Eleven student organizations are likely to be denied university recognition after applying for registered status with the university.
The group of organizations, calling itself Vanderbilt Solidarity in a statement released April 9, said it could not in good faith comply with the university’s requirement that all registered student groups must have open membership and leadership policies, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion.
The coalition submitted applications for registered status with constitutions containing faith-based requirements for leadership in an act of protest against Vanderbilt's all-comers policy.
“Each of our 11 organizations is a faith-based group dedicated to sharing the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ on campus. As such, we simply cannot allow those who do not share our faith to lead our ministries, as Vanderbilt now demands,” the release said.
The 11 groups associated with Vanderbilt Solidarity are Asian American Christian Fellowship, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Cru, Medical Christian Fellowship, Navigators, Graduate Christian Fellowship, Bridges International, Lutheran Student Fellowship, Every Nation Ministries, Beta Upsilon Chi, and Christian Legal Society.
Beta Upsilon Chi, Graduate Christian Fellowship, Christian Legal Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes have been on provisional status since last fall, when the university reviewed all student organizations to check for compliance with it’s all-comers policy.
The statement comes two weeks after Vanderbilt Catholic decided to not reapply for registered student organization status, saying its ability to choose leaders who share the Catholic faith is necessary for its existence.
Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Beth Fortune reiterated the all-comers policy in an email statement to InsideVandy.
"All registered student groups at Vanderbilt must be open to all students, and members in good standing must have the opportunity to seek leadership positions, and we stand behind this policy," Fortune said. "Vanderbilt trusts our students to decide who among those seeking office are chosen for those positions. The university does not dictate who can and cannot be chosen."
The Tennessee state legislature has responded to the controversy with House Bill 3576, which, if passed, will prohibit public universities in the state from enforcing nondiscrimination policies on religious student groups.
The Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan told Nashville Public Radio that he did not see how the bill would affect public institutions.
“Far as I know, that has not been an issue at any of the public institutions in Tennessee, yet we’re going to pass a law that only applies to public institutions? It’s hard for me to understand that," Morgan said.