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Petitioning Vanderbilt University and 2 others

Suspend Professor Carol Swain

We are petitioning that Carol Swain be temporarily suspended from her position as professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University pending an investigation into student allegations of unprofessional intimidation on social media, discriminatory practices in the classroom, and unclear representation as a Public Figure with invocations of the Vanderbilt name on her Facebook page.

Over the past few years, Professor Carol Swain has become synonymous with bigotry, intolerance, and unprofessionalism. While Swain first and foremost has a right to her personal beliefs and the right to freedom of speech within and outside of the classroom, it recently came to the attention of the Vanderbilt community that Carol Swain has let her hate-filled prejudices negatively impact her work, our student body, and Vanderbilt’s reputation. Since the initial release of this petition, we have gathered significant feedback from the community, and have decided to limit our grievances to the following three issues.

  • Firstly, Professor Carol Swain has failed to clearly separate her role on her Facebook page as a “Public Figure” from the Vanderbilt name, creating a situation in which the public may misconstrue her as speaking on behalf of the University. We want to make it clear that Carol Swain in no way represents our alma mater, regardless of the fact that she teaches here.
  • Secondly, there have been several instances in which students have contacted Professor Swain to hold an intellectual debate with her, and in return, she has resorted to name-calling and posting their personal contact information on her public page. In many cases, students claimed this led to public shaming, intimidation, and/or harassment by her followers.
  • Additionally, several students who claim to have taken Professor Swain’s class(es) have expressed concerns that minority students enrolled in her class(es) – especially those who are LGBTQIA+ and/or non-Christians – expose themselves to unfair assessment in-class and may receive lower grades than their peers simply because of their identities. At a University that prides itself on fairness, diversity and inclusion, these allegations are entirely unacceptable if true.

In light of these grievances, we are petitioning the Vanderbilt Administration that Carol Swain be temporarily suspended from her tenured position as professor of political science and law at Vanderbilt University pending the following resolutions:  

  • That Vanderbilt administrators will confer with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) to create and mandate a diversity training program for all Vanderbilt faculty – including Professor Carol Swain – to increase their cultural awareness, foster inclusion of various identity groups, prevent discrimination in the classroom, and to protect the University against inadvertent civil rights violations

  • That Vanderbilt conduct an investigation of student allegations that Prof. Swain has shared individual students’ personal information or private profiles on her public media page(s) in attempts to potentially shame, defame, and/or intimidate them – and to report their findings to the student body in a public statement after proper resolution.

  • And that Vanderbilt will conduct a review of Professor Carol Swain’s public Facebook page to confirm that she is not violating Vanderbilt's Acceptable Use Policy by misrepresenting herself as a Public Figure of (and/or speaker for) Vanderbilt University, but instead, is representing herself clearly as a Public Figure in a space unaffiliated with the University. This is to ensure that the public does not misconstrue Professor Swain’s statements outside the classroom as being endorsed by the University.

Until these resolutions have been satisfied, we do not feel that Carol Swain’s allowance to teach here is consistent with Vanderbilt’s nondiscrimination policies or the Community Creed, and we will continue to push for administrative action. We appreciate Vanderbilt’s initial acknowledgement of our petition, but we are certainly hoping that their response will ultimately amount to more than what we have seen in the past. Historically, the Vanderbilt community has been entirely unserved by the administration's inability to educate, counsel, and/or suspend Professor Swain.  However, we remain hopeful that things will change. We are calling on the administration to please hear our voices and take action before Carol Swain causes more harm to herself, our community, and Vanderbilt's reputation.

For those who are unfamiliar with Carol Swain, the articles linked below are a brief sample of her work. (As a reminder though, the focus of this petition is on the allegations made against Prof. Swain.  It is not an attack on her beliefs or freedom of speech/press)

Carol Swain’s Op-Ed in The Tennessean: Charlie Hebdo Attacks Prove Critics Were Right About Islam
“Islam is a dangerous set of beliefs totally incompatible with Western beliefs concerning freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association.”
Be The People TV: C.S. Lewis on Biblical Marriage and Swain Reflections on Gay Marriage
“If we must live side-by-side with gay couples in a culture with a strong crusading homosexual agenda, our only hope is to strengthen ourselves spiritually and intellectually for the battle that awaits us”

Vanderbilt Policy References: 
Vanderbilt's Nondiscrimination Policy

Vanderbilt’s Community Creed

Vanderbilt Electronic Communications Acceptable Use Policy – Section D – Inappropriate Activity on Systems Outside Vanderbilt

 Photo Credit: Vanderbilt Hustler

This petition was delivered to:
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Chancellor of Vanderbilt University
    Nicholas Zeppos
  • Associate Provost of Vanderbilt University
    Mark Bandas


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