I’d like to run for VSG Senate, or join a VSG Committee. I’d like to have discussions with the involved, intelligent, and passionate group that makes up VSG. I’d like to take the complaints, concerns and ideas I hear all around me from my brilliant peers to VSG meetings and present them. I’d like to be a part of VSG, but I can’t.
Why? I meet the qualifications, I am willing and excited to complete the responsibilities, and I have support from the peers who would elect me or select me to join a committee. I am not, however, free on Wednesday nights.
I can’t “just go on Sunday” because it’s not the same service, and it’s not intended to be.
I know what you’re thinking – That’s a stupid reason! Just move whatever you have planned on Wednesdays, or quit that activity entirely. But what I do on Wednesdays is go to church, to participate in worship and lead a small group of sixth grade girls. Before I found my church in Nashville, I attended Navs (a non-denominational campus ministry) on Wednesday nights. I am a Christian, and as a part of practicing my faith I am always going to be busy on Wednesday nights. I can’t move my commitment, nor would I want to. I certainly can’t quit going to church on Wednesdays, because that’s a huge part of how I connect to my faith every week. I can’t “just go on Sunday” because it’s not the same service, and it’s not intended to be. My church and my faith are designed to encourage believers to seek community more than once every seven days. And I’m nowhere near alone in this – at least four campus ministries (Navs, RUF, Cru, and University Catholic) hold Wednesday evening services with hundreds of collective attendees.
VSG wears its commitment to diversity like a badge of honor – and it should, if that commitment were truly upheld. Diversity means allowing students of every race, creed, background and belief an equal opportunity to participate in VSG. The VSG website states that the organization is “dedicated to engaging and supporting an increasingly diverse undergraduate community” and “devoted to ensuring that all Vanderbilt students have equal opportunities to pursue a fulfilling undergraduate experience.” I whole-heartedly agree with these statements, but I unfortunately feel that Christians on this campus are not afforded the same equal opportunity.
even if it’s not intentional, 2-hour-long VSG Senate meetings at 7 p.m. and hour-long VSG Committee meetings at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays are a punishment.
I am fully aware that in the past, Christians (especially white, male Christians) have been over-represented in positions of leadership, both at Vanderbilt and in the world. That fact does not mean that they should be punished today for the injustices perpetrated by their predecessors. And even if it’s not intentional, 2-hour-long VSG Senate meetings at 7 p.m. and hour-long VSG Committee meetings at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays are a punishment. They are a barrier to involvement, a barrier to equal opportunity, and a barrier to having a voice for so many practicing Christians at Vanderbilt.
I am also aware that no matter what night you make VSG meetings, they may conflict with some form of religious gathering on or around Vanderbilt. However, Wednesdays are a very standardized and common night of worship within the Protestant Christian faith, and have been for decades. This is especially true here in Nashville, the city Vanderbilt calls home.
I’d like to be a part of VSG Senate. But I cannot both observe my faith AND be in VSG, and that’s a problem.
Claire Barnett is the Multimedia Director of the Vanderbilt Hustler and a sophomore in Peabody College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.