Friday, November 5, 2010

UDC Beats Vandy

We’re not talking about a sporting event; shortly before going to press we received the powerful news that the ladies of the Tennessee United Daughters of the Confederacy had beaten Vanderbilt University’s attempt to get the courts to overturn contract law to satisfy their political correctness.

In 2002 Vanderbilt announced that the dormitory named “Confederate Memorial Hall” would have the word “Confederate” stricken from its name and inscription out of “sensitivity”. Unfortunately for Vandy, the UDC had donated $50,000 toward the construction of the building with the contractual agreement for the “Confederate Memorial Hall” name. The UDC filed suit to protect the name. The Chancery court sided with Vanderbilt, ruling that the emotions associated with the word “Confederate” were too much to inflict upon students no matter what the contract from the 1930’s said.

However, the appeals court judged otherwise. The panel ruled that basic contract law cannot be ignored, and that Vandy had to either let the name stay, or compensate the UDC for the $50,000 it raised to help pay for the dormitory. The appeals court sent back to the Chancery court the task of determining what $50,000 in 1930’s dollars is worth today, but some estimates were in the range of $700,000.

The other option for Vanderbilt would be to appeal to the Tennessee State Supreme Court; legal representatives for Vandy indicated that decision had not yet been made.

The SCV donated $10,000 in 2002 for the UDC’s legal costs in the suit; then Heritage Defense Chief for the SCV Allen Sullivant called the donation one of the best things done by the SCV during his term.

Beyond merely ruling in the UDC’s favor, one judge wrote a 23-page concurring opinion in which he scathed Vandy for their political correctness and ignorance of history; “A great majority of those who fought in the Confederate armies owned no slaves. Their homeland was invaded, and they rose up in defense of their homes and their farms,” wrote judge William B. Cain. “They fought the unequal struggle until nearly half their enlisted strength was crippled or beneath the sod. The dormitory is a memorial to them…”

Judge Cain went on to say, “It is to the memory of these men that Confederate Memorial Hall was built and, to that end and at great personal sacrifice in the midst of the Great Depression, that the United Daughters of the Confederacy raised and contributed to Peabody College (Vanderbilt’s predecessor) more than one-third of the total cost of the construction of the dormitory.”

Common sense still exists in the Tennessee judiciary, and hopefully this costly lesson learned by Vanderbilt will serve as a warning to other institutions which somehow mistakenly think they are above the law in their fanatical pursuit of political correctness.

Originally published in the Spring, 2005 The Lost Cause

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