October 20, 2011 Print

Congressmen Chastise Vanderbilt University

by Karla Dial

Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos received a strongly worded letter from 23 members of the U.S. Congress this month, expressing their concern over a university-wide policy mandating all student groups to make leadership positions available to those who don’t share their core beliefs.

The issue started last November, when a Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi, asked a member to leave the group when he came out as a homosexual. The student complained to the school, which maintains uniform nondiscrimination policy for all student groups. Those who don’t comply forfeit recognition by the school — meaning their share of student activity-fees money, free publicity and use of campus facilities.

According to a statement put out by Vanderbilt University in late September, 32 of the 36 student groups are complying with the policy. The lone standouts are all Christian organizations whose members must sign statements of faith — Beta Upsilon Chi, the Christian Legal Society, Graduate Christian Fellowship and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“As Members of Congress dedicated to protecting religious freedoms in America, we are troubled to learn that student groups are being prohibited from preserving their religious identity through their student leadership,” the congressmen, all members of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, wrote.

School administrators met with the Christian groups’ leaders in a closed session Wednesday to discuss the issues.

Learn more about the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, which specializes in protecting students’ freedoms at colleges and universities.

Learn more about the Alliance Defense Fund, which also works with student groups.