Inside the Liberal Bubble
From The Scrapbook
Apr 9, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 29 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
When we last checked in on Vanderbilt University, the administration was defending its “all comers” policy for leadership in religious student organizations. In the name of compliance with its nondiscrimination policy, the university decreed that religious groups must not bar students from eligibility for leadership positions based on, among other factors, their religious beliefs. Five religious student groups were placed on probation for failing to adopt this in practice, while other faith groups around campus, including Vanderbilt Catholic, openly protested the policy.
Unfortunately for campus Catholics and Vanderbilt community members of all faiths, the leadership of Vandy Catholic has decided not to reregister as a student organization for the upcoming fall semester. “The discriminatory nondiscrimination policy of Vanderbilt University has forced our hand,” said Father John Sims Baker, the university’s Catholic chaplain, in a statement posted on the group’s website. A letter signed by Vandy Catholic’s five student leaders explains the decision further:
“We regret, but respect, their decision,” university spokeswoman Beth Fortune emailed the Tennessean. “We believe, though, that the vast majority of our more than 400 registered student organizations easily will comply with the policy.”
Of course, Vandy Catholic will no longer be among those 400 student organizations, depriving Catholics and even interested non-Catholics among Vanderbilt’s undergraduates easy access to a vibrant student group. Baker has said that the group will reorganize off-campus, with the blessing of Nashville’s bishop, but the fact that Vandy Catholic found its continued affiliation with the university untenable speaks volumes about the values of the Vanderbilt administration.
Is it desirable for the university to continue defending a policy that makes little practical sense and is, intentionally or not, hostile to religious students who wish to organize themselves according to the tenets of their faith? Is it in the university’s interest to portray itself to prospective students as intolerant of peaceful expressions of faith and of organizations that seek to foster such expressions?
If the Vanderbilt administration truly regrets the loss of the group, it’s not too late to undo the new policy and reinstate freedom of association.
Don’t Let the Door Hit You . . .
Current TV, a.k.a. the Al Gore cable channel that no one watches, released a rather unsurprising statement this past Friday afternoon. You don’t need a Yale Ph.D. in Comparative Literature to read the bitterness between the lines of this press release:
According to the New York Times account, “Olbermann will not be given an opportunity to sign off.”
Ouch. In case you were wondering, Current TV has announced that it has already found a successor to Olbermann, who presumably does embody the “values of respect, openness, collegiality, and loyalty to our viewers”—Eliot “Client No. 9” Spitzer.
Earl Scruggs, 1924-2012