Zeppos’ Humor and Hypocrisy

Chancellor Zeppos at Vanderbilt University just wrote an editorial for the Tennessean that demonstrates the liberal hypocrisy within higher education.  And it builds on the very same type of hypocrisy demonstrated earlier this year.  It would be funny if he hadn’t been serious.

The Background

For the 2011-12 academic year, Vanderbilt University adopted a policy, arduously defended by the Chancellor and his administration, that prohibited a student group from removing an officer who, after being elected, rejected the group’s mission and purpose.  It was called an “all comers” policy, the latest innovation in higher education to try to remove evangelical student organizations from campus life.

The policy provides that any student has to be allowed to run for office in any student organization (except fraternal organizations, but more on that later).  Sounds benign but the kicker is this: the student organization cannot vote to remove the person from office even if, after being elected, the student officer at some point disavows the organization’s mission or values.  That means, for example, a Christian student organization could be stuck with a leader who recants his Christian beliefs or openly begins to conduct himself contrary to the group’s doctrinal beliefs.

Christian student organizations objected to the policy, and the university and liberal media panned the objection, arguing that no Christian group would elect someone to office who didn’t hold to Christian doctrine.  That’s what they got the public to believe, but they glossed over the real-life example on campus that demonstrated the problem with the policy.

The previous academic year an elected officer of a Christian student organization announced that he was conducting himself contrary to the Church’s historic position on practicing homosexual sex.  They removed him from office.  The removal apparently infuriated Chancellor Zeppos and led to the policy change.

The First Hypocrisy

Chancellor Zeppos didn’t want Christian groups to be able to require their elected leaders to adhere to the group’s doctrinal positions regarding conduct, particularly homosexual conduct. So, in the name of diversity, the Chancellor squashed the possibility of diversity with the “all comers” policy.

But, hypocritically, the Chancellor decided not to apply the same policy to fraternal organizations whose rejection of students is perhaps the most arbitrary and discriminatory on a college campus.  Apparently, the love of diversity is only so diverse.

When the legislature noted that Vanderbilt was the beneficiary of state tax dollars, it chose, as was its right, to pass a bill that essentially told Vanderbilt that it didn’t want to use tax money collected from all taxpayers in the state to financially support organizations that practiced religious discrimination.  The bill gave Vanderbilt the option to continue its policy but only if it treated all student organizations the same, including fraternities and sororities.

Rather than man-up to the hypocrisy of telling Christian groups they had to accept anyone and telling fraternal organizations they could reject anyone, the Chancellor (and university) objected to the bill.  Its reason: the government shouldn’t interfere in the private sector and Vanderbilt was a private sector entity.

For Vanderbilt, not known as a bastion of conservative political thought, to suddenly defend the private sector from the government regulation is funny.  Unfortunately the Governor bought the university’s argument and vetoed the bill.

The Editorial Hypocrisy

But now comes the hypocrisy to end all hypocrisies.  The Chancellor’s editorial on Wednesday urged Congress not to cut the federal tax money that comes to the university.  Chancellor Zeppos seems to like getting our tax money but doesn’t seem to want us, through our elected representatives, to put any conditions on what the university does once it gets our money.

In sum, Chancellor Zeppo’s philosophy is “treat me like a government entity when it comes to sharing in tax revenue, but treat me like a purely private entity when it comes to government regulation.”

It would be funny if he weren’t so serious.