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Chapter 8: Student Discrimination

Introduction / Prohibited Conduct and Additional Definitions / Reporting an Incident / Investigations / Appeals /  Resources and Support


Vanderbilt University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a learning and work community that is free from prohibited discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Vanderbilt University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, age, disability, military service, veteran status, genetic information, or any other classification protected by law in its administration of educational policies, programs, or activities; admissions policies; scholarship and loan programs; athletic or other University-administered programs; or employment.

Scope of Policy

This policy outlines the procedures for responding to reports that a student, as defined in the Jurisdiction section of Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook, engaged in prohibited  discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation as defined below. This policy is applicable with respect to conduct that occurs on campus and conduct that occurs off-campus, including conduct in connection with University programs or activities or that otherwise interferes with or limits the ability of a member of the community to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities from the University’s programs or activities, regardless of whether the complainant is an affiliate of the University. Matters in which a non-student reports alleged discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by a student fall under this policy and procedure. The Equal Opportunity and Access Office (EOA) will address allegations of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation by a non-student in accordance with applicable University policies and procedures.

EOA will apply the processes in the edition of this policy in effect on the date EOA receives the report of prohibited conduct irrespective of the date the reported incident(s) occurred. EOA will use the definitions, including prohibited conduct (see below), in effect on the date of the alleged incident. EOA will use the definitions section(s) of the relevant edition of the policy (or any predecessor policy) in effect at the time of the most recent alleged incident for reported conduct spanning more than one year.  Questions about the policy and its applicability to any alleged conduct may be directed to EOA.

With the exceptions set forth in this policy, reports of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation received by EOA will be addressed by EOA based on the information available. EOA will coordinate with the Title IX Office regarding allegations of prohibited conduct that fall under both this policy and the Sexual Misconduct Policy or Formal Grievance Protocol and will work with the Title IX Coordinator to determine, on a case-by-case basis, how the offices will address the allegations. Sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct are addressed in Chapter 7, “Sexual Misconduct.”

Vanderbilt encourages everyone affected by conduct prohibited under this policy, or who suspects or witnesses such conduct, to report the conduct to EOA and to seek help and support from available resources. The University will take prompt and effective action to address allegations of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation and to resolve reports in a timely and fair manner.

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Prohibited Conduct and Additional Definitions

The following conduct is prohibited ("Prohibited Conduct"):

  • Discrimination: Treating someone differently because of their race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, parental status, age, disability, military service, veteran status, genetic information, or any other classification protected by law (“Protected Classes”) in the administration of Vanderbilt’s educational policies, programs, or activities. This policy also prohibits discrimination based on the perception that any person is a member of any of the Protected Classes or is associated with a person who is, or is perceived to be, a member of one or more of the Protected Classes.


  • Harassment: Verbal or physical conduct, or conduct using technology, directed toward someone because of their membership in a Protected Class that has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with the individual’s educational or work performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive living, working, or academic environment. This policy also prohibits harassment based on the perception that any person is a member of any of the Protected Classes or is associated with a person who is, or is perceived to be, a member of one or more of the Protected Classes. A person's subjective belief that conduct is intimidating, hostile, or offensive does not make that conduct harassment. To constitute harassment, the conduct must from both a subjective and objective perspective be so severe, persistent, or pervasive that it unreasonably interferes with, limits, or deprives a member of the community of the ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities from the University’s education or employment programs or activities. In determining whether a hostile environment exists, EOA examines the context, nature, scope, frequency, duration, and location of incidents, as well as the relationships of the persons involved. Sexual harassment is addressed in Chapter 7, “Sexual Misconduct.” Please note: General harassment or uncivil conduct that is not based on a Protected Class does not fall within the purview of this policy or EOA. Such behavior may violate other university policies and should be reported to Student Accountability (for students), to Human Resources (for staff), or to the appropriate departmental leadership (for faculty).


  • Retaliation: Action threatened or taken, directly or through others, intended to deter a person from engaging in Protected Activity (defined below) or done in retribution for engaging in Protected Activity. Action in response to Protected Activity is not retaliatory unless it (1) would not have occurred in the absence of the protected activity; and (2) has a materially adverse effect on the person, meaning the action was sufficiently harmful to deter a reasonable person from engaging in Protected Activity. Vanderbilt strictly prohibits retaliation and will take appropriate action to address reports of retaliation.

Additional Definitions:

  • Report is any complaint or information provided to EOA alleging an incident of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
  • Complainant is generally the person who is reported to have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation; if the complainant is a student organization, a representative from the organization will be designated to represent the organization in the investigation process.
  • Respondent is the person alleged to have engaged in Prohibited Conduct; if the respondent is a student organization, EOA or Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity (“Student Accountability”) will designate a member of the organization to represent the organization in the investigation process.
  • Protected Activity includes (1) reporting (internally or externally) or inquiring, in good faith, about suspected Prohibited Conduct; (2) assisting others in reporting or inquiring, in good faith, about suspected Prohibited Conduct; or (3) participating in an investigation or proceeding related to suspected Prohibited Conduct.

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Reporting an Incident

Any person may report Prohibited Conduct to EOA. The University encourages community members to report violations of this policy as soon as possible after an incident, but violations may be reported at any time. If after reviewing the allegations EOA determines that a report should be addressed by another office, EOA will direct the person submitting the report to the appropriate office and will refer the matter to that office. To report to EOA, a person may do one or more of the following: (1) use the Online Reporting Form; (2) contact the office via (email, mail, or phone; or (3) visit the office in person.

When making a report, it is helpful to provide all known relevant information, including: what happened, where, and when; names of all involved persons, including witnesses who were present and/or have relevant knowledge; supporting documentation (such as videos, emails, photos, text messages, or messages through social media); any other information; and contact information.  Everyone is encouraged to report Prohibited Conduct even if some or all relevant information is unavailable.

If the offense is criminal in nature, persons may also file a report with the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) or Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD).

Vanderbilt University Police Department
111 28th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
Emergency – 911 or 615-42(1-1911)

Metro Nashville Police Department Headquarters
200 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN 37201
Emergency – 911 

Civil or criminal proceedings are separate from the University administrative process described in this policy. The University may be required by law to provide information to civil or criminal authorities or in civil or criminal proceedings. The filing of a police report or the pendency of civil or criminal proceedings does not preclude EOA or any other department of Vanderbilt University from proceeding with its investigation and determination. The University’s investigation and determination may be delayed until law enforcement officials have finished gathering evidence but generally will not be held until the conclusion of any criminal proceeding.

EOA will provide non-identifying information to VUPD for crime statistics reporting in accordance with the requirements of the Clery Act. The information reported may result in the issuance of a timely warning or security notice to the community, but the warning will not include any information that identifies the person(s) reported to have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation.

Anonymous Reporting

Anonymous reports may be submitted through the Online Reporting Form. In addition, Vanderbilt has established the Vanderbilt University Compliance Reporting Hotline, an independently-operated compliance hotline that may be used to report incidents of possible wrongdoing on campus. The Compliance Reporting Hotline is available at (844) 814-5935, or via the Make a Report tab on the EthicsPoint site.  Please note that EOA’s ability to investigate or to implement remedial actions may be more limited for anonymous reports.  

Third-Party Reporting

Vanderbilt encourages third parties to report Prohibited Conduct to EOA, VUPD, or MNPD, as applicable. Third parties may also report incidents through the anonymous reporting resources identified above. After providing a report, third parties are not entitled to information about the University’s investigation, including any outcome, due to privacy concerns and applicable federal and state laws.

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Determining if an Investigation Will Proceed

When EOA receives a report of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, EOA will contact the complainant to identify support resources and supportive measures and to offer the opportunity to schedule a meeting to discuss the allegations and the EOA investigative process. If a person chooses not to participate in an investigation, EOA may move forward based on the available information but Vanderbilt’s ability to response may be limited.

EOA will assess whether the alleged conduct, as reported, could constitute a violation of this policy.  If EOA determines the alleged conduct, as reported, could not constitute a violation of this policy, it will notify the complainant(s) of its determination not to open an investigation. EOA may also refer the conduct to another office or official, including for review to determine whether the alleged conduct could violate another University policy. 

The Director of EOA or designee has the discretion to administratively close an investigation before reaching a determination. The Director or designee will consider relevant factors, such as whether the allegations lack sufficient detail, whether the complainant has declined to participate in an investigation, and the effect of closing the investigation on the safety of the University community and the University’s commitment to provide a non-discriminatory environment before deciding whether to administratively close an investigation. The Director or designee may also re-open an investigation based on a consideration of relevant factors, including, the time that has elapsed since the investigation was closed, any new or newly-identified information or allegations, and fairness to both parties.

The University will address all reports of Prohibited Conduct to the extent practicable under the circumstances, including instances for which there is not an identified complainant.

Notice of Allegations

If EOA determines that an investigation is appropriate, student respondents will receive a Notice of Allegations (“NOA”) from Student Accountability. The date the NOA is issued marks the official start of an investigation.

The NOA will identify the applicable university policies and state the allegations potentially constituting a policy violation. If at any point during the investigation EOA decides to investigate allegations that are not included in the original NOA, it will provide a revised NOA to the respondent. EOA may contact the respondent for the purposes of obtaining or sharing information before issuing the NOA.

EOA will promptly notify the complainant of the issuance of the NOA to the respondent.

The Investigative Process 

During the investigation, an EOA investigator will meet with the complainant and respondent, separately, to explain the role of EOA, the investigation and appeals procedures under this policy, and the available resources for assistance, including supportive measures that may be appropriate. Both the complainant and, in the event of an investigation, any respondent will have the opportunity to be accompanied by an adviser. Advisers must be Vanderbilt students, faculty members, or staff of the person’s own choosing, to whom the person is not related, and who have not had formal legal training.  Advisers to Vanderbilt Law School students are the only exception from the final requirement regarding legal training; those advisers may have legal training but must otherwise meet the requirements for advisers.

During the investigation phase, the investigator will strive to collect all relevant information but cannot compel external sources to provide information they may have. Relevant information may include: the initial report, law enforcement investigation documents; medical records with the appropriate releases; relevant student files or records; electronic communication, such as text messages, emails, and messaging apps; internet or social media posts; screenshots; pictures; audio and video recordings; video surveillance; verbal or written statements; swipe records; and receipts. The investigator also may interview the complainant, the respondent, and any witnesses. The complainant and respondent will have the opportunity to provide information to investigator, including the names of people with relevant information. The investigator will consider the witness lists provided by the complainant and respondent when identifying witnesses for interview, but decisions about whom to interview are solely within the investigator’s discretion. The investigator retains discretion to limit the number of witness interviews conducted if the investigator finds that the witnesses’ statements would be unreasonably cumulative, if the witnesses are offered solely as character references and do not have information relevant to the allegations at issue, or if the witnesses are offered to render testimony that is otherwise inadmissible. As the investigation progresses, the investigator may conduct follow-up interviews as necessary. If the complainant or the respondent learns of, or recalls, additional information during the course of the investigation, that person should notify the EOA investigator promptly. 

Persons are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information related to the investigation to safeguard the integrity of the process and to avoid the appearance of retaliation. While discretion regarding the process is important, complainants and respondents are not restricted from discussing and sharing information with others, including those who may support or assist them during the process.

EOA will record and transcribe interviews conducted as part of an investigation. EOA will provide interviewees with a transcript of their interview for their review and for accuracy. The parties will have three business days to review and offer corrections to the transcript. If corrections are not submitted within three business days, the investigators will proceed with the transcript as drafted.  

Before making a final determination, EOA will provide the respondent the opportunity to review evidence that may be used to determine whether the respondent engaged in Prohibited Conduct. EOA may redact non-party names and sensitive information from the evidence. The respondent may view the redacted information by scheduling an appointment with EOA. The respondent may submit written comments on the evidence. Comments may not exceed10 double-spaced pages, and pages must be formatted with one (1) inch margins and twelve (12) point font. Comments must be submitted either by hand delivery to EOA, 2100 West End Avenue, Suite 700, or by email attachment to the EOA investigator by no later than 5:00 p.m. on the tenth calendar day following the date the respondent receives the evidence. Requests for extensions must be submitted to the EOA investigator before to the expiration of the 10-day review period.

EOA will review comments to the evidence received from the respondent and will conduct any further investigation it considers necessary or appropriate. After the conclusion of any additional investigation, EOA will issue any additional evidence gathered to the respondent for review. The respondent will have an opportunity to submit a written response limited to the information added following the additional investigation and subject to the formatting and time periods identified for the initial review.

EOA may investigate and make findings of fact regarding possible violations of other University policies (e.g., policies outlined in the Student Handbook) by the parties to the investigation when those violations are integral to the alleged violations of this policy. The relevant information and findings will then be shared with Student Accountability or the appropriate office or official for further action. If the conduct complained of involves a possible violation of another University policy that EOA determines is not integral to a violation of this policy, EOA will refer the report to the department or school responsible for investigating and/or resolving such reports.


Interviews conducted as part of an investigation under this policy may be recorded by the University. Recordings not authorized by the University are prohibited.

Evidence Not Considered

The EOA Director or designee will decide in each case whether to receive evidence from experts or other witnesses. Polygraph evidence will not be considered. Evidence concerning the character of a party will not be considered. 

Standard of Proof

Vanderbilt uses the preponderance of the evidence standard of proof to determine responsibility for violations of this policy. Proof meets the preponderance standard if EOA determines it is “more likely than not” that a respondent violated the policy.


Following the conclusion of the investigation and the respondent’s opportunity to respond to the information gathered, EOA will review all information and responses and will issue a final report that sets forth: (a) the determination as to whether the respondent engaged in Prohibited Conduct and the rationale the determination, and (b) if appropriate, any relevant recommendations. The final report will contain a summary of the evidence on which the final determination and any recommendations are based. The respondent’s response to the information gathered will be included with to the final report. EOA may redact non-party names and sensitive information from the final report. The respondent may view the redacted information by scheduling an appointment at EOA.  EOA may share information about a determination or recommendation with appropriate offices or officials (e.g., Director of Student Accountability, Dean of the appropriate School) for sanctioning, referrals, and appropriate follow-up. EOA will also forward a summary of any evidence it received concerning possible violations of other policies to the office or department responsible for enforcement of such policies, as appropriate. EOA will provide its final report to the respondent and a determination notice to the complainant.


If EOA determines that the respondent violated this policy, Student Accountability will review EOA’s final report and will render an appropriate sanction. Student Accountability will determine the sanction based on the information contained in the EOA investigative report, with particular regard for the nature of the incident, the respondent’s reported cooperation and candor, and the respondent’s disciplinary history (if any).  Student Accountability may also request clarifying or additional information from EOA to assist in determining the appropriate sanction.

Student Accountability will notify respondents, in writing, of the sanction imposed following the issuance of the final report. Detailed information regarding sanctioning may be found in Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook.

Preservation of Investigative Materials    

EOA will maintain materials obtained during the investigation in accordance with applicable record retention policies.

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Respondents may appeal the EOA determination and the sanction issued by Student Accountability within 10 calendar days of the date they are formally notified of the sanction. Detailed information may be found in the Appeals and the Appellate Review Board section of the Student Handbook.

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Any member of the Vanderbilt community who has experienced or been affected by Prohibited Conduct may seek assistance from one or more of the resources identified below.

Support Resources for Vanderbilt Students

  • University Counseling Center: 615-322-2571 (CONFIDENTIAL)
  • Center for Spiritual and Religious Life: 615-322-2457 (CONFIDENTIAL)
  • Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: 615-343-2644
  • Student Affairs: 615-322-6400
  • Housing and Residential Experience: 615-322-2591
  • Student Care Coordination: 615-343-9355
  • Center for Student Wellbeing: 615-322-0480
  • Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center: 615-322-4843
  • Office of LGBTQI Life: 615-322-3330
  • Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center: 615-322-2524
  • Student Center for Social Justice and Identity: 615-322-5089
  • Student Access: 615-343-9727

Law Enforcement

  • Vanderbilt University Police Department: 615-322-2745
    Emergency: 911 or 615-421-1911
  • Metro Nashville Police Department: 615-862-8600
    Emergency: 911

Medical Service Providers (CONFIDENTIAL)

  • Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Services: 615-322-0160
  • Student Health Center: 615-322-2427

NOTE: Confidential resources do not report any information about an incident to EOA without the permission of the person consulting them. Confidential resources may, however, have other reporting obligations under law. For example, healthcare providers are required to notify law enforcement when someone seeks treatment for injuries caused by a violent crime. And all persons are required to notify law enforcement or the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) when they receive a report of abuse of a minor. Anyone who reports information about an incident to a confidential resource may later decide to make a report to a non-confidential resource, such as EOA or law enforcement.

Supportive Measures

Supportive measures are non-disciplinary and non-punitive services designed to restore or preserve equal access to Vanderbilt’s education program and activities without unreasonably burdening other members of the Vanderbilt community. Some supportive measures are designed to protect the safety of parties and Vanderbilt’s educational or work environment, as well as to deter discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Vanderbilt may facilitate reasonable supportive measures on its own initiative or in response to a request from a complainant or respondent. Vanderbilt will maintain privacy with respect to any personal supportive measures provided to complainants, respondents, or third parties, to the extent that maintaining such privacy would not impair Vanderbilt's ability to provide the supportive measures (e.g., mutual no-contact directives require notice to others). Such measures will remain in effect as long as necessary, based on the relevant facts and circumstances.

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