Vid: "Harvard of the South," Vanderbilt, as Repressive as Harvard of the North


Here's a new video from ReasonTV alum (and maker of our Nanny of the Month vids) Ted Balaker and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE).

Vanderbilt University, the self-proclaimed Harvard of the South, is meddling with freedom of association in a way that even the most hard-core aficianado of political correctness would find repugnant:

From the writeup of the doc at YouTube:

Religious and political groups in the United States have traditionally been free to choose their leaders and members without interference from authorities. That's no longer true at Vanderbilt University, where the school banned belief-based groups from making belief-based decisions about their members and leaders and drove 13 religious student groups off of campus. In this video, FIRE talks to Vanderbilt students and faculty about how this decision is affecting them. Country music legend Larry Gatlin and author and scholar Jonathan Rauch also explain why Vanderbilt has done both its students and the idea of pluralism itself a profound disservice.

More FIRE vids here.


NEXT: Livestock Development Minister to be Probed for Complicity in Kenya Massacre

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. well, jesus on a biscuit, Nick; why do you think they call it “Harvard of the South” if not to replicate every aspect of their Northern brethren, assholery and bad-to-marginal football included.

  2. these religious groups remain free to meet off campus to admit and elect whom they please.

  3. Speaking of exclusivist religious groups, Third-Wave Atheism is here, and apparently, non-liberals need not apply.

    1. No surprise there. Libertarian atheists, who I believe(*) comprise the second-largest political affiliation group (after progressives) within Atheism, have always been a thorn in the side of the Pharyngula set. Proudly so, in my case.

  4. Vanderbilt is a private university. They can do what they want. Don’t like it, don’t go there.

    1. But you can bet your ass that if their student health insurance doesn’t cover contraception, it will be forced to change that policy against it’s will (though I suspect it already does).

    2. being private does not let you rewrite the Constitution. Whom students choose to associate with is not Vandy’s business. It could just ban ALL groups and be done with it, but it is being selective.

      1. Nope. It does ban all groups that refuse all comers. It’s just that the Christians decided to test it and got banned.

        A private property owner has set conditions for being on it’s property. Where’s the problem?

        1. Where’s the problem?

          That stupid basketball court, for starters.

          1. You win the internet, sir.

        2. I don’t believe it’s true that Vandy sticks its nose into every group’s business. Most sane people accept that organizations tend to pick leaders and members who buy into the group’s belief system.

          The problem is if you allow organizations to form on campus, you can’t decide that the Constitution does not apply. Being private is a not coverall that excuses everything.

          1. A private property owner can contravene free speech, gun-bearing, and even the 4th in a lot of cases. Why is association sacrosanct?

            1. if the university is going to allow student groups, then it allows student groups. Just like it can ban guns, it could ban such groups. But Vandy has not done that.

              You don’t get to go half in. You let groups form and do their business or you don’t allow them.

              1. That they are contravening their own policy is the only thing I see wrong.

                1. that’s a rather large wrong.

      2. So, PeaceChicken, you’d be OK with the gubmint forcing Liberty U. to allow students to form a gay rights group.

        [raises plastic sheeting as if seated front row at Gallagher performance]

    3. FIRE always draws distinctions between private and public schools and notes that there’s no question that constitutional limits on state power are always in force on the latter. However, they also point out that the private schools they go after guarantee free speech and association and are thus contravening their own stated policies.

      Sure, you can go elsewhere, but it makes sense to kick up a fuss when you made your choice based on terms offered.

      1. The fuss-kicking I completely support. But, ultimately, most of the people who are going to be outraged by this have supported the right of property owners to choose their own association as well.

        1. Vanderbilt specifically guarantees its students “the rights of citizens.” If Vanderbilt wants to assert its private status to say that it can decide that some religions don’t pass muster because (horrors!) they require leaders to lead Bible studies, then it has no right to promise freedoms that it doesn’t deliver.

          Furthermore, Vandy is not exactly going out of its way to inform incoming students that “oh yeah, there’s no Catholic group anymore because we decided Catholicism didn’t fit within Vandy’s view of how a religion should operate.” They get to find that out when they get there (unless they find out from FIRE, I suppose).

          More about the case:

          1. Vanderbilt specifically guarantees its students “the rights of citizens.”

            OK, that’s a winning argument.

          2. Robert Shibley| 8.24.12 @ 2:24PM |#

            Vanderbilt specifically guarantees its students “the rights of citizens.”

            I think that’s more of a ‘Starship Troopers’ sense of citizens… where, you have plenty of rights, until you irritate the school, and then you don’t

            I think the error here is in expecting Vandy to really give a fuck if they follow their own rules or not. They do what they want, always have, and if you don’t like it, well, they’re very sorry for your wittle feewings, now go away and leave us be in our sheltered little fuedal aristocracy.

            And I personally see nothing particularly wrong with that. It takes all kinds!

            I remember when i was there in the mid 90s, they had recently inaugurated a “Black Studies” department, something of a sop to the few Yankee liberal students who expected them to be more like everyone else… and immediately some of the ‘Black Studies’ students started protesting the prevalent display of confederate flags by students…. and were promptly kicked out. The point was, “you can have your “free speech”… just don’t say anything that annoys people”

        2. And I hate to pull a John, but this sounds like a case for [musical flourish] Contract Law. Sounds like they’re engaging in false advertising.

    4. I agree that Vandy is private and thus can do what they want, but I can tell you as a resident of Nashville that Vandy is most certainly more than just a “Private University”.

      It is probably one of the largest employers in the City of Nashville for one thing (thanks to the hospital-VUMC), and the depths at which VU’s tentacles reach in terms of local politics is borderline fathomless. Vandy does what it wants, and up to this point there haven’t been any local politicians who successfully stood up to Vandy and its army of lawyers and alumini who control most of the city to begin with.

      1. The world’s epicenter of country music is run by a niversity? I call bullshit.

        1. ‘Country Music’ is not Nashville largest industry. most of Nashville music biz is ASCAP, BMI, and some recording studios. Not a huge segment of the economy.

          Redneck tourism *is* pretty big. But even that is not nearly as important as 2 other things =

          – The Healthcare industry

          – ‘Christian Publishing’/Media


  5. You MUST be joking! Vanderbilt, the “Harvard of the South?” OMG, LMAO! They are wannabes’. Everyone and anyone knows Ole Miss is the Harvard of the South. We have the best law school, best medical school, best pharmaceutical school in the country. We even have the only legal pot farm in the US! We produce more scientists, actors, writers, lawyers than Vanderbilt ever dreamed of! Plus, we don’t have a stick up our proverbial arse!

    1. Any connection to the fact that Ole Miss and Vandy are football rivals, and that Ole Miss hasn’t had any success lately (or over the entire history of the rivalry)?

      1. LOL, mebbe!

    2. Ole Miss has the best Medical School in the country?

      The best Law school?


      Based on what criteria?

      1. John Grisham. What else do you need to know?

        A more likely “Harvard of the South” is Duke – same level of pretentiousness, same degree of moral obstuseness (see: lacrosse case), same number of privileged snots you would rather punch than drink with.

      2. Just the tiniest of lists:…..ppi_alumni

      3. Just the tiniest of lists:…..ppi_alumni

        1. Child’s play. My alma mater.


          1. You’ll be scrolling for hours…

            1. I wouldn’t be braggin’ on Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.

              1. My alma mater, on the other hand, has Milton Friedman and The Jacket.

              2. Norman Borlaug cancels out any and all of the questionable alumni.

    3. Everyone and anyone knows Ole Miss is the Harvard of the South. We have the best law school, best medical school, best pharmaceutical school in the country.

      Bwaaa ha hahahahaaa hahaha hahaa!!

      Foolish peasant… you make me laugh…(wipes eye)…naive enough to still think actual “good schooling” produces the best and most successful… mercy… typical of the underclass i suppose…. poor man, what you fail to grasp is that University is not about ‘learning’ or ‘qualifications’ – its about being able to rub elbows with the children of the rich and powerful, and use their connections to land you the best positions at the best institutions around the country…. but really, I’m sure *you worked very hard*, and I’m sure you are very proud of your piece of paper… I hear Ol’ Miss is a wonderful *discount* education, i do. It must be very impressive…to Mississippians…

      /Chadsworth Byron McBride III, Vanderbilt ’69

  6. I thought Rice was the Harvard of the South.

    1. Is Texas in the South?

      1. Last I heard they were still their own country, which is cool.

      2. Ask most Texans, and they’ll adamantly tell you that they are from TEXAS, BY GAWD, and not the South.

    2. As an alumni, no, for the reasons mentioned above and because we aren’t a bunch of stuck up dicks like the Ivys (and Vandy). But I have heard that, also about Duke. Academically Vandy doesn’t come close to Rice or Duke but culturally it and Emory are closer to the Ivys.

      1. Aw, come on man… you’re giving Duke way too much credit. Vandy was bad on the easy-C to stay scene… but it still required some basic smarts to get in. I got into duke, hopkins, dartmouth, U.Chicago and some others that may have been “more” academically inclined…but I went to Vandy for pussy and sunshine and to play music on the side at the same time. If it can be hammered for anything, its the ‘rich guy’ bias.

        Maybe I’m just pissed I couldn’t get any lacrosse scholarship @ either G-town or Duke or Princeton… while vandy offered me a 1/2 free ride for being less dumb than their average students. I can hate on them like the best of them, but – like NYC – if you’re going to hate on it, you better know it firsthand.

        I will also say – fuck Emory. They’re not in VU’s class even with all the squishy BS academics.

  7. WTF. This is an interesting story, and all people can do is quibble about the “Harvard” bullshit.

    (disclosure: I went to vanderbilt undergrad)

    The main reason one might say VU is the “harvard” of the south: It’s largely populated by overprivileged rich kids with an inflated sense of their own relative intelligence.

    Also, historically, the football team has been the doormat of their conference.

    Also, its unecessarily expensive.

    Also, they suffer from rampant grade inflation

    Also, they have enormous political interests in the city and massive real estate investments.

    Also, kids who get in serious trouble are quietly given ‘leaves of absense’ to get their shit together. getting kicked out of VU is a true *challenge*

    Also, the chicks you try and bang all want to know who your dad is and what he does. I once kissed Caty Schwab.

    Its more like a country-club than college- so, HARVARD OF SOUTH IT IS, BITCHES!!

    actually, unlike Harvard (or many other schools), VU has the distiction of often being VERY un-PC, and not really marching in tune with the typical hard-left university type administration. Think sorta like Augusta National Country Club. Good ‘Ol Rich Boys.

  8. Dude is talking a lot of smack man!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.