James Lawson’s active involvement in providing workshops on non-violence and his continual participation and support of the sit-in movements during the early months of 1960 led to his expulsion from Vanderbilt University. On March 3, 1960, James Lawson was officially dismissed from Vanderbilt. The Chancellor of Vanderbilt during that time, Harvie Branscomb, argued “Mr. Lawson was asked to withdraw not because of his commitment to an active program of civil disobedience. Vanderbilt University stands on the principle that racial progress in the South must be based on obedience to law.”
Lawson's expulsion marked a significant event in the life of Vanderbilt University and, generally, in the south. In response, nine Vanderbilt Divinity faculty members handed in their resignation; four medical faculty joined in the Divinity School’s protest in the unfair treatment of Lawson by doing the same. Reflecting on the faculty members' decisions to hand in their resignation, one may remember the parable of the Barren Fig Tree presented in this week’s lectionary text Luke 13:1-9.