Interview with Rev. James Lawson
QUESTION 29
INTERVIEWER:

TELL ME A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU PERSONALLY AT VANDERBILT WHEN IT CAME OUT THAT YOU WERE LEADING THE WORKSHOPS AND, YOU KNOW, WHAT WAS THE ATTITUDE OF THE SCHOOL TOWARD YOUR POLITICAL WORK?

Rev. James Lawson:

Well, very, very quickly the faculty was generally in support. The administration became very frightened when the press, especially Tennessean proceeded to attack me as being a communist outsider using Vanderbilt as a base and as a cover for my nefarious political activities, and of course not being a theological student continuing his academic preparations for the ministry. So the net result of that is that in the late part of February I guess it was, the executive committee of the board of trustees of Vanderbilt happen to be meeting, my name was being splattered over the front pages and on the editorials and the radio, and the executive committee voted to expel me from the university. They did not do due process, they did not consult the faculty under which I was working, and for whom I was a person of good standing, a student of good standing, they simply expelled me. And that of course didn't help, because then when that happened, members of the theological faculty also resigned. They therefore sent in their letters of resignation. And the school of law, the school of medicine, especially the graduate schools and the sciences became very concerned that the trustees could discipline a student without any reference to that student's rights or the faculty and the like, because it's the faculty after all that grants the degrees. So they got into the act and eventually the chancellor was confronted by some 400, I'm told, faculty people who had letters of resignation, who were ready to leave.