A Message to the Vanderbilt Community on Diversity and Inclusion
Dear Members of the Vanderbilt Community,
In the last few weeks, looking at campuses across the country, I am reminded of the vital importance of working together to create a community and a society where every member feels welcome and valued. On our campus last week, students stood for a moment of silence in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and in solidarity with students at the University of Missouri. And most certainly, in the coming days and weeks we will find ways to support those impacted by the recent tragic events in Beirut and Paris.
Each of us arrived at Vanderbilt with our own history and identity. Members of our community come from across the country and around the world. Every race, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity is represented. Some students are the first in their family to attend college or university; for others, Vanderbilt is a family tradition. Everyone at Vanderbilt has the capacity to make a unique contribution to this university, and to the world. Vanderbilt not only supports, but actively seeks, such diversity because it makes Vanderbilt a richer, stronger, more vibrant institution, one where learning takes place in the classroom and the library, in residence halls and at social events.
Bringing together community members with different backgrounds and different viewpoints allows for the exchange of ideas that is the core of learning. We hear from others who know things we do not, who have experiences and ideas different from our own. We learn from them and test our own ideas against theirs. We consider, we compare, we analyze, we argue. We come away from this experience – perhaps with our own ideas and beliefs stronger for having been challenged and confirmed, perhaps with new or different knowledge and beliefs than those we held before. This education flows in all directions on campus – not just from faculty to students in the classroom. But it can only flow when we allow members of our community to express the full spectrum of their beliefs and ideas – even when others feel those beliefs and ideas are strange, uncomfortable, unfamiliar or just entirely wrong.
Freedom to share ideas, however, is not the freedom to take actions that discriminate against or threaten others. I emphasize the statement of our Chancellor that every member of our community—regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age or disability—has the same right to participate fully and without fear in the Vanderbilt experience and have access to all of the benefits and opportunities that Vanderbilt offers. We must ensure that our campus is a safe and tolerant environment for every member of the Vanderbilt community.
I am writing today to share with you the resources that are available to members of our community if you feel that these values of safety and tolerance have been breached.
- In emergency situations, such as street incidents, face-to-face confrontations, or direct threats of intimidation or violence, please call the Vanderbilt University Police Department at 615-421-1911 or use your SafeVU mobile safety app (please see http://police.vanderbilt.edu/services/safevu.php). The more relevant information and evidence you can provide about the immediate situation to VUPD, the more likely we will be able to hold the perpetrator(s) accountable for their behavior. For non-emergencies, please call 615-322-2745.
- If you have a complaint of discrimination to report, please call EAD at 615-322-4705. EAD, the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services Department, supports Vanderbilt’s commitment to diversity and nondiscrimination. It investigates reports of discrimination, and those found responsible are held to account. EAD relies on members of the community, including victims and witnesses, to report discrimination when it occurs.
- Processing these issues can be difficult. If you want to share other concerns about intolerance in the Vanderbilt community, students can reach out to the staff of the Office of the Dean of Students, the student services staff in their graduate and professional schools, or their faculty advisors. Faculty with such concerns should feel free to reach out to me directly, and/or to the dean of their college/school. The following resources are also available for students:
- Psychological and Counseling Center at 615-322-2571
- Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life at 615-322-2457
- Office of Wellness Programs at 615-322-0480 firstname.lastname@example.org
- VUPD Office of Victim Services at 615-322-7846
- Student Health Center at 615-322-2427
Vanderbilt is a community grounded in mutual recognition, reciprocity and respect. This is reflected fully in our year of academic strategic planning where we define civility, along with creativity and collaboration, as a distinctive element of our culture. Our differences are assets which enhance learning, personal growth and the richness of our community. We hold ourselves and each other accountable for sustaining and nurturing this place, our university and home.
Susan R. Wente