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Beginning last spring, Vanderbilt began implementing a new non-discrimination policy that undermines the integrity of many student religious organizations. As a student leader in one of these organizations, I had a front-row seat to the drama that unfolded behind closed doors as many in the religious community attempted to dialogue with the administration. Like so many others, I was dedicated to pleading the case of religious life — but only in private.

Then I received the chancellor’s email last week and something inside of me snapped. I realized that the rest of the Vanderbilt community deserves a more accurate picture of what had been transpiring privately for so many months. So this is a public plea. A public and passionate plea for myself and any other student who wants the opportunity to make choices for religious organizations based on their religious beliefs.


It’s that simple.

Yet, throughout this process the university has consistently obscured the facts in an effort to gain acceptance for a policy that is widely unpopular amongst those it will affect. I’m going to try to clear up a few of those facts, and then I’ll go on to explain what I believe.

From the beginning, Vanderbilt has denied crafting a new, more expansive non-discrimination policy. Instead, administrators have tried to convince us this is actually a case of a few organizations being asked to conform to a longstanding practice.

According to this story, various offices are finally “catching up” with a policy that has been in place across the university all along. But no matter how the facts are framed, the reality is that the student organization handbook was altered last December, when a section specifically protecting religious association was removed, as highlighted by The Hustler in September 2011. Then, in April, a number of organizations were placed on provisional status as constitutions that had been easily approved in previous years were evaluated under this new standard. Call it a policy change or call it “catching up.” Either way, something changed. And that change will have real consequences for student organizations.

So far, the refrain echoed by a variety of university officials is that for all intents and purposes, business will continue as usual. But in a meeting with the Interfaith Council last Tuesday, Dean of Students Mark Bandas went so far as to admit that religious organizations could come under investigation if there was suspicion that members used religious criteria in voting for their leaders.

Let’s say that you’re a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and that you’re running for president of the organization. You win the election, but the student that you beat feels that he lost because members of the organization cast their votes based on his religious beliefs. According to Bandas, Vanderbilt would have grounds to investigate your organization for discrimination if the other student lodged a formal complaint. That hardly seems like business as usual to me.

For full letter/ article:

Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land, according to a new study.

Researchers say foreign investors are profiting from “land grabs” that often fail to deliver the promised benefits of jobs and economic development, and can lead to environmental and social problems in the poorest countries in the world.

The new report on land acquisitions in seven African countries suggests that Harvard, Vanderbilt and many other US colleges with large endowment funds have invested heavily in African land in the past few years. Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa‘s largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.

Vanderbilt University is the subject of a federal complaint filed today by officials with the Alliance Defense Fund over requiring nursing students to participate in abortions.

ADF, a pro-life legal group, filed the complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services saying it illegally forces the students to do the abortions despite receiving $300 million in federal tax dollars each year. Federal law prohibits grant recipients from forcing students or health care workers to participate in abortions contrary to their religious beliefs or moral convictions.

The complaint was filed in behalf of a fourth-year nursing student at another university who wants to apply to Vanderbilt’s nurse residency program but won’t do so because of the abortion policy. She says Vanderbilt admission forms require her to promise to participate in abortions.

for the full article:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)—Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings sacrificed a $100,000 pay raise to fund his Commodores’ 10-day trip to Australia earlier this month.

Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor David Williams said Monday that the coach’s decision came in May, when officials were trying to find money for the pre-planned trip during a time when cuts up to 20 percent were being made around Vanderbilt.

Teams can take overseas trips every four years and raise money through fundraisers, games or donors. They cannot be paid for directly by a coach.

“I don’t think Kevin meant to be a trailblazer, but he is a trailblazer in this,” Williams said. “He was just doing what he thought was the appropriate thing to do in light of a number of things. As much as he was being generous, he also understands completely the sensitivity to the fact that the rest of the university was having some financial pain.”

Stallings has 14 players returning from a team that went 19-12 last season.

The Commodores’ trip lasted from Aug. 7-17 and featured five games with visits to Sydney, Melbourne, Townsville and Canberra.

Stallings wasn’t available Monday to discuss his decision.

The men’s basketball team’s last overseas trip was to Spain in 2003. The trip to Australia had been planned partly because center A.J. Ogilvy is from that country.

When deposits were due for the basketball team’s trip, officials couldn’t commit school funds without knowing that they would be paid back. Williams said that Stallings then asked if he could forego the raise due him in his contract to pay for the trip.

“It was surprising because I’d never heard of anything being done like that. It was not surprising in the sense that it wasn’t surprising that Kevin would do that,” Williams said. “I’m grateful and think it’s very generous, but that’s just who Kevin is.”


     Our universities should be areas where our students can learn both sides of the issues, and learn how to formulate their own perspectives and ideology. They should not be places where professors shut off the free flow of discussions, and only allow discussion of their views.

     In that light, Florida State University (FSU) recently hosted the controversial friend of Barack Obama, terrorist Bill Ayers, for a speaking engagement. The fact that this man is allowed to speak at all to the students anywhere is a travesty in and of itself, but, that is the judicial system working to protect our rights, so his freedom of speech can be tolerated. Less tolerable is the use of tax dollars to pay for his visit. Taxpayers in any state should resent using tax dollars to pay someone who takes no remorse in his bombings.

    But the greatest travesty was the fact that the administrators at FSU placed a ban on any PROTESTS during Mr. Ayers visits. The irony that this man who marched and protested America’s Vietnam involvement and America’s establishment would not be subjected to protests himself.

     When First Lady Laura Bush addressed the graduating class at Vanderbilt University in 2006, those sitting in the audience, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry (whose son was one of the graduates), knew she was about to arrive because you could hear the protesters that were just beyond the entrance gates of the University. Just a week or so later, as Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice addressed the graduates at Boston College, a group of students stood up and turned their backs on her as she spoke. Keep in mind that both of these schools are private institutions, thus are on prvate property where protests could be controlled or banned, while FSU is a public institution, and limitations on freedom of speech should not be as easy to control.

      But Bill Ayers is not to be subjected to any protesters!! What happened to freedom of speech?

     Live from Music City USA, Nashville’s Belmont University has played host to the 2nd Presidential debate. Belmont is just blocks from the massive Vanderbilt University campus, Vanderbilt often referred to as the “Harvard of the South“. Both schools have hosted forums and symposiums for their students in the days that have lead up to this debate, exposing the students to a vast array of media and politicians.

     With Obama leading in the polls, primarily as a result of the recent financial crisis, it would have seemed that McCain would come out on the defensive. Such has not been the case, since the format of the debate is what John McCain likes the best– the Town Hall meeting. For the hours leading up to the debate, the McCain camp said that he would hit hard on the economy, and the Obama team is saying they are the underdogs, despite being up in the polls, because of the format of the debate.


    Tom Brokaw moderated the debate, fielding questions from the audience, as well as 1000’s of emailed questions that have been submitted.

     Right from the outset, Obama, in an economic question, immediately attempted to tie McCain to Bush’s failed economic policies. McCain, thankful to Obama for finally seeing him at a TownHall meeting, countered with the need for spending cuts, a commitment to no increased taxes, and a commitment to energy. His proposal to buy failed mortgages and renegotiate those mortgages as a means of stabilizing the declining housing market is not one that I favor, as I have expressed in the bailout discussions.

     McCain points to the Democrats for the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac debacle, including mentions of Obama’s receipt of huge contributions. 

     Economic concerns are going to straddle the next administration, and neither candidate will commit as to what particular campaign promises will need to be shelved or scaled back as a result of the economic problems we are facing at this moment. Energy, health care, education and national security were listed as items that cannot be sidelined.

     Both sides tried to use the other’s record to attck them, and both were somewhat uncooperative with Tom Brokaw in abiding with the time constraint rules.

     McCain regards health care as a responsibility and Obama regards it is as a right. McCain also stressed that according to Obama, government needs to be playing a “stronger” role in our lives, mandating the circumstances of our lives.

     “Talk softly and carry a big stick”, quoting Teddy Roosevelt, McCain compares and contrasts his approach to foreign policy and national security. Obama tried to get us to understand how he sees our role in the world,a nd the apologies that we owe. McCain stressed our commitment to Israel, and to be ready if Iran were to attack. In fairness, Obama acknowledges our commitment to Israel.

     Were there any major barbs? Not that I could tell. McCain did try to use slight digs here and there to unnerve Obama somewhat. It was evident in Obama’s ongoing attempt to keep rebuttals going back and forth.

     The last question was “What don’t you know and how will you learn it?” Did anyone notice in Obama’s answer that he mentioned his great education that he got through scholarships– waht about those student loans he claims to have just paid off??! McCain- “Strong hands needed at the tiller in these tough times; I look forward to once again putting my “Country First“!

     Both campaign managers and strategists will claim victory. We will now have to listen to the pundits, on the left and the right, to have their say. Our say— that’s on the ballot.



The Siegenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University


 John Siegenthaler Sr., founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, has hosted a symposium on the Presidential debates. Siegenthaler is the chairman emeritus of Nashville’s Tennesean newspaper, and he was joined by Harold Ford Jr., a former Congressman who is a visiting professor in political science at Vanderbilt, as the forum’s hosts.

Vanderbilt Visiting Prof. Harold Ford Jr.

    Included on the forum panel were Politico’s Mike Allen, Distinguished Prof. John Greer of Vanderbilt, Newsweek’s Howard Fineman, Mark Halperin and Joe Klein of Time, Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball, Anne Kornblut of the Washigton Post, and John Harwood of NBC.

    The discussion was centered around the direction of the 2008 Presidential campaigns of John McCain and Barack Obama, from the perspective of the journalists and political analysts who have been following the candidates, some prior even to the actual announcements of their run for the office. Vanderbilt University gave its students the opportunity to hear the views of these experts and personalities firsthand, and to discuss with them the role of the media in the political process. Of course, this is an area that the media needs to be reminded of given the nature of how they have perceived their role in THIS ELECTION.

     Representing Collegiate News Services, Larry Sinclair attended the forum. Sinclair, whose claims of using drugs and having sex with Barack Obama in 1999 have not been denied by the Obama campaign, sought to address concerns of how the media has portrayed a bias in this election, choosing to ignore stories such as Ayers, Rev. Wright or even his claims.


     It should be noted that the panel included many of the left-leaning liberal NBC. Mr. Siegenthaler’s son, Jogn Siegenthaler Jr. was a former anchor for NBC and MSNBC until July 2008 when he joined the family’s Siegenthaler Public Relations.