by Jim Ridley
Apparently last night's town hall meeting at Vanderbilt over the university's nondiscrimination policy was more eventful than some of the other media reports suggest. From Pierce Greenberg in The City Paper, who stayed as the heat began to rise:
It started as hundreds of students were left outside as Furman Hall quickly filled to capacity — and reached its tipping point when many students left after Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers wasn't afforded a response to a statement.
Under the "all-comers" nondiscrimination policy, Vanderbilt requires that all organizations' membership and leadership positions be open to every student on campus regardless of "race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, or genetic information." Several student organizations, most of them religious, have been deemed as non-compliant because of religion-centric qualifications for leaders. All student organizations were subject to review after a gay male was allegedly forced to resign from a Christian fraternity last year.
"We feel very strongly about all-comers," Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor for University Affairs and Athletics David Williams said. "To us, membership and leadership are one in the same."
Things got off to a tense start when the first statement from the crowd of students proclaimed unity and asked opposers of the policy to stand up. A majority of the crowd, most of them wearing white shirts, stood and applauded. But Provost Richard McCarty quickly shot the group down, saying the roughly 200 students at the meeting were not a "random" sample. Williams took it a step further.
"When we integrated, [that question] might have gotten the same [kind of] response," Williams said.
Read the whole story, which raises the complex question of whether student groups should be forced to accept student leaders who don't share the beliefs of their organization. Is this a problem that polices itself — do members routinely elect someone to a leadership position who doesn't share the group's aims? — or is the policy needed to ward off tendencies toward discrimination and segregation? Or does the policy conflict with students' rights to assemble, and the right of student groups to govern their own membership and leadership?