Religious and conservative political groups are increasing pressure on Vanderbilt University ahead of this week's Board of Trust meeting to reverse its position on the school's all-comers policy, which requires all registered student groups to have open membership and leadership policies, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation and religion.
Members of the campus Christian community distributed 4,000 video players mid-day Wednesday to spread the message that faith-based leadership is important to religious groups on campus.
The six minute video features students, alumni donors, professors and a former head of Vanderbilt admissions, all expressing disagreement with the university's enforcement of the policy.
"It's a lack of common sense," said Alex Whitmore, junior and president of Beta Upsilon Chi. "It would make sense that an organization should be able to appoint their leaders based on the core beliefs of that organization."
According to junior Pieter Valk, an organizer of the event, the media players were donated by a concerned individual with connections to the university. The cost of 4,000 players is estimated at $32,000.
In an email statement, Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Beth Fortune said it's unfortunate that some students have misinterpreted the policy.
"As we’ve repeatedly said, this debate isn’t about religious freedom; it’s about nondiscrimination, and we believe those principles are not in conflict," Fortune said.
The demonstration is the first in a series of student planned events designed to spread opposition to the policy. A barbecue lunch with members of the Board of Trust and a group prayer over the board meetings is planned for the next two days.
Restore Religious Freedom at Vanderbilt, a conservative activist group, has purchased television advertisements in both the Nashville and Memphis markets, targeting Board of Trust members and university donors.
The media pressure comes after a coalition of eleven religious student groups, calling themselves Vanderbilt Solidarity, submitted applications in early April for registered status with constitutions containing faith-based requirements for leadership in an act of protest against Vanderbilt's all-comers policy.
Watch media player video: