Hello! My name is Grace Burnworth, and I am serving as the President of the Vanderbilt Catholic community. As many of you probably know, Vanderbilt University is currently making decisions that will affect the way religious organizations will exist on Vanderbilt’s campus. At this time, Vanderbilt is reviewing the religious organizations stating, “The groups under review face dissolution unless they allow students who don’t share the same religious beliefs as their organization the ability to obtain a leadership position within.” Although the Catholic community currently remains in compliance with Vanderbilt University, we will be unable to maintain this status unless we change our stance on leadership positions. In previous years, the Catholic community has selected their leadership by having students apply and the board elect from those who have applied. It has been assumed that all leadership positions in the Catholic community be filled by students actively practicing their Catholic faith. If the religious organizations maintain the requirements that those in leadership positions be practicing their faith, the University will no longer recognize them as “registered” student organizations. The consequences of this privilege involve losing University recognition, the ability to provide Mass and services on campus, as well as the ability to obtain funds from the interfaith council.
So, to all of you here, I have a request.
To the students, I ask you to pray about how God wants you to act on this situation. At the Frassati House and after Masses, there is a Student Petition to the Administration. It states, “We believe that in order to preserve robust, authentic religious pluralism on campus, student organizations that expect student leaders to share the beliefs, values, and mission of the organizations should be recognized by the University as “registered” organizations with all associated privileges.”
On behalf of the Vanderbilt Catholic board, I ask you to consider signing this petition. In addition, if you feel called, please write a short statement telling the administration how the presence of the Vanderbilt Catholic community on campus has affected your college lifestyle. These statements can be collected following Mass next week or can be dropped off at the Frassati House at any time.
To those of you who are not members of the Vanderbilt Catholic community but are our brothers and sisters in Christ, I earnestly ask for your prayers. I ask that you pray for those making this decision, especially the Board of Trustees who will be meeting on November 10 and 11th to discuss and make decisions regarding this issue.
Your prayers are greatly appreciated. Thank you.