An Opportunity to Resolve the Vanderbilt Issue: A Newly Released Letter to Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust

The purpose of this letter is to identify a solution to the current impasse between the
religious students and the Administration. The letter will also touch upon four key points. First,
as explained below, the Administration now acknowledges that no federal or state law,
regulation, or court ruling requires it to adopt a policy prohibiting religious groups from having
religious criteria for their leaders and members. Second, as detailed below, the Administration
further acknowledges that it has asked the religious groups’ leaders to agree to a policy that is
unwritten, unknown, and undefined. Third, quite recently, the Administration has suggested that
it is adopting an “all-comers” policy that will dramatically affect the way in which all student
groups may select their leaders and members, particularly the selection processes of fraternities,
sororities, political groups, and a cappella groups, among others. Fourth, the letter briefly
concludes with concerns about the effect of the policy on students, athletic recruits, alumni, and
donors, as articulated by former student body president Joseph Williams, quarterback Jordan
Rodgers, a student who works in the “call center,” and a medical student.
Administration would be easily resolved if a single sentence were placed in both the University’s
written nondiscrimination policy and the affirmation form: “A student organization whose
primary purpose is religious will not be denied registration as a Registered Student Organization
on the ground that it limits membership or leadership positions to students who share the
religious beliefs of the organization.”

Restoring the status quo that prevailed at the University until ten months ago, this
statement reflects the common sense understanding that religious groups should have leaders
who share the groups’ core religious beliefs. Nondiscrimination policies serve important
purposes. But to use a nondiscrimination policy that is supposed to protect religious students to penalize those students actually undermines the University’s nondiscrimination policy and the essential good it serves.
The statement would restore religious liberty and authentic pluralism to campus.

The University would again welcome all religious groups, including those that require their leaders to
agree with their religious beliefs. Click this link to continue reading and to gain access to a letter signed by six preeminent law professors.

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