Dear Vanderbilt Students –
We know this week has been a challenging one, following an incident in which a member of the Greek community was recorded using a racist slur derogatory to African Americans. As I shared in my July 3 message to students, we condemn the use of this language in the strongest possible terms, and have referred the matter to our Title IX and Student Discrimination office. The university is actively investigating this incident.
It is critically important that we as a community understand that this type of language, which undermines and erodes the culture of belonging and safety we have worked to create, is unacceptable in any context. To that end, we also encourage anyone with information about a recent series of abhorrent, racist anonymous posts on a website where discussions around Greek life at Vanderbilt are occurring, to report that information to the Title IX and Student Discrimination Office. Vanderbilt Information Technology and Vanderbilt University Public Safety are monitoring the website, though the anonymous nature of the posts make determining the source of these posts challenging.
We are also aware of the continuing conversations related to the Abolish IFC and Panhellenic movement. Our expectations for student organizations are that they reflect the university’s core values of equity, diversity and inclusion toward a shared mission of helping students become well-rounded leaders, scholars and citizens who navigate the world with civility, curiosity and respect for all. No student should be made to feel unwelcome or unsafe our campus – this extends to bullying or harassment for participation in an approved student organization or for students’ choice to abstain from participation.
We believe one of Vanderbilt’s strengths is its student organizations, which play a vital role in our residential learning approach. They provide opportunities to socialize, learn leadership skills, and to develop an appreciation for the role of community service and philanthropy. Importantly these organizations, including Greek organizations, are student driven. Student organizations are not static and may look very different from year to year, reflecting both the differences and interests of their individual members at that time. We believe, as a university, that this student-driven approach provides an experience for our students that will translate well into the organizations that they will join and lead after graduation.
The prevention and rejection of racism, sexism, sexual assault and homophobia have been the focus of education and reform within Greek organizations at Vanderbilt for several years. The Office of Greek Life has worked with these organizations, which has resulted in student-driven approaches to address these problems and enact change and reform. This work is ongoing and is being continuously assessed for alignment with the values of our community.
As a community, we have an opportunity to make a difference on many issues facing Vanderbilt and our society as a whole. To do so, we must listen carefully, reflect thoughtfully and act strategically to achieve the reform we want to see, and that includes engaging thoughtfully in the current discussions with regard to Greek organizations. We recognize that these are difficult conversations for all.
Associate Provost and Dean of Students