Chapter 8: Student Discrimination
Vanderbilt University is committed to encouraging and sustaining a learning and work community that is free from prohibited discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In compliance with federal law, including the provisions of Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990,the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, Executive Order 11246, the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 as amended by the Jobs for Veterans Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, as amended, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, Vanderbilt University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, covered veterans status, or genetic information in its administration of educational policies, programs, or activities; admissions policies; scholarship and loan programs; athletic or other University-administered programs; or employment. In addition, the University does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of their gender expression.
Requests for information, inquiries, or reports of possible violations of this policy should be directed to these offices:
Students may contact:
Faculty and Staff may contact:Equal Employment Opportunity Office
Scope of Policy
This policy sets forth the specific types of conduct that are prohibited, as well as the resources and support services available to Vanderbilt community members who have been affected by conduct prohibited under this policy. Vanderbilt encourages everyone affected by discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, as defined in this policy, and everyone who suspects or witnesses such conduct, to report it and to seek help and support from available resources. Note that sexual harassment and other forms of sexual misconduct are addressed in Chapter 7, “Sexual Misconduct and Intimate Partner Violence.” The University will take prompt and effective action to address allegations of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation and to resolve reports in a timely and fair manner.
This policy outlines the procedures that apply to allegations of prohibited conduct involving discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation involving students, as defined in the Jurisdiction section of Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook. It is applicable to all members of the Vanderbilt community, including student organizations, 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. This policy applies to all reports of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation made on or after the effective date of this policy. If the alleged discrimination, harassment, or retaliation occurred before the effective date of this policy, applicable definitions of misconduct in University policies in existence at the time of the report will be used to the extent they conflict with definitions of terms in this policy.
The Title IX and Student Discrimination Office (Student Discrimination Office) receives, directly or indirectly, all reports of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation involving students that are not made to a confidential resource (see below). With the exceptions set forth in this policy, reports of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation received by the Student Discrimination Office will be addressed by the Student Discrimination Office based on the information available. If a faculty or staff member or a postdoctoral fellow/trainee is a party to the investigation, the Student Discrimination Office will notify the Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEO) and the offices will work together to investigate the matter, in accordance with University policies and procedures. The Student Discrimination Office is required to provide EEO with all known information regarding alleged discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation by a University employee. In these circumstances, EEO will respond in accordance with staff or faculty policies and procedures. Matters in which a staff or faculty member reports alleged discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation by a student fall under this policy and procedure.
Questions about the policy and its applicability to any alleged conduct may be directed to Vanderbilt’s Director of Title IX and Student Discrimination Office:
Director,Title IX and Student Discrimination Office
110 21st Avenue South, Suite 975, Nashville, TN 37203
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Offenses and Definitions
The following conduct is prohibited:
- Discrimination refers to the disparate treatment of a person or group because of that person’s or group’s protected class, as outlined in the University’s nondiscrimination policy, including race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, military service, covered veterans status, or genetic information. This policy also prohibits discrimination based on the perception that any person has any of the foregoing characteristics or is associated with a person who has, or is perceived as having, any of those characteristics.
- Harassment is unwelcome conduct directed against a person based on one or more of that person’s protected classes, as outlined in the University’s nondiscrimination policy, that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent that it interferes with or limits an individual’s education, living conditions, or participation in University programs or activities. Sexual harassment is addressed in Chapter 7, “Sexual Misconduct and Intimate Partner Violence.”
- Retaliation is any adverse action threatened or taken, whether directly or through a third party, against another person because they have complained about, reported, or participated in the investigation or disposition of alleged discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. Retaliation in an effort to discourage a person from reporting or participating in a University process or to punish a person for doing so, is also prohibited. Individuals involved in investigations or disciplinary proceedings are encouraged to exercise discretion in sharing information in order 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 who may support or assist them during the process. The University will take appropriate action to address any reports of retaliation.
For purposes of this policy, the following terms and definitions will be used throughout:
- Report is any complaint or information provided to the Student Discrimination Office alleging an incident of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation.
- Complainant is the person who is reported to have been subjected to discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation; if the respondent is a student organization, a representative from the organization will be designated to represent the organization in the investigation process. There may not be a named complainant in every matter under this policy. The University will address all reports of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation, including instances for which there is not an identified complainant.
- Respondent is the person against whom allegations of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation have been made; if the respondent is a student organization, a representative from the organization will be designated to represent the organization in the investigation process.
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Resources and Support
Any member of the Vanderbilt community who has experienced or been affected by discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation may seek immediate and ongoing assistance from one or more of the resources outlined below.
Confidential resources do not report any information about an incident to the Student Discrimination Office without the permission of the person consulting them. Confidential resources include licensed professional counselors and mental health providers, such as those at the University Counseling Center; pastoral counselors acting in that capacity; and medical professionals acting in a patient-care role, such as those at the Student Health Center, the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Department. Off-campus counselors and health care providers generally maintain confidentiality and will not share information with the University unless the person consulting them requests the disclosure and signs a consent or waiver form. 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 the Student Discrimination Office or law enforcement.
Under state or federal law, these resources may have other reporting obligations. For example, healthcare providers and certain other individuals are required to notify law enforcement when someone seeks treatment for injuries caused by a violent crime. Similarly, 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.
Contact Information for Resources
The following resources are available irrespective of whether a person chooses to report an alleged violation of this policy or to participate in an investigation.
- Vanderbilt University Counseling Center: 615-322-2571
- Vanderbilt Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life: 615-322-2457
- Vanderbilt University Police Department: 615-322-2745
Emergency: 911 or 615-421-1911
- Metro Nashville Police Department: 615-862-8600
Medical Service Providers
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center Emergency Services: 615-322-0160
- Student Health Center: 615-322-2427
Additional Support for Vanderbilt Students
- Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion: 615-343-2644
- Office of Inclusive Excellence: 615-343-3697
- Office of the Dean of Students: 615-322-6400
- Office of Housing and Residential Experience: 615-322-2591
- Office of 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 Services: 615-343-9727
Vanderbilt may facilitate reasonable interim remedial and protective measures on its own initiative or in response to a request from a complainant or respondent. Interim measures are not punitive and are intended to provide support and relief to the parties involved in or affected by discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. Implementation of interim measures, however, may affect one or more involved individuals. Such measures will remain in effect as long as necessary, depending on the relevant facts and circumstances.
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Reporting an Incident
A student who believes that a member of the Vanderbilt community has engaged in prohibited discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, may file a report with the Student Discrimination Office. 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 the respondent is not a student but is affiliated with Vanderbilt University as a faculty member, staff member, postdoctoral fellow/trainee, teaching assistant, independent contractor, adviser, or in any other similar capacity, the Student Discrimination Office will notify EEO of the report. If the Student Discrimination Office determines, based upon the nature of the allegations, that a report should be addressed by another department, the Student Discrimination Office will direct the person submitting the report to the appropriate department and refer the matter to that department.
To report an incident to the Student Discrimination Office, please contact Molly Zlock, Director, at 615-343-9004, complete the online reporting form, visit the office, or write.Email Address:
Baker Building, Suite 975
110 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240-7730
Everyone is encouraged to report discrimination, harassment, and retaliation even if some or all relevant information is unavailable. When making a report, it would be helpful to provide as much of the following information as possible: what happened, where, and when; names of all parties involved, 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.
If the offense is criminal in nature, persons may file a report with Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) or the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). Students may also decline to report to these authorities.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 and distinct from the process described in this policy and may or may not run parallel with this process. 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 the Student Discrimination Office 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. Vanderbilt encourages its students, faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows/trainees to report crimes to law enforcement.
The Student Discrimination Office 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.
The University provides several resources for anonymous reporting for persons who do not wish to be identified. Anonymous reports may be submitted through the online reporting form. Students may also report anonymously to the Community Standards hotline at 615-343-7867. In addition, Vanderbilt has established a hotline for anonymous reporting through the Vanderbilt University Compliance Reporting Hotline, an independently-operated compliance hotline that may be used to report incidents of apparent wrongdoing on campus. The Compliance Reporting Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year at 844-814-5935 or via the Make a Report tab on the EthicsPoint site. NOTE: These resources are not available to provide immediate assistance.
Vanderbilt encourages third parties to report incidents of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation to the Student Discrimination Office, VUPD, or the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD). Third parties may also report incidents through the anonymous reporting resources identified above. The University may not be able to move forward based on a third-party report if the complainant does not wish to cooperate with an investigation. 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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Upon receiving a report of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, the Student Discrimination Office will reach out to the complainant and offer to schedule an informational meeting. During the informational meeting, the Director or a designee will explain the role of the Student Discrimination Office, the options for reporting an incident, investigation and appeals procedures under this policy, requests for confidentiality, and the available resources for assistance, including interim measures that may be appropriate. Both the complainant and, in the event of an investigation, any respondent will have the opportunity to have informational meetings with the Student Discrimination Office and 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, who has not had formal legal training (except in cases involving Vanderbilt University Law School students).
Requests for Confidentiality for Purposes of an Investigation
A complainant may make a request for confidentiality, including that his/her/their name or other identifying details not be revealed to respondent(s). The complainant should be aware that any request for confidentiality may hinder the Student Discrimination Office’s ability to investigate and/or implement remedial measures, particularly remedial measures involving a respondent.
Determining if an Investigation Will Proceed
The Student Discrimination Office will determine whether the alleged conduct, as reported, could constitute a violation of the policy. If the Student Discrimination Office determines the alleged conduct, as reported, could constitute a violation,the office will notify the complainant and any respondents, in writing, that it will proceed with an investigation. The Student Discrimination Office will ask complainants who decline to participate whether they wish to receive the preliminary report and/or final report. If a party chooses not to cooperate with an investigation, the Student Discrimination Office may move forward based on the available information.
If the Student Discrimination Office determines the alleged conduct, as reported, could not constitute a violation of the policy, it will notify the complainant of its determination not to open an investigation. The University will take any necessary remedial actions to mitigate the effects of the alleged behavior and prevent its recurrence. Such actions may include, depending on all of the relevant facts and circumstances, increased monitoring, supervision, or security at locations or activities where the alleged behavior occurred; providing training and education for students and employees; and revising and publicizing the University’s policies on discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation.
The Director of the Student Discrimination Office has the discretion to administratively close an investigation prior to a determination. In making the determination to administratively close an investigation, the Director will consider relevant factors, including, but not limited to, whether the allegations lack sufficient detail, whether the complainant has declined to participate in an investigation, as well as the safety of the University community and the University’s commitment to provide a non-discriminatory environment. The Director may also determine to re-open an investigation based on a consideration of relevant factors, including, but not limited to, the time period that has elapsed since the investigation was closed and fairness to both parties.
Notice of Investigation
Following a determination by the Student Discrimination Office to open an investigation, the Student Discrimination Office will provide a summary of the allegations, either orally or in writing, to the Director of Student Accountability or a designee (collectively, Student Accountability). Student Accountability may request any additional relevant information obtained by the Student Discrimination Office. Student Accountability will present to each respondent a written notice of investigation to the respondent that outlines the potential violations of the policy and the range of possible sanctions. A notice of investigation may be modified at any point during the investigation based on information acquired during the investigation. Student Accountability will send a copy of the notice of investigation to the Student Discrimination Office. The Student Discrimination Office may contact the respondent for the purposes of obtaining or sharing information prior to the presentation of the notice of investigation. For faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellow/trainee respondents, the Equal Employment Opportunity Office will issue the notice of investigation.
The Investigative Process
After the Student Discrimination Office has conducted an informational meeting with a complainant or respondent, that person will have the opportunity to be interviewed by the assigned investigators, typically at a separate time. The complainant and respondent will have the opportunity to provide information regarding the allegations, ask questions, and offer names of witnesses or other people with relevant information. The Student Discrimination Office will also seek to interview any other individuals who, in the investigator’s judgment, may have information pertinent to the investigation. Investigators will collect from the complainant, respondent, witnesses, and third parties information that may be relevant. Student witnesses are strongly encouraged to cooperate with Student Discrimination Office investigations. As the investigation progresses, investigators may conduct follow-up interviews with any person necessary. If the complainant or the respondent learns of, or remembers, any additional information during the course of the investigation, he/she/they should notify the Student Discrimination Office investigator promptly. All parties will be given the opportunity to review the information collected. The Student Discrimination Office will provide the complainant and the respondent a reasonable amount of time to review and submit comments on their own statements. The Director may authorize the investigators to proceed with the statements as drafted if comments are not provided within the requested timeframe or in accordance with any approved extension of time for review.
Prior to making a final determination, the Student Discrimination Office will provide the parties, simultaneously, with copies of the preliminary report, including the statements of the parties and witnesses. The Student Discrimination Office may redact non-party names and sensitive information from the preliminary report. The complainant and respondent may view the redacted information by scheduling an appointment with the Student Discrimination Office. The parties may submit written comments on the preliminary report. Any such comments are limited to no more than ten (10) double-spaced pages with one (1) inch margins and twelve (12) point font and must be submitted either by hand delivery to the Student Discrimination Office, 110 21st Avenue South, Suite 975, or by email attachment to the Student Discrimination Office investigators by no later than 5pm on the fifth (5th) calendar day following the date the complainant and respondent receive the preliminary report. Requests for extensions must be submitted to the Student Discrimination Office prior to the expiration of the five-day period.
The Student Discrimination Office will consider any comments received from the parties after reviewing the preliminary report, and will conduct any further investigation it considers necessary or appropriate. After the conclusion of any additional investigation, the parties will receive and have an opportunity to submit a written response limited to the information added following the additional investigation.
The Student Discrimination Office may investigate and make findings of fact regarding possible violations of other University policies (i.e., policies outlined in the Student Handbook, HR policies, and Faculty Manual) 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 department for further action. If the conduct complained of involves a possible violation of another University policy that the Student Discrimination Office determines is not integral to a violation of this policy, the Student Discrimination Office will refer the report to the department responsible for investigating and/or resolving such reports. If the Student Discrimination Office receives information about a possible violation of University policy by a non-party, the Student Discrimination Office will refer the report to the department responsible for investigating and/or resolving such reports. If the report does not allege conduct that violates any University policy, the matter will be closed.
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 Director will decide in each case whether to receive evidence from experts or other witnesses. Under no circumstances, however, will polygraph evidence 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 at every stage of the investigative process to determine responsibility for violations of this policy. Proof meets the preponderance standard if the Student Discrimination Office determines it is “more likely than not” that the policy was violated.
Following the conclusion of the investigation and the parties’ opportunity to respond to the information gathered, the Student Discrimination Office will review all information and responses and will issue a final report that sets forth (a) the Student Discrimination Office’s determination, along with its rationale for reaching the determination, based on a preponderance of the evidence, whether the respondent engaged in discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation, as described in the notice of investigation, in violation of this policy, and (b) if appropriate, any relevant recommendations. The final report will contain a summary of the evidence on which the final determination and any remedial or other recommendations are based and will address, to the extent the Student Discrimination Office considers appropriate, any comments received from the complainant or respondent concerning the preliminary report. The comments from the complainant and respondent will also be attached to the final report. The Student Discrimination Office may redact non-party names and sensitive information from the final report. The complainant and respondent may view the redacted information by scheduling an appointment at the Student Discrimination Office. When a respondent is found to have violated the policy, the appropriate person will be notified for sanctioning, referral, or follow-up (e.g., Director of Student Accountability for students, Dean of the appropriate School for faculty, appropriate supervisor/manager and Human Resources consultant for staff, etc.). When there is no finding or a finding that the respondent has not violated the policy, the appropriate person (e.g., Director of Student Accountability for students, Dean of the appropriate School for faculty, appropriate supervisor/manager and Human Resources consultant for staff, etc.) will be notified. The Student Discrimination Office 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. The Student Discrimination Office will provide its final report simultaneously to the parties.
Where the respondent is a student and the Student Discrimination Office has determined that the respondent violated this policy, Student Accountability will review the Student Discrimination Office’s final report and will render an appropriate sanction. If, upon reviewing the materials, Student Accountability requires clarification or additional information from the Student Discrimination Office before rendering a sanction, Student Accountability may request such clarification or additional information from the Student Discrimination Office. The sanctioning determination will be made based on the information contained in the Student Discrimination Office 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 will notify the respondent, 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
Materials obtained by the Student Discrimination Office during the investigation will be maintained by the Student Discrimination Office for at least seven (7) years from the date of closure of the matter, except in cases of suspension of expulsion in which the materials may be kept indefinitely.
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Respondents may appeal the determination of the Student Discrimination Office and/or the sanction rendered by Student Accountability within ten (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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