Vanderbilt nondiscrimination policy gets wrath of FIRE at annual summer conference

by Tyler Bishop, InsideVandy.com

 

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FIREVanderbilt’s hotly debated non-discrimination policy was among those criticized at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE) annual summer conference, which was attended by nine undergraduate Vanderbilt students.

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Are Gay-Rights Laws Trampling on Freedom of Religion?

Alex Roarty, The Atlantic

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Some people of faith complain that laws mandating equal treatment for LGBT Americans are forcing them to betray their privately held beliefs.

Conservatives may have found another way to stem the rising tide of rights for America’s gays and lesbians. Rather than a frontal assault on the constitutionality of, say, same-sex marriage, they’re taking another tack — asserting that their own civil rights are violated when they’re forced to treat gay couples like straight ones.

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Vanderbilt shows hostility towards Christians, but allows students to observe Wiccan holidays

Vanderbilt(Reuters) – Vanderbilt University, a prestigious school in the buckle of the South’s “Bible Belt,” is now offering excused absences to students wishing to observe Wiccan and pagan holidays.

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This practice is already followed by the U.S. military.

Four Wiccan holidays were on the calendar Vanderbilt University’s Office of Religious Life sent to faculty as days on which they should work with students who asked for excused absences.

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VU Alumni Boycott Causes University Medical Center to Prepare Firing of 1,000 Employees

Medical CenterThe administration at Vanderbilt University Medical Center plans to cut $250 million from its budget over the next two fiscal years, which could include more than 1,000 jobs, to try to sidestep looming financial pressures.

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“I think it would be better if we (could) manage this over, say, a five-year period instead of having to do it so quickly,” Dr. Jeffrey Balser, Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for health affairs, said in his first public interview following the latest round of jobs cuts at Nashville’s largest private employer more than a month ago.

Yet despite the speed and extent of the cuts, Balser remains optimistic.

“All businesses need to have, at times, a hard introspective look at how they’re operating,” he said. “Any time you look at something hard that way, you almost always find opportunity. And that’s what we’re finding.”

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center to cut 1,000 jobs

Vanderbilt University Medical Center plans to cut its workforce by more than 1,000 employees within the next two years, The Tennessean reports, citing people familiar with the center’s plans.

Some of the cuts are expected to come by offering early retirement options.

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Vanderbilt University Medical Center is targeting $250 million in budget savings over the same time period, or about 8 percent of current expenses, according to The Tennessean.

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Proposed bill prohibits police authority on college campuses that restrict religious liberty

Concerned alumni continue to fight to protect religious liberty at Vanderbilt University. In 2012, the university mandated an “all-comers policy” restricting 13 Christian student organizations from using religious belief in selecting its members and leaders.

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A new initiative in the battle to reclaim religious freedom, however, will soon come before the Tennessee House Education Sub-Committee and in front of the Senate. If passed, SB 1241/HB 1150 sponsored by state Rep. Mark Pody and state Sen. Mae Beavers, would prohibit the state from delegating a primary governmental function – police powers with full arrest rights – to any university that engages in religious discrimination against student organizations through the school’s “nondiscrimination” policies. Continue reading

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Guest Column: Cultivating a sustainable endowment by Sebastian Rogers and Ben Wibking – Inside Vandy

When we found out that Vanderbilt was divesting from EmVest, the company accused of “land grabbing” in southern Africa, I thought the news was too good to be true. Vanderbilt has a long and fraught history concerning its endowment investments. According to observers at the Responsible Endowments Coalition, corroborated by reports in this newspaper at the time, Vanderbilt never fully divested from multinational corporations operating in Apartheid-era South Africa, unlike many other universities, such as the University of California system, which did do so in the 1986 prior to the fall of white minority rule in South Africa. (Nelson Mandela, in fact, credited the University of California’s divestment of its $3 billion endowment with playing a significant role in ending Apartheid.) In light of this history, divestment from EmVest is an important milestone not only for those affected by land grabs but also for Vanderbilt in regards to how we think about where we invest our money.

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We had hoped that Vanderbilt would reconsider its investment following the initial Oakland Institute report and Guardian news article that broke the story of the investment by American hedge funds and university endowments. We tried talking to administrators both informally and in official meetings, but administrators refused to discuss the issue seriously; in one meeting, we were told that the endowment was not an ‘appropriate’ student concern. So we took our message to the community and planned teach-ins, rallies, and a ‘tent city’ on the lawn in front of Kirkland Hall, building a movement for divestment.

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Advocates Advance Efforts to Restore Religious Freedom at Vandy

With the beginning of a new year, those concerned about religious liberty issues at Vanderbilt University continue to express concern with the administration’s hostile restrictions towards religion. Last year at Vanderbilt University, more than a dozen religious groups determined they cannot or will not comply with the new “all-comers policy.” The policy states Christian student organizations cannot use religious criteria in selecting members or leaders.

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In 2012 Tennessee lawmakers got into the fray with Vanderbilt over their policy threatening to evaluate taxpayer funds for the university. Vanderbilt receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid and tens of millions from the state.

In response to the legislature’s demand that all student groups be treated equally, Vanderbilt threatened to stop treating the poor under Tennessee’s Medicaid managed care program.

Daniel M. Gray, a leader of Restore Religious Freedom Vanderbilt, said he recently called Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander’s office in an attempt to determine his intentions about the issue in the upcoming legislative session.

“No one ever returned my call from Alexander’s office, said Gray. Senator Alexander is thus taking no position on the University’s policy, which smacks of anti-religious bigotry.”

A number of Vanderbilt students made great efforts to change the University’s anti-religious policy.

“Basically what we learned last year is that Vanderbilt has no intention of even considering changing the policy and no amount of rhetoric will change their minds,” said Justin Gunter, Candidate for Doctor of Jurisprudence 2013. “I believe the only thing that could possibly still have an impact near term is action by the Tennessee government. At this point, the Christian Legal Society has been largely focused simply on trying to operate as an unregistered group and navigate the new difficulties we face this year. Although I hope I am wrong, absent a new development, I don’t anticipate any changes.”

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All-comers policy continues to raise questions about First Amendment rights

by Collier Bowling, Inside Vandy
Tufts University last week banned the evangelical Christian group Tufts Christian Fellowship from campus, due to its requirement that student leaders follow “basic biblical truths of Christianity.” As a result, the group cannot operate under the Tufts name, reserve space or schedule events through the University or receive money from activity fees.According to Vanderbilt University Professor of Political Science and Law, Carol Swain, there is a reason that the incident at Tufts might sound similar to the repercussions of the all-comers policy that was implemented at Vanderbilt last year.

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“Tufts University follows Vanderbilt University’s approach to Christian groups,” Swain wrote in a tweet on Oct. 22.

In an interview with the Hustler, Swain said that she had been informed that Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos has expressed a desire for Vanderbilt to serve as an example for other institutions with regard to Vanderbilt’s policy, which states that 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.

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Dr. Carol Swain launches new TV program, "Be the People"

Nashville television welcomes the new political talk show, “Be The People’ this month.

BE THE PEOPLE is a new hard-hitting television series directly confronting the hot topic issues facing Americans today. Featuring one-on-one interviews and panel discussions with influential politicians, businessmen, journalists, celebrities, entertainers and nationally known political pundits, no opinion will go unheard and the truth will prevail.

Hosted by Dr. Carol M. Swain, a frequent guest on Fox News Channel and CNN, “Be the People” is the source to uncover truth, awaken people and restore America. The show bears the same name as a thought- provoking book written by Swain, who is a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Law.

New York Times Best Selling Author and Fox News Channel host, Sean Hannity, says, “Be the People is a courageous analysis of today’s most pressing issues, exposing the deceptions by the cultural elite and urging ‘We the People’ to restore America’s faith and values.”

Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chair of the Committee on the Judiciary for the US House of Representatives, states, “Dr. Swain’s Be the People is an excellent piece of work—a thorough and honest examination of how politics and America’s history intertwine in the real world. Dr. Swain explores many public policy topics. I strongly recommend her chapter on immigration policy and politics; she provides a thoughtful examination of a complex topic that often generates strong feelings.”

Lou Dobbs, Host of Host, Fox Business Network’s Lou Dobbs Tonight; nationally-syndicated radio host, Lou Dobbs Show and Lou Dobbs Financial Reports , says, “In Be the People Professor Carol Swain thoughtfully examines the biblical roots and religious significance of today’s most pressing issues. Professor Swain shows how to make your voice heard and how to reclaim America’s faith and values.”

Of Dr Swain’s book, Tony Perkins of the Family Council says, “There are many good books but only a few really important ones. Dr. Carol Swain’s Be the People is one of the latter. Brave, informed, candid, and thoughtful, she brings her fine academic mind to bear on the most pressing needs facing our country. She calls on ‘We the People’ to be the people our nation’s founders envisioned, a people united around a common set of moral convictions who have the courage to live them out. Dr. Swain proves that Christian faith and deep patriotism are alive and well and offers a recipe of hope for America’s future.”

Carol Swain’s personal story is one of faith and determination overcoming adversity. Early in her life she was a high school dropout, a teenage mother, and a low wageworker. She went on to become a professor at Princeton University and now at Vanderbilt.

The show is airing at midnight, Sundays on WSMV Channel 4, Nashville.