Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Well, I have to say, after reporting on the failures of higher education, my Alma (beta?) Mater is making me proud.  The hot topic this week is this whole discrimination debate at Vanderbilt.  To make the story short, the school put in writing the rule that any school-funded club must be open to anyone within the student body, and that leadership positions are open to all.  This includes religious and cultural clubs.  

Yes, Vanderbilt actually had to make this a rule.  You’d think this would be something that would be understood, especially at one of the most prestigious colleges in the nation.  But now, these clubs are in an uproar, calling it religious discrimination.

Discrimination?!?  How?  The school is saying that their clubs are open to all.  So if anything, this prevents discrimination.  Religious clubs are saying it interferes with their ability to practice their religion.  So how does this interfere?  If someone from outside your religion wants to know more about your culture, why exclude them?  Isn’t teaching others about your religion considered a good thing?  In fact, don’t many religions require it?  Preach the Gospel! Convert the heathens!  Now they argue that they should exclude people from discovering their religion and improving themselves through it… I mean, haven’t some religions gone so far as declaring war in order to convert people? 

One of my favorite things about Vanderbilt is the diverse mix of cultures of the student body.  We had students and faculty from all inhabited continents, with a number of clubs catering to each.  Any time there was a meeting, it was open to anyone and everyone interested in learning or participating.  White students showed up to lectures held by the Black Students Association.  Christians attended seminars comparing modern ethics to Jewish Talmudic law, just for the intrigue of history.  In fact, we had clubs for the specific purpose of matching us up with other students to learn about each others’ culture.  We stressed diversity in our classes and made sure our groups were ethnically diverse whenever possible.  The faculty encouraged us to travel abroad and attend career fairs aimed towards minorities.  Maybe things are different in the graduate program, but I never felt that there was an air of discrimination when it came to activities.   

Discrimination does not represent Vanderbilt, and these religious clubs crying ‘religious oppression’ should be ashamed of themselves.  Are they afraid that they’re going to be taken over?  They can kick people out if they are being disruptive.  Are they worried that ‘non-believers’ are going to work their way into their leadership?  No, because they still need to be voted in by the members.  If they’re worried about ceremonies being led by an outsider, the individuals need not vote them in.  Why automatically disqualify someone who is offering to help promote your beliefs?  Hopefully the members will pick the most qualified person, not base things on the line of creed or color.

I have heard the theory that these clubs are just trying to exclude gay students, and under this rule they will not be able to.  Fuck these hatemongers if they are.  Regardless of whether this is their main agenda, if this rule is something that bothers the groups that much, they are more than welcome to leave the school.  And if you say that’s being discriminatory, it’s not, because we’re holding these clubs to the same ideals and regulations of the dozens of other clubs, including the 32 of 36 cultural-based clubs not protesting this matter.  We want to be associated with a culture of tolerance, not hatred. 

If these clubs want to be able to ban certain students, they should think about this…  How would they feel if, perhaps, the school newspaper and radio station clubs started excluding Republicans?  Yeah, don’t think they’d like that very much.  So why is it ok for them to discriminate?  

Are we forgetting that this is a private school, and all clubs are subject to the rules of the school?  The school is enforcing the rules of fairness and equality.  They are giving you the right to organize to practice your religion – as a school approved entity.  One that receives funding or uses facilities paid for by all students.  Isn’t that a good thing?  You just have to accept all interested students and let them run for position if they feel so inclined.  Vanderbilt doesn’t have to support any cultural clubs.  So take their generous offer and run with it.  Spread the words of your culture and let everybody grow from them.  Love thy neighbor.  And do onto others as you’d have done to you.


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