Yesterday afternoon/evening I took the 3+ hours necessary to watch the Youtube video of the Vanderbilt Town Meeting (1/31/2012)*. I cried, laughed, yelled, verbally processed, emailed, posted on G+, tried to explain some of the material to one of my daughters, called out to the Lord for discernment for those called to be part of the Vanderbilt community & others called to be on campuses across our nation.
Honestly I’m still churning over the material and not prepared to write a response. But this is a blog and we’re part of an on-line learning community of followers of Christ seeking to find our way in higher education. Right?
As such I’ll share a few thoughts before I have to head to class (timer ticking). I hope a few of you ‘take a bite’ and provide responses/material to sharpen my thoughts. I’ll ‘check back in’ after class and the celebration my twin girls birthday 🙂
- Vanderbilt University personifies a campus which has chosen its own way, bringing to mind George Marsden’s The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief and my current studies of the book of Judges (OT532 Historical and Poetic Books. Professor David A. Dorsey, Evangelical, Myerstown, PA). For Vanderbilt’s’ description of “their story,” click here.
- As Carol Swain, Vanderbilt University law professor, writes,
- “What would you think of a Town Hall meeting held in a room too small to accommodate the town, ground rules that don’t allow the opposition 5-10 minutes to present their side, and lastly rigid control over who had access to the microphones? Welcome to deliberative democracy at Vanderbilt University” (Religious Freedom and the Vanderbilt Town Hall Meeting 1/31/2012).
- Question: If Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos desired to directly engage with the conversation, but had a prior commitment, why wasn’t a different date chosen for the town meeting?
- Student after student shared with amazing boldness and persistence. A few highlights:
- 1:27:28 A Roman Catholic student declared her embracing of the authority of the Church. This was as part of a challenge to Provost Richard McCarty who distinguished his Roman Catholic faith from his vocation. She pointed out how faith is not a hobby like juggling, making such ‘clubs’ different. In addition, if I remember correctly, she declared not supporting pro-life (the position of the provost) as heretical (Note: I’ll check that in a second run through). She underscored that diversity comes from the variety of organizations which act with integrity to their purpose. The administrator called for a “leap of faith” and offered off-campus Roman Catholic ministries. Note: Earlier in the meeting he had called out the on-campus Roman Catholic group (which he’s been connected with in some manner for years) as non-compliant, but not being accused of noncompliance at present due to it’s constitution/by-laws being incomplete regarding the leadership election/selection process.
- 1:42:18 A law school alumnus pointed out, that whether or not the administrators were willing to acknowledge it, they were sharing and applying their beliefs throughout the dialogue.
- 1:55:55 Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, part of FCA, took the field. He ended up going head to head with the legal council. He was a little out of his element, but he pressed on . . . way to go . . . even continued without the microphone. When there was no more opportunity to continue conversation, he left with a crowd. Quite a public statement.
- 2:36:12 Wait to hear the first year student providing an excellent response to the administrator comment regarding ‘most qualified’ for the leading of a campus Bible study (i.e., A.J. Levine, PhD. A self-described “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt,” http://divinity.vanderbilt.edu/people/bio/amy-jill-levine) AND the direction of taking a Christian Bible study in a Christian ministry seeking to follow Christ.
- Is this an ‘all comers policy’ or a ‘non-discrimination policy,’ e.g, Fox and Friends Video: Swain and Saio (2/1/2012)
- Town hall brings concerns, misconceptions out into the open (Campus newspaper Town Hall Meeting report. 2/1/2012)
- Vanderbilt administrators defend nondiscrimination policy to packed town hall (Pierce Greenberg. The Nashville City Paper. 1/31/2012)
- Vanderbilt defends nondiscrimination policy for student groups: At forum, critics say ban restricts freedom (Bob Smietana. Tennessean. 2/1/2012)
- InterVarsity’s response and a number of other pieces, visit Campus Access Concerns. Note: InterVarsity’s been working against racial discrimination since the 40’s: Core Commitment #10: Ethnic Reconciliation and Justice (President’s Page. Alec Hill. 6/24/2003).
- Vanderbilt University’s Assault on Religious Liberty (David French. National Review. 2/2/2012)
- Fox News coverage includes:
- Why is Vanderbilt turning hostile to religion on its campus? (Todd Starnes. 2/1/2012)
- Vanderbilt flirting with religious suppression? (Video. 2/1/2012)
- University Defends Crackdown on Religious Groups (Todd Starnes. 2/1/2012)
Looking forward to reading your ‘first’ thought/responses. I wish I had the multidimensionality to have multiple conversations on a variety of topics, but I must head to class AND I will stay off the blog.
*Note: The original full video to which I had linked is no longer available. I have replaced original video with a piece comprised of excerpts [Update: 6/10/2014].
About the author:
Tom enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa and their four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he teaches adult electives and co-leads a small group), among healthcare professionals as the Northeast Regional Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA), and in higher ed as a volunteer with the Emerging Scholars Network (ESN). For a number of years, the Christian Medical Society / CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine was the hub of his ministry with CMDA. Note: Tom served with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship / USA for 20+ years, including 6+ years as the Associate Director of ESN. He has written for the ESN blog from its launch in August 2008. He has studied Biology (B.S.), Higher Education (M.A.), Spiritual Direction (Certificate), Spiritual Formation (M.A.R.), Ministry to Emerging Generations (D.Min.). To God be the glory!