In The City Paper, Pierce Greenberg and Jerome Boettcher address the effect of the so-called "all-comers" debate on two of the university's major concerns: athletics and fundraising. It's something of a sore spot, according to the authors, as Vanderbilt has the second-largest athletic endowment in the SEC but ranks "dead last" in annual giving. Now, as the university faces at least $35 million in "big ticket" improvements, Greenberg and Boettcher look into reports that some dissatisfied alums are withholding donations in protest of what they see as impingement upon campus groups' religious freedom:
[Vice Chancellor of University Affairs and Athletics David] Williams said he, personally, hasn’t witnessed any athletic fundraising blowback from the all-comers discussion.
“I’m not saying that there may not be people who are out there, but we haven’t encountered anybody who has made [all-comers] an issue at all,” Williams said.
At least one donor says that’s just not true.
The City Paper spoke with a longtime supporter, who asked to remain anonymous, who said his family was prepared to make a six-figure donation toward the new multipurpose facility — if Vanderbilt made an exception for religious groups in the nondiscrimination policy. The donor said he met with Franklin and Williams outside of Nashville.
“We expressed ... that we would like to be able to give, we believe in what Coach Franklin’s doing, but we just can’t do that knowing what we know about what’s happening to the religious groups there,” he said.
Similarly, longtime Commodore Club member Tom Singleton has been outspoken about his disdain for the Vanderbilt policy and the school’s enforcement of it. He appears in a video, along with Brentwood’s vice mayor (and a VU alum) Rod Freeman, that denounces the policy’s nondiscrimination mandate for leadership positions.
“The reason this is so objectionable to me is that they are [opening up leadership positions in Christian groups] for non-Christians. But they are allowing fraternities and sororities to discriminate based on gender,” Singleton said. “I can’t, in good conscience, continue to be associated with them.”