 are in compliance. Among thenother registered student organizations, 341 are inncompliance. Currently, only eightnregistered student organizations are not in compliance with the universityu2019snnondiscrimination policy u2013 of these eight, only fivenare religious student groups.”nnThe aforesaid statement is a testimonial telling of the tolerances exercised bynthe vast majority of the student organizations at Vanderbilt. The wordn”tolerance” does not necessarily mean that an organization does not discriminate;nit simply means that the members of an organization will do their best individuallynand corporately to welcome all comers and thereafter, encourage the newcomer tonlend gifts and talents to the pursuits of the association. u00a0Should a newcomer be desirous of steering thenassociation in a direction that runs contrary to the delineated pursuits of thenorganization then it would seem reasonable to formally consider the ideology ofnthe newcomer and how such doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs, or principles mightnbe integrated into the policies, practices, or procedures of the associationnthereby better equipping the association to meet its predefined pursuits. Ifnthe majority of the members in the student organization cannot or will notnentertain one or more aspects of the newcomeru2019s ideology then it would benrequired of the newcomer to adopt without personal discomfort the ideology ofnthe association as it had existed before the newcomer joined its ranks. Bynjoining the ranks of the association, the newcomer indicated that for better ornfor worse u2013 the association was a desirable mind, body, and spirit with whichnto be partnered. u00a0Subsequent to beingnwed, if compromises are made predicated upon one or anotheru2019s ideologies andnthereafter there remains disquieting contentions or inharmonious, disjointed aftereffectsnthat negatively impact the health and well-being of the association or morenspecifically the union, then the bones of contention must be buried. Both thenassociation as well as its dissenters must separate u2013 call it a u2018no-faultndivorceu2019 and thereby both parties that had been joined together can go theirnseparate ways and if inclined, create new unions. nnn

  • Guest

    nnWhen the very first sentence in the aforesaid statement isncarefully read, it infers that preexisting student organizations’ constitutionsnmust now be rewritten to mirror image Vanderbilt University’s “EqualnOpportunity and Affirmative Action Policy (EOAAP);” further, thenprincipals of the organizations must swear a type of allegiance to the policynon behalf of their organizations which would include themselves as individuals.nVanderbilt University’s EOAAP has as its centerpiece, employment; therefore,nfor student organizations to adopt the EOAAP, it would be relevant only tonmatters of employment. If Vanderbilt Universityu00a0 as an entity perceivesnthat the student organizations are employing personnel on behalf of thenuniversity then a conflict would most certainly exist should a studentnorganization’s constitution not conform with the EOAAP; however, if annorganization is a nonprofit with none of its members receiving compensationnfrom the organization and Vanderbilt is simply lending support to the organizationn– support that is sufficiently inexhaustible and therefore, can be lent tonothers — this charitable overture on behalf of the University cannot benregarded as “compensation” and it can be presumed that if it isnregarded as compensation, it would be a matter disclosed and subsequentlynscrutinized by taxing authorities such as the IRS. Further, the compensationnpaid to Vanderbilt University by the individual members of studentnorganizations even though their attendance is coupled to other qualifying criteria,nrepresents earnings to the University; therefore, individually or jointly,nstudents and their organizations cannot be regarded as employees or departmentsnof Vanderbilt University, quite the contrary! nnThere are, “380 studentnorganizations currently registered at Vanderbilt. Of the 36 religious student groupsnregistered, 31 are in compliance. Among thenother registered student organizations, 341 are inncompliance. Currently, only eightnregistered student organizations are not in compliance with the universityu2019snnondiscrimination policy u2013 of these eight, only fivenare religious student groups.”nnThe aforesaid statement is a testimonial telling of the tolerances exercised bynthe vast majority of the student organizations at Vanderbilt. The wordn”tolerance” does not necessarily mean that an organization does not discriminate;nit simply means that the members of an organization will do their best individuallynand corporately to welcome all comers and thereafter, encourage the newcomer tonlend gifts and talents to the pursuits of the association. u00a0Should a newcomer be desirous of steering thenassociation in a direction that runs contrary to the delineated pursuits of thenorganization then it would seem reasonable to formally consider the ideology ofnthe newcomer and how such doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs, or principles mightnbe integrated into the policies, practices, or procedures of the associationnthereby better equipping the association to meet its predefined pursuits. Ifnthe majority of the members in the student organization cannot or will notnentertain one or more aspects of the newcomeru2019s ideology then it would benrequired of the newcomer to adopt without personal discomfort the ideology ofnthe association as it had existed before the newcomer joined its ranks. Bynjoining the ranks of the association, the newcomer indicated that for better ornfor worse u2013 the association was a desirable mind, body, and spirit with whichnto be partnered. u00a0Subsequent to beingnwed, if compromises are made predicated upon one or anotheru2019s ideologies andnthereafter there remains disquieting contentions or inharmonious, disjointed aftereffectsnthat negatively impact the health and well-being of the association or morenspecifically the union, then the bones of contention must be buried. Both thenassociation as well as its dissenters must separate u2013 call it a u2018no-faultndivorceu2019 and thereby both parties that had been joined together can go theirnseparate ways and if inclined, create new unions. nnn

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XC3H25IJQR7VZSNTEWG4JCQHSI Michael

    Educational entities are not in a position to enforce discrimination policies in greater aptitude than written law. Athiests should not complain about not being leaders of a religious group, their entire entity states religion is fake so why should they bother running a religious group? Why would a gay person be a leader in a group who does not recognize their identity? Would a fundamentalist christian want to run an athiest group and be allowed to retain his/her religious free speech in that group. Would that group survive? Common sense and practicality are showing many of these supposed centers fir higher education are becoming no more than political training grounds for certain ideological groups and have become a fundraising and activist training center more than an educational center.nDecades ago, you would have not worried about the educational standards of a college because there was nothing to worry about. Now it seems that the mark of a good college these days is how they can retain their accredidation by certain monetary payments. No wonder why we have fallen behind even Zimbabwe in formal education, it is because we are more concerned about political activism instead of education.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XC3H25IJQR7VZSNTEWG4JCQHSI Michael

    Educational entities are not in a position to enforce discrimination policies in greater aptitude than written law. Athiests should not complain about not being leaders of a religious group, their entire entity states religion is fake so why should they bother running a religious group? Why would a gay person be a leader in a group who does not recognize their identity? Would a fundamentalist christian want to run an athiest group and be allowed to retain his/her religious free speech in that group. Would that group survive? Common sense and practicality are showing many of these supposed centers fir higher education are becoming no more than political training grounds for certain ideological groups and have become a fundraising and activist training center more than an educational center.nDecades ago, you would have not worried about the educational standards of a college because there was nothing to worry about. Now it seems that the mark of a good college these days is how they can retain their accredidation by certain monetary payments. No wonder why we have fallen behind even Zimbabwe in formal education, it is because we are more concerned about political activism instead of education.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_XC3H25IJQR7VZSNTEWG4JCQHSI Michael

    Educational entities are not in a position to enforce discrimination policies in greater aptitude than written law. Athiests should not complain about not being leaders of a religious group, their entire entity states religion is fake so why should they bother running a religious group? Why would a gay person be a leader in a group who does not recognize their identity? Would a fundamentalist christian want to run an athiest group and be allowed to retain his/her religious free speech in that group. Would that group survive? Common sense and practicality are showing many of these supposed centers fir higher education are becoming no more than political training grounds for certain ideological groups and have become a fundraising and activist training center more than an educational center.nDecades ago, you would have not worried about the educational standards of a college because there was nothing to worry about. Now it seems that the mark of a good college these days is how they can retain their accredidation by certain monetary payments. No wonder why we have fallen behind even Zimbabwe in formal education, it is because we are more concerned about political activism instead of education.

  • David in Gladwyne

    As a Vanderbilt Alum (PhD ’86) I find the application of “nondiscrimination” in a heavy, ham-fisted manner to communities of purpose and belief beyond belief. It is the same as saying,”it is discrimination not to allow a man to have a locker in the women’s locker room.” Get real, Vanderbilt. This is not something that needs exploration. It is like saying, let a Buddhist be the president of the Muslim club, or an avid heterosexual the president of the LGBT club. Hello? Has sanity and good sense completely vanished from the leadership of a flagship University? The points made below are correct: religiously based tests for membership are not discriminatory in a religiously based organization, anymore than than having an MD as a qualification to practice medicine is discriminatory. There are certain “tests” given the purpose and charter of an organization that limit its membership. I should hope the Mormons, Methodists, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Jews and others could form student organizations without the threat of the University forcing them to give up their religious identity as a precondition for being a religious organization!

    • Matthew

      What in the world is an “avid heterosexual”? 

  • Matthew

    1.  There is a code at Vanderbilt (for good reason) that prohibits discrimination against individuals for reasons of Race, Color, Ethnicity,  Gender, Sexual Orientation, Religion, etc.

    2.  All Vanderbilt-sponsored student groups must be in compliance with that code.

    So what is the problem exactly?  Vanderbilt is not saying that Christian student groups MUST allow people of other religions to join…Rather Vanderbilt is only saying that these groups cannot explicitly PROHIBIT students from joining based on Race, Color, Ethnicity,  Gender, Sexual Orientation, Religion, etc.

    So in reality, will the Christian groups be taken over by Muslims, Buddhists, non-religious individuals, Jews, etc.? No.  

    Is it reasonable to prohibit explicit rules that a student group uses to discriminate against Race, Color, Ethnicity,  Gender, Sexual Orientation, Religion, etc. when choosing its members?  Yes.

    • aggietx

      The rules are about leadership, not membership.  Too bad you didn’t read the policy before commenting

  • Conor McCartney

    Isn’t the definition of a group to meet over some shared value or goal, and that in pursuit of that goal a group must discriminate otherwise it is not a group at all. LGBT groups must discriminate against people who do not believe that Gays and Lesbians should have the right to marry or adopt.

  • rennin1

    This non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt is doomed to fail.  The Boy Scouts of America were sued because of their single-sex membership, opposition to atheists as members, and homosexuals in leadership positions.  The courts ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts of America in each case.  The courts have repeatedly held that all private organizations have a right to set membership standards in accordance with the First Amendment protected concept of freedom of association.  In “Boy Scouts of America v. Dale”, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the BSA’s Constitutional right to freedom of association gave them the authority to expel a gay assistant Scoutmaster.

  • http://twitter.com/autigers1970 autigers1970

    So by this logic, should a student group formed for survivors of child sexual abuse be forced to admit a member of NAMBLA?  Or is this thought-policing only being applied to religious groups who have the stones to actually believe in the tenets of their faith?

  • Anonymous

    This non-discrimination policy at Vanderbilt is doomed to fail.  Just look at the Boy Scouts of America for a precedent.  That organization was sued because of their single-sex membership, opposition to atheists as members, and homosexuals in leadership positions.  The courts ruled in favor of the Boy Scouts of America in each case.  The courts have repeatedly held that all private organizations have a right to set membership standards in accordance with the First Amendment protected concept of freedom of association.  In “Boy Scouts of America v. Dale”, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2000 that the BSA’s Constitutional right to freedom of association gave them the authority to expel a gay assistant Scoutmaster.



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