Vanderbilt crashes and burns in 68-42 Thanksgiving loss to Virginia

Vanderbilt took to Brooklyn Thursday afternoon to take on the Virginia Cavaliers in front of a largely absent crowd at the Barclays Center.  Unfortunately for Commodore fans, their team failed to show up as well.  Vanderbilt was outcoached and outworked, and Virginia demolished the Commodores by a score of 6842.

Since Tony Bennett took over the head coaching job at Virginia in 2009, stifling defense has been the hallmark of his team, and this season had been no different.  Coming into this contest, the Cavaliers ranked eighth in the nation in opposing scoring, allowing a mere 54.3 points per game.  In this game, 54 points never seemed like a possibility.

For Vanderbilt, the game plan seemed off from the get-go.  A notoriously dangerous three-point shooting team, the Commodores set few ball screens to get open looks from three, and instead tried to force the ball inside.  Often times this was done with reckless abandon, leading to multiple charging fouls by Vanderbilt guards.  Other times those guards were met by the taller bodies and longer arms of the Cavalier bigs, who finished the game with eight blocks, led by Isaiah Wilkins, who had three himself.

On defense, the Commodores struggled to keep up with the Cavaliers.  Failure to close out on shooters resulted in a 48% three-point percentage.  Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome in particular lit it up from three, combining for 32 points on eight triples.  Virginia’s superior athleticism reared its head on the boards as well, and the Commodores were outrebounded, 42 to 36.

Right from the opening tip, the rout was on.  Virginia scored the first eight points of the ballgame before Larry Austin Jr. finally tacked on a free throw to get Vanderbilt on the board in the first half.  Even after the free throw, the Commodores failed to hit a field goal for the first 7:45 of the ballgame.  By the time Djery Baptiste dropped in those two points, Vanderbilt faced a 12-point deficit.  After a Jeff Roberson jumper, the Commodores went nearly another six minutes without points, allowing Virginia to open up a 26-5 lead to open up the game.

Matthew Fisher-Davis started to get it going late in the first half, hitting two threes, but the team still found little success inside. Wilkins was the main man clogging up the paint, swatting away two shots in one possession in emphatic fashion that sent this small crowd into a frenzy.

Kyle Guy finished the first half for the Cavaliers with a clinic beyond the arc, hitting three triples, the last of which came on a fadeaway right in front of the Commodore bench.

The second half was more of the same, with Jerome opening up the scoring by nailing a couple threes to push the lead to 31 points.  Mamadi Diakite went on a miniature run of his own for the Cavaliers, scoring eight points in a span of just a couple minutes to keep things going.

Vanderbilt went on a run at the end of the second half to make things respectable, as Maxwell Evans, Clevon Brown, and Joe Toye gave Vanderbilt a scoring spark.  It was too little too late, however, as Virginia held on to blow out the Commodores and advance to the finals of the NIT Tip-off.

Vanderbilt will look to turn things around quickly, as they will be back in Brooklyn tomorrow night at 9:45 ET to take on the loser of Seton Hall versus Rhode Island in the third-place matchup.

Canadian country artist Brett Kissel prepares to play free show at The Basement

In a city where aspiring musicians, songwriters and entertainers can be found on any street corner and inside every bar, Brett Kissel is one music star that is making his dreams into a reality. Kissel’s recent hit “We Were That Song” rose to #7 on the Canada Country chart, making it Kissel’s tenth top ten single. Despite his success and fame, Kissel is a friendly, down-to-earth musician and entertainer that is willing and eager to share his journey and advice.

Unlike some artists who are born surrounded by musicians and opportunities, Kissel had to forge his own path. Raised on a cattle ranch in northeastern Alberta, Canada, Kissel grew up listening to country music, especially the classics—Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty and Faron Young. Despite a lack of musicians within his family, he received his first guitar just before his seventh birthday from his grandmother. The rest is history.

Source: Christy Watkins (AristoMedia)

“The minute I got my driver’s license is when I started to drive from Alberta to Tennessee… 3,500 miles,” Kissel said.

Kissel soon realized that Nashville was the place where he could bring his dreams to reality.

“All I wanted to do was write songs and live in Nashville,” Kissel said. “So when I was 21, we got our visa paperwork and moved to America. It was kind of a pioneer spirit like my grandparents from 100 years ago settling in a new land and living the American dream through music.”

Over the past few years, Kissel has established his sound and technique as an entertainer, influenced by some of today’s biggest names in country like Brad Paisley and Garth Brooks (with whom he just finished touring). To Kissel, his fans are his first priority.

Source: Christy Watkins (AristoMedia)

“Any time I step on stage it is only for the people,” Kissel said. No doubt Kissel’s generosity and ability to read and adapt to his audience have contributed to his rise to fame as evidenced by his 60+ thousand social media followers. His current tour is the biggest ever in Canada for a country artist. He is reaching communities that have never hosted country music before, exploring different scenes and venues, and even willing to set up in a field if that’s what it takes to share his music with the people. Looking toward the future, Kissel excitedly hints at possible upcoming US concert dates for 2018.

Fortunately, Nashvillians won’t have to wait until 2018 just yet. Kissel will be performing a free show at The Basement on Nov. 27, so grab your friends for a great night of country music and an open bar.  

Source: Christy Watkins (AristoMedia)

Lastly, Kissel shares words for the aspiring musicians. Hard work and patience, two virtues which he himself practices, are the key elements to success. It’s safe to say that Brett Kissel is well on his way to making his mark on the American music industry.   

category: Featured, Life, Music

Vanderbilt travels to Brooklyn to take on Virginia in NIT Tip-Off

The Vanderbilt Commodores are hitting the Big Apple.

As families across the country sit down for turkey, gravy and stuffing, the Commodores will be looking for their third win of the season when they take on the 25th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers in the NIT Tip-Off at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

This will be the seventh all-time meeting between the Cavaliers and the Commodores, and the first on neutral court.

Here’s the skinny on this showdown in the five boroughs.

The Basics

Time: 3 p.m. central

Place: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York


Matchups to Watch

G Kyle Guy vs. G Matthew Fisher-Davis

Virginia’s shooting guard has been lighting it up through four games this season, putting up more than 13 points in each of their first four games. He’s also been a workhorse for the Cavaliers, leading the team in minutes per game. Whether he’s on or off the ball, he’s a skilled player in the backcourt that will be the team’s leader. Virginia’s projected three-guard formation will also allow Guy to open up his game a bit.

Fisher-Davis was lights-out for Vanderbilt against USC, racking up 30 points and 11 rebounds. However, in this game, his biggest contributions might be on defense. He may have to take on Guy on defense and slow him down. This will be a tall task, but if Fisher-Davis can effectively slow down Guy, Vanderbilt will have a much easier time with this game.

Vanderbilt’s height vs. Virginia’s height

According to their game notes, Virginia plans on starting three guards (Guy, Devon Hall and Ty Jerome), but their biggest strength might be in their big men. 6’7” senior Isaiah Wilkins is Virginia’s best player by far, and he’ll be a force to be reckoned with on the floor. They’ll also likely start 6’10” center Jack Salt.

This might create a problem for Vanderbilt. The Commodores have three big men on their roster: Djery Baptiste, Ejike Obinna and Clevon Brown. Head coach Bryce Drew tends to only play one of them at a time to avoid foul trouble, but if Wilkins and Salt get going, he may be forced into playing two bigs at once. Baptiste was a standout against USC, and if he continues to improve, he’ll be a big help to Vanderbilt. However, if any of Vanderbilt’s centers find themselves in early foul trouble, the Commodores could have a tough day on the glass.

Stat Nuggets and Fun Facts

-Fisher-Davis’ 30-point, 11-rebound performance against USC was the first 30-10 outing for Vanderbilt since A.J. Ogilvy’s against LSU on March 4, 2009

-Vanderbilt is 5-1 all-time against Virginia, with their last matchup coming on December 12, 1995, a 61-48 Vanderbilt win in Charlottesville

-Virginia is last in the ACC in rebounds per game with 31.5, while they are tied for 11th in the conference in points per game

-This will be the Commodores’ third game all-time at the Barclays Center, having participated in the 2014 Barclays Center Classic. In that tournament, they fell by three to Rutgers before beating La Salle 68-55

-Vanderbilt will be playing in a Tri-State area preseason tournament for the third time in six years, having played in the 2014 Barclays Center Classic and the TicketCity Legends Classic at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey in 2011, knocking off NC State 86-79

-Both Vanderbilt Hustler sports editors hail from New York

The Vanderbilt Hustler’s New York-based editorial staff will be on-site at the Barclays Center to provide live coverage of the Commodores’ two games in Brooklyn this week.

Simi Shittu will be an unprecedented dominant force for Vanderbilt Basketball

Memorial Gym has seen plenty of talented individuals wear the Commodore uniform on the court. Future NBA players like Will Perdue, Festus Ezeli and John Jenkins have all graced Vanderbilt with their presence.

Vanderbilt has never seen anything like Simisola Shittu.

That’s how big of an impact the five-star power forward will have in 2018. The 6’9” force committed to the Commodores in a video published by The Player’s Tribune. The team later announced that he had signed his National Letter of Intent.

He was ranked sixth in the ESPN100 recruit rankings and was the second-best in his class in the power forward position behind sensation Zion Williamson.

“Simisola is a special young man who is ranked a top seven player in his class,” said head coach Bryce Drew in a press release. “His announcement video speaks volumes of his character as it was a thank you to all the people who helped him get to this point. He possesses the athleticism and skill set of a guard while having the size and strength of a power forward. There are only a handful of players at any level that have the versatility and all-around game that he does. He is very unique in many ways and we cannot wait for him to put on a Vanderbilt jersey.”

According to David Sisk, recruiting writer for, a Rivals website, Shittu has all the attributes to not just be a star for Vanderbilt, but to be an NBA stud and a lottery pick.

“The first time I saw him play was last spring on the Nike Circuit in Indianapolis,” Sisk told The Hustler. “I didn’t really know anything about him, and went and watched him play a game. On the first play, I saw him come down the court, they’re passing the ball, he’s playing a wing, they set a ball screen, the other team trapped the ball screen hard, he’s 25 feet from the bucket and double-teamed. At 6’10’’, he splits the double team, goes between-the-legs, crosses over and goes in from about the third block and windmills it over the rest of the team.”

“I turned around to Sean Williams (another Rivals recruiting writer), who was with me that time and I said ‘Lottery pick. There’s not five players in America that can do that.'” 

Sisk also said that, despite his massive frame, Shittu is versatile enough to play small forward and even shooting guard on some occasions. That versatility is what will make him a top NBA talent in 2019, or potentially beyond if he decides to stay at Vanderbilt for longer.

Shittu was also considering North Carolina, one of the top basketball programs in the country. According to Sisk, its was Drew’s vision of the team he wants that sold Shittu.

“UNC plays a traditional four (PF), so you’re talking about 15 feet from the bucket, high-post, that’s probably his strength: catching it in that area and taking downhill,” he said. “He would probably do that better than maybe other things, like on the perimiter. But, Vanderbilt gets into a situation of positionless basketball. He could play a combination two (SG), three (SF), four (PF), out on the perimeter.”

“I think that’s what he’s going to play in the NBA. If you watch the game now, unless you’re a seven-footer, you play behind the three-point line. That’s probably not his strength right now, but you have to work on that and develop it. I think that’s what Vanderbilt sold to him.”

With point guard Darius Garland also signing last week, this is the first time in program history that the Commodores have signed two top-ranked recruits to the same class. How did Vanderbilt suddenly become such an attractive destination?

For starters, each coach is a people person.

“Here’s the thing: they’re so good at creating relationships, not only Bryce Drew but the entire staff,” Sisk said. “I figured that out pretty quickly when I first met him. You could see the entire staff was on the same page. They’re the same type of guys, they’ve got the same type of personalities. You could talk to Jake Diebler, and talk to Roger Powell, Casey Shaw or Bryce Drew and it’s basically like having the same conversation. The conversations that they have, the way they talk, the way they carry themselves, the visions that they have, it’s all pretty similar.”

Now, Vanderbilt will try to make Shittu the second-best recruit they’ve ever landed. Shooting guard Romeo Langford has put Vanderbilt in his top three with Indiana and Kansas. He is not expected to commit until the spring. It remains to be seen how Shittu’s commitment will impact Langford’s decision-making, but according to Sisk, Garland, Shittu and Langford each liked Vanderbilt on their own.

“They’re getting these guys that have not had a previous relationship with Vanderbilt,” he said. Y’ou’ve got a guy from Indiana, a guy from Canada, and they’re basically saying ‘Hey, I’m considering Vanderbilt. I’m signing with Vanderbilt because I like what they’ve got going on there.’ That’s pretty good.”

While Vanderbilt’s 2018 roster is shaping up, the 2017 Commodores are in the midst of their non-conference schedule and are set to take on Virginia in the NIT Tip Off at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

BREAKING: Five-star power forward Simi Shittu commits to Vanderbilt

Turns out Darius Garland was Vanderbilt’s highest-ranked recruit in program for just nine days

Power forward Simisola Shittu, the sixth-ranked recruit in the ESPN100, announced his commitment to Vanderbilt on Wednesday, a week after the early signing period ended. He announced his decision in a video for The Players’ Tribune.

The Burlington, Ontario Native was also considering North Carolina. He had a visit scheduled in Chapel Hill on November 10, but he canceled it. He was the second-highest rated power forward in his class behind highly-touted recruit and internet dunk sensation Zion Williamson.

Shittu is the third recruit in head coach Bryce Drew’s 2018 class. Aaron Nesmith signed on November 8, while the 11th-ranked recruit according to ESPN, Darius Garland, committed last week. Garland had said he was in contact with Shittu about his recruitment and was trying to sell him on Vanderbilt.

Stay tuned for continuing coverage of Shittu’s commitment.

Hoodie Allen rocks Cannery Ballroom

Last Wednesday, November 15, Hoodie Allen took the the stage at a packed Cannery Ballroom as part of his “The Hype World Tour”. Openers for the night included fellow rappers Myles Parrish and Luke Christopher, the latter of whom many might recognize for his most popular track “Lot to Learn”. Both rappers brought the same feel-good pop-rap vibes that Hoodie made his name with, making them an almost too logical choice for opening acts.

Hoodie Allen performs at Cannery Ballroom on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).

Not too long after Luke Christopher closed out his set, Hoodie’s backing band took the stage, and launched into “Sushi”, the  lead single from his newest album The Hype, during which he shot fake money into the crowd, each bearing the images of his album cover and a sushi roll on either side.

Hoodie Allen performs at Cannery Ballroom on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).

Much of his set consisted of songs from his new album (“Know it All”, “Ain’t Ready”) and his previous album, Happy Camper (“Surprise Party”, “Champagne and Pools”). He did manage to incorporate older fan favorites too, though, like “Fame is for Assholes”. Hoodie also played one of his debut’s most famous tracks “No Faith in Brooklyn”, which became “No Faith in Nashville” for the night.

Hoodie Allen performs at Cannery Ballroom on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).

At some point throughout the night, I realized that I was essentially at a pop-punk concert, complete with a guitarist wearing a flannel and playing catchy rock riffs, a singer with the same nasally voice as a Tom Delonge or a Derek Discanio (of State Champs, a band featured on The Hype), and a crowd of white, upper-middle class high schoolers throwing their bras onstage. As if that wasn’t enough, Hoodie even grabbed an acoustic guitar and began a cover to Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of your Life), turning the show into a scene straight out of the soon-to-be defunct Vans Warper Tour.

Hoodie Allen performs at Cannery Ballroom on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).

I myself have spent a few nights in high school pitting to these kinds of show, and even attended Warped Tour one year. I look back on these shows fondly for the most part, though I haven’t attended a pop-punk show in years, as I’ve found the scene to be rather misogynistic and insular due to the dominance of white males in the audience as well as onstage. And so while I found myself noticing these same traits at Hoodie’s show, I also felt a wave of nostalgia come over me. I watched as a sea of minors and young twentysomethings sang along to every word, completely carefree, and I began to miss those nights where I could come to a place like this and forget whatever high school drama was plaguing me and be surrounded by people who could relate.

Hoodie Allen performs at Cannery Ballroom on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).

I watched as two girls sang and danced along the entire night, and while a scene from Jessica Hopper’s essay on sexism in rock music came to mind, I also realized that at least for tonight, they could at least see one of their favorite artists perform. The very issues that plague the culture of rap and rock music are the same ones that this music allows us to escape, at least for a night. I’m not the saying that these issues don’t matter, because protesting social and political injustice are fundamental to rock and rap music. Rather, I believe that moments like these are what inspire change in a community and give a little hope to the marginalized and disenchanted.

Hoodie Allen performs at Cannery Ballroom on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).

In the end, Hoodie Allen performed well. His band was tight and his flows were flawless. And while the music and culture have some glaring flaws and no longer appeal to me, I can honestly say that if you are a Hoodie Allen fan, this was a show you did not want to miss.

category: Featured, Life, Music

Thanksgiving watch list

This Thanksgiving break, binge on more than just turkey and apple pie. With finals season just around the corner, kick back over break and enjoy a heartwarming drama or a bone-chilling murder mystery. Here are just a few picks for the hottest shows and movies Netflix has to offer this holiday season.

Jonathan Groff plays Holden Ford, a booksmart FBI agent in the 1970s with a passion for criminal science. He teams up with veteran agent Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) as they pioneer the field of criminal psychology, interviewing and analyzing America’s most notorious serial killers.

Step inside the mind of director David Fincher as he offers insight into his misanthropic filmography. Mindhunter is not for the faint of heart, as it shines light on some of the human psyche’s ugliest corners. For those who can tolerate Fincher’s gall, it’s a fascinating reflection on the sanity of insanity.

Stranger Things
Odds are that you’ve heard a lot of hype surrounding Stranger Things. If you’re on the fence about it, believe me—the hype is warranted. The motley crew from Hawkins from the first season returns this fall for season two, offering plenty of holiday binging for newcomers and fans yet to see the second season alike.

Set in smalltown Indiana in the 1980s, Stranger Things follows a group of middle-school misfits on their quest to defend their unsuspecting town from supernatural forces. Matt and Ross Duffer write, direct and produce this lively sci-fi adventure series that has the nostalgic flair of an arcade parlor blaring Bruce Springsteen. Throw on your high-waisted jeans and Chuck Taylors this week and get groovy with Stranger Things.

Burn After Reading
International espionage has never looked so… pathetic. Osborne Cox (John Malkovich) is a temperamental CIA underling who must battle marital infidelity (George Clooney, Tilda Swinton) and braindead gym workers (Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand) to win back his priceless (worthless?) memoirs. For those feeling victimized by fall semester, enjoy the Coen Brothers’ tragedy of losers for solace that you’re not alone.

Witness the incredible true story of Jackie Robinson, the MLB’s first African-American player. Chadwick Boseman plays the fearless slugger, touting the swagger and grit also apparent in 2017’s Marshall and 2018’s Black Panther. American freedom never seemed more vibrant than it did in the years following WWII. War raged on within our borders, however, as African-Americans continued to fight for equal rights and representation. Professional baseball was as fierce a battleground as any, and Jackie Robinson was as fierce a soldier as any in the battle against segregation.

Academy Award winner for 2015’s Best Picture, Spotlight chronicles the Boston Globe’s investigation into a massive church scandal, ranging across parishes and over decades. When repeated attempts to investigate cases of sexual abuse by Catholic priests are hampered on all sides, the Spotlight team must dig deeper to uncover an irrefutable network of crimes and cover-ups. Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton star in this chilling account of conspiracy and investigative journalism that deepens and darkens at every turn.

The Prestige
Before he brought you blockbusters such as Dunkirk, Interstellar and his Batman trilogy, Christopher Nolan was steadily making a name for himself with movies such as The Prestige. Starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine, The Prestige details the rise and fall of two rival magicians as they risk life and limb for social and professional influence.

This movie is as cagey and spell-binding as its magic tricks, leading you through the three-step progression of any good trick—the Pledge, the Turn and the Prestige. The Prestige is the hardest part, requiring speed and cunning to achieve the perfect trick. So the question is, are you watching closely?

Commodore Brunch Week 12: Curse words, buzzwords, no words

A lovable starfish named Patrick Star once told a story on the hit TV show SpongeBob Squarepants called “The Ugly Barnacle.”

It goes a little like this: Once there was an ugly barnacle. He was so ugly that everyone died. The end.

This game was Vanderbilt’s ugly barnacle.

With the exception of a few offensive drives in the second half, this game was ugly enough to kill. Vanderbilt got absolutely drubbed by Missouri 45-17, and were buried next to their bowl game chances.

All this loss has done is confirmed what most of us already knew: Derek Mason and the Vanderbilt Commodores failed this season. They didn’t get a C or a D; they failed.

And there’s no curve on this test when you’re in the SEC.

Here’s your Commodore Brunch menu for this week:


It’s time to retire the notion that the hallmark of the Vanderbilt team is its defense. Because it’s not.

This defense is not good. They proved that once and for all.

In the last few weeks, tackling on defense had been the pressing issue. Tonight, it wasn’t like that. The team actually tackled well, and yet they still couldn’t get out of their own way. Penalties, miscues and missed opportunities plagued them all game long.

Mason even admitted that in his postgame press conference.

“We have not been opportunistic,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. We had opportunities on third down to get off the field and we didn’t. We looked to stop the run… I thought this game came down to explosive plays.”

“I thought we tackled well. When there were opportunities, we got them on the ground.”

So, in summary, the Vanderbilt defense did all the fundamentals right, but couldn’t do much else right. There’s no way anyone can blame a lack of concentration or a lack of basic skills. This defense failed.

Individual Commodores played well. Some members of the secondary made some good plays throughout the game. However, for the most part, this was an abysmal performance.

If you want to trace this team’s defensive woes to the source, you’ll find that Mason’s defensive recruiting is the problem. The majority of the players on this defense are Mason recruits. There are a handful of Franklin leftovers, and they were the ones that played well for the most part.

It’s year four of Mason’s tenure. This is his defense. People cautioned “wait until he has his recruits playing.” Well, here they are. Are you happy?

You shouldn’t be.


With a 4-6 record and one game left, this season has been a complete and utter failure for Vanderbilt. They won’t make a bowl game (don’t give me that APR crap, it’s not going to happen this time), and they’ll finish with fewer wins than they did last year.

However, it’s possible for things to turn around for the future. But, changes are required at many levels, because this program’s biggest enemy is complacency.

At a basic level, it’s time to ask the hard questions about Mason’s job security. At any of the other 13 SEC schools, Mason would no longer be the head coach after a season like this. However, this is Vanderbilt, so let’s put it this way: if there aren’t at least some serious questions posed about Mason’s job security over the offseason, then the people in charge of Vanderbilt Athletics should never work in sports again.

On top of the recruiting problems posed above, it’s not the losses that should put Mason’s job at risk: it’s the way they lost. After Week Three, Vanderbilt got blown out week after week against SEC opponents. This game against Mizzou was a blowout with insult added to injury. There were more people on the field than there were people in the stands by the end of this game. Fans have become fed up, and if things stay the same, they’ll stay fed up.

No sane human being could see that result and that crowd and say “let’s have more of that!”

In the postgame press conference, Mason looked disheartened and defeated. You could see the passion that he usually has, even after losses, just flame out. That look was not the look of a man who is enjoying his job.

Last season, Mason set the standard that Vanderbilt can win and get to bowl games even without James Franklin. You can’t set a higher standard and then pretend that the standard doesn’t exist anymore.

Unless you’re vice chancellor David Williams of course, which is the next level of problems. It’s very difficult to see Williams making any significant changes because he probably doesn’t see a need to make those changes. No matter what he does, the school will still get their check from the SEC, the team will play football games and he’ll still be able to give shiny white footballs to distinguished faculty during TV timeouts.

Even if Williams decides to put Mason on the hot seat or remove him, the football program will not reach its full potential under Williams’ leadership. That’s a simple fact. If Franklin couldn’t do it with Williams calling the shots, not even Nick Saban could do it.

Which leads us to the highest problem: Vanderbilt administration. In order for athletic leadership to change, Chancellor Zeppos and the school administration will have to change their attitudes regarding athletics. They probably don’t feel any pressure to make changes because the money is still flowing in for ornate residential colleges and Vanderbilt’s academic ranking keeps climbing. The vision of fulfilling the “Harvard of the South” label is coming to fruition.

As far as they’re concerned, the football stadium is just wasted space that could be used for more Yale-like residence halls.

It’s not just angry fans and this student journalist that see it this way. Former Vanderbilt offensive lineman Will Holden chimed in last night.

In addition, former Commodore Ryan Seymour shared his two cents on Vanderbilt’s administration. In a since-deleted tweet, Seymour shared a shot of the dismal crowd with the caption “Highest paid AD in the country.. lol.”

In the long-term, real change will need to come at all levels to see Vanderbilt football reach its full potential. In the short-term, Vanderbilt’s performance against Tennessee next week could determine whether Mason starts next season on the hot seat or on the couch.

A Thank-You To Vanderbilt’s Seniors

To the seniors on this team, Ralph Webb, Oren Burks, C.J. Duncan, Trent Sherfield and others, thank you for everything you’ve done for this program.

I can be hard on the Commodores in these columns. I have been today, and I have been all season. But just know that none of what happened this season is your fault. You have all given blood, sweat and tears to Vanderbilt Football, and everyone who had the privilege to watch you play is grateful.

Webb summed up this senior class’ attitude best last night.

“I just wanted to win,” he said. “I wanted to win to have the emotion of joy, singing “dynamite” after a win but we didn’t get that done today. That’s the only thing I was looking forward to.”

This season should not have unofficially ended with a depressing, lifeless press conference. It should have ended with another bowling ball on the podium and exuberant celebrations. You were robbed of that opportunity, and you deserve better.

So, hats off to you seniors. You set the standard here and your hard work did not go unnoticed. You are the epitome of Vanderbilt men: relentless, tough and intelligent. No matter what you do after Vanderbilt, you’ll go far.

Vanderbilt will close out the season with the chance to beat a rival that is perhaps in even worse shape, the Tennessee Volunteers, next Saturday afternoon.

VIDEO: Vanderbilt gutted after being eliminated from bowl contention

The Vanderbilt Commodores will not be going bowling.

Missouri took care of Vanderbilt’s bowl chances with a 45-17 beatdown at Vanderbilt Stadium on a blustery Saturday night in Nashville. With just four wins and one game left, the Commodores cannot get to a bowl game even with a win over Tennessee next week.

Hear from Derek Mason, Ralph Webb and C.J. Duncan after the loss in our video recap.

Mizzou puts nail in Commodore bowl coffin with blowout win in Nashville

The Vanderbilt Commodores saw their bowl chances go down the drain on Saturday night with a brutal 45-17 loss to the Missouri Tigers on a windy and chilly senior night at Vanderbilt Stadium.

Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmur threw for 348 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. Running back Ralph Webb finished his final game at Vanderbilt Stadium with 55 yards and a touchdown, eclipsing the 4,000-yard mark for his career, just the ninth running back in SEC history to accomplish this feat.

Vanderbilt’s defense needed to play their best game of the season, and their first drive was anything but that. Missouri went 71 yards in just eight plays to score to open the game. Wide receiver Albert Okwuegbunam caught the touchdown pass on third-and-goal, grabbing the ball over Oren Burks, who couldn’t get his hands up to bat the pass down.

Their start on offense wasn’t much better, if not worse. Quarterback Kyle Shurmur saw his second pass of the game intercepted by former Vanderbilt commit Adam Sparks. However, after that, the defense started to settle in, coming up with some big stops on the next few drives. The offense had a few drives stall around midfield at the first quarter wound down, a trend that has plagued the Commodores all season.

The Commodore defense found themselves falling into some old habits in the early minutes of the second quarter. Two offsides jumps by defensive linemen led to free plays for Mizzou, and their second one was a deep bomb that got them into the red zone, where Larry Rountree III punched it in for a 14-0 Tiger lead.

Things went from bad to worse for Vanderbilt. After a clutch defensive stop on fourth-and-one, Brandon Lee picked off a Shurmur pass and took it 42 yards to the house to make it 21-0. Then, defensive back Taurean Ferguson slipped and fell on Mizzou’s next possession, leaving Richaud Floyd wide open for an easy touchdown.

Richaud then added a 74-yard punt return touchdown to put the game on ice for Mizzou before they even hit halftime.

Vanderbilt managed to march down the field for a quick score at the opening of the second half thanks to a Ralph Webb one-yard run, but Mizzou responded with a field goal drive to keep up their scoring. Shurmur delivered his first touchdown pass of the game on a quick strike to Caleb Scott to continue to chew in to the deficit.

The Commodores were knocking on the doorstep yet again as the third quarter wound down, but when fourth down came around, they kicked the field goal instead of going for the touchdown, keeping the score at 38-17 at the end of the quarter. Vanderbilt had another chance on the goal line in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, but couldn’t convert on fourth down for a score.

Okwuegbunam added another touchdown on a 57-yard dart by Lock to prolong Vanderbilt’s misery.

Vanderbilt will look to salvage some dignity in Knoxville next Saturday when they take on Tennessee.

Three thoughts: Vanderbilt avoids bad upset against UNC Asheville

The Vanderbilt Commodores squeaked out a 79-76 win over UNC Asheville on Friday night.

It shouldn’t have been that close, but they still got it done.

There’s a lot to digest after that one, so here are three thoughts from the win.

Something’s STILL Foul

Less than ten minutes into the game, the Commodores already had five team fouls. Fisher-Davis’ two fouls were enough for him to take a seat early, and Ejike Obinna’s early foul (and two turnovers) also reserved him a seat on the pine.

By the end of the first half, the team had racked up eight team fouls and Jeff Roberson, Matthew Fisher-Davis, and Djery Baptiste each tallied two personal fouls.

Djery Baptiste had himself a great day: he was extremely efficient from the field, scoring 13 points on 5 of 6 shooting, with 8 rebounds. However, his day was limited because he racked up four fouls with about seven minutes left in the game.

The Charity Stripe

The free throw line is also known as the charity stripe for a reason, as the shots should be free points.

Key words: should be.

The Commodores weren’t great at the free throw line. Toye and Austin went 0-2 and 2-4 from the free throw line, which may not seem so meaningful, but those points could’ve been the difference-maker in this one.

If the Commodores are cutting it close against teams like UNC Asheville, it’s going to be super tough to sneak away with a win against an elite team—especially when it’s decided by very few points because of lackluster free throw shooting.

Beastly Backcourt

Coach Drew and this Commodore team is going to have to make some decisions next year. In fact, they’re going to be in a little bit of a dilemma—a good dilemma.

This team is incredibly deep in the backcourt. One name that has garnered plenty of attention is Saben Lee. He showed us once again that he’s an offensive threat that knows how to run the point. He racked up eight points, three assists and a rebound in the first half.

In addition to Lee, Coach Drew is going to have Darius Garland next season, who happens to be a five-star point guard recruit, respectively. In the first game of his senior year, Garland, coming fresh off his commitment to Vanderbilt, scored over 40 points.

So, what happens next year with Saben and Garland fighting for minutes at point? Lee looks like one of the most explosive point guards to come through Memorial Gymnasium in a long time, while Garland is the highest ranked recruit (#11 in the ESPN top 100) the Commodores have ever landed.

Coach Drew has plenty of time to decide how to use both of them, but regardless, the Commodores are going to have plenty of depth at point guard for the next few years.

Vanderbilt squeaks by UNC Asheville 79-76

Bouncing back after a tough loss to Belmont, in an exciting finish that went down to the wire, the Vanderbilt Commodores defeated the UNC Asheville Bulldogs 79-76.

Saben Lee provided the spark that kept the Commodores going in a sluggish first half. Riley LaChance and Matthew Fisher-Davis led the way in the second half, each scoring 17 points.

Baptiste finished off multiple dunks, ending with 13 points and 8 rebounds, and Roberson was the steady leading force with yet another double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds.

Coach Bryce Drew emphasized the value and importance of the play of the seniors.

“I think you got to credit our three seniors, thought they were tremendous, you know after we got down, I thought they stepped up their leadership role which is something they’re going to have to do throughout the year,” he said.

Both teams started the game slow, trading turnovers and offensive fouls, but it was the Bulldogs who took the strong advantage, taking the lead 18-8 at 10:32, nailing two threes and attacking the basket at will.

The Commodores adjusted to the Bulldogs’ hard hedging of their pick and rolls, but were still unable to finish shots. By and large, they looked completely lifeless on the court, unable to generate offense and use their size advantage effectively on defense.

With the Commodores needing a jolt, Saben Lee was the one who electrified both the team and the crowd, with two straight speedy drives and layups, capitalized by an explosive poster dunk with 9:22 left in the half that somehow topped the one he slammed home last Friday against Austin Peay.

On Lee, Coach Drew said, “[Lee] does a lot of things out there you can’t teach. I think he got winded a little bit…he’s a freshman…so there’s a lot of decisions out there that hopefully as the year progresses he’ll make better reads.”

From that point onwards, the Commodores clawed their way back into the game, but were unable to take the lead due mainly to poor defense, unable to bother UNC Asheville both outside the arc and inside it.

The game opened up, flowing quickly, once UNC started playing a heavy attacking defense, bringing three guys above the top of the key. Coach Drew quickly countered with a small-ball lineup, subbing in Roberson for Baptiste.

Finding some success, with a Fisher-Davis four-point play and Roberson three-point play, the positive scores were offset by multiple turnovers and struggles hitting the key pressure-alleviating passes to Roberson at the foul line.

Contributing to the problem, the Commodores allowed UNC Asheville to get to the rim and finish at will, giving up three straight layups at one point, allowing the Bulldogs’ hounding defense to get set up after those buckets.

However, the Commodores found their openings, with back-to-back threes by LaChance off of patient passing on one possession and a offensive tip rebound by Baptiste. A nice roll to the rim by Baptiste led to his game-tying dunk, but a jumper by UNC at the halftime buzzer gave them the 37-35 advantage at halftime.

In the second half, Vanderbilt came out firing, looking much more explosive, with Fisher-Davis and LaChance both launching and hitting multiple threes. The Commodores flashed an exciting sequence of three straight blocks from Roberson, Fisher-Davis, and Brown, unable to convert them into points, but taking a 46-37 lead off of their much improved play.

However, UNC Asheville hung in tough, nailing threes at a 55.6% rate in the second half, and drawing multiple fouls, coming within three points multiple times.

The Commodores hung onto their lead with Fisher-Davis putting on a highlight performance, nailing jumpers outside the arc and in the midrange, responding very well to his two airballs in the first half. Baptiste finished three powerful dunks, including a nice one-dribble and up move and a putback slam.

Coach Drew mentioned Fisher-Davis’ ankle sprain is still bothering him, as he “still can’t raise up or jump like he’s capable,” and Roberson noted Baptiste’s strong play multiple times, commenting that “Djery played great tonight, and his energy was what got us going.”

In the tense closing minutes, despite incredible shot-making by UNC Asheville to continue to respond time and time again, a three-point play by Roberson, a clutch step through layup by LaChance, and clutch free throws were enough to secure the victory.

Vanderbilt will welcome their toughest opponent thus far, the USC Trojans ranked at #10, Sunday, November 19th, at 7:00pm.

Vanderbilt Soccer’s season ends with loss to Santa Clara in NCAA Tournament

Vanderbilt Soccer saw the end of its remarkable NCAA Tournament run on Friday, falling to Santa Clara 3-1 in the second round. Sophomore forward Maddy Gonzalez would score two first-half goals for the Broncos, who went into halftime with a 2-1 advantage and did not relinquish it.

Santa Clara, who upset California in the first round, held the pace of the game for much of the first half. Gonzalez was all over the field, fighting for balls and creating opportunities. The first significant chance for the Broncos was a Gonzalez drive down the middle of the field in the tenth minute that lead to a shot that nailed the top of the crossbar.

She would finally capitalize in the 18th minute. After a nice give-and-go down the left sideline, Santa Clara defender Kat Uhl drove into the box and played a ball across the face of the goal to a wide open Gonzales at the PK marker. She flicked the ball into the back of the net, giving the Broncos the early lead.

Santa Clara continued to have the Commodores pinned to their own half. Vanderbilt struggled to clear in their defensive third and couldn’t move the ball down the field. The Broncos, defensively, were always there to block Vanderbilt’s passing lanes, limiting the Commodores’ time of possession.

In the attacking third, Vanderbilt impatiently forced balls forward and could not get quality chances as a result. They were also hampered by three offsides calls in the first half that killed their momentum.

Despite the limited chances, however, the Commodores would strike back. With 10:10 left in the first half, Leila Azari sent a ball into the six yard box from the right side. The ball trickled through traffic before being deflected to Madison Elwell, who redirected it slowly into the back of the net.

The celebration wouldn’t last long. Less than a minute later, Gonzalez would receive a ball with her back to the goal, spin past Vanderbilt defender Stephanie Amack, and launch a line drive into the back of the net from the top of the 18-yard box to kill Vanderbilt’s momentum and reclaim the lead.

Towards the end of the first half, both teams began to create opportunities in their attacking halves. Vanderbilt’s attack became more patient and sophisticated as they forced less balls forward. They couldn’t take advantage, however, and the Broncos would go into the half with a 2-1 lead.

The Broncos opened the second half aggressive offensively. Within the first three minutes of the second period, Maria Sanchez hit a long-range shot from past the 18-yard box into the far post side-netting to extend the Broncos’ lead to 3-1.

Santa Clara would continue to command possession for the rest of the period. The Commodores struggled to connect passes and move the ball forward. Vanderbilt did not register a shot until twenty-five minutes into the half. With ten minutes left to play, the Broncos nearly extended their lead further as Kelsey Turnbow had a 1-v-1 situation with goalkeeper Kaitlyn Fahrner, who made a great block to keep the ball out of the net.

The Broncos would go on to seal the 3-1 victory, ending Vanderbilt’s historic season. Santa Clara advances to the Sweet Sixteen and will play the winner of Wisconsin vs. No. 1 seed South Carolina.

SEC Basketball Power Rankings: November 17, 2017

The basketball season is underway, and there’s already been plenty of ups and downs for the SEC’s teams.

Here are our opening power rankings:

  1. Florida

With a strong returning core led by Junior F KeVaughn Allen, Junior F Kevarrius Hayes and Senior G Chris Chiozza, Florida seems primed for a great season and ready avenge their Elite Eight heartbreaker to fellow SEC opponent South Carolina. Their first game wasn’t much of a test for this incredibly deep and experienced squad as they demolished Gardner-Webb. However, this game did prove to be a trial run for newcomers such as Rice transfer Egor Koulechov, who really stepped up and proved he can make an impact. In college basketball, experience is key and Florida has it so expect to hear their name called come March.

2. Kentucky

Losing caliber players of the likes of De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk is more than enough to ruin most any program, except Kentucky. A brand new starting five composed of all freshman is enough to rule out most programs in the country, except Kentucky. Led by a redshirt Freshman in Hamidou Diallo and true Freshman Kevin Knox, it will take a while for this young team to fully blend together and reach their full potential. After two relatively close games to Utah Valley and Vermont, Kentucky regrouped and played a phenomenal game against an experienced Kansas team, losing by just four points. Through this game they showed that they could compete with even the best, showing just how scary they can be when their freshman gain chemistry and experience.

3. Texas A&M

Even with prolific Sophomore F Robert Williams and ESPN top 100 recruit PG JJ Caldwell suspended for the first game of the season, the Aggies were able to completely annihilate #11 West Virginia in their season opener. This game was huge for the Aggies as they proved that they can perform even without Williams, getting great production from Junior C Tyler Davis who has been a big part of their offense the last two years and is primed to continue that into this season. A key for the Aggies is their size and experience as they return two of their top scorers and rebounders from last year in Davis and WIlliams and if they can build their offense through these big men they will be a major threat going forward.

4. Mizzou

The greatest move of Missouri basketball in perhaps their program’s history was the signing on of Michael Porter Sr. as an assistant coach. Not only is his experience a good addition for their new revamped coaching staff, but his signing came with commitments from his sons, Michael (#2 prospect in 2017) and Jontay (#25 prospect in 2017). The Porter brothers add an entirely different dimension to this Tigers team that finished a poor 8-24 last season. With this strong recruiting class, the sky’s the limit as they should easily finish with more than 8 wins as a tourney bid could be in store for this incredibly talented squad.

5. Alabama

While not known for their basketball success, Alabama has still managed to compile a strong recruiting class led by 5-star recruit PG Collin Sexton who shined in his first college game, putting up 22 points in a win against Lipscomb. This big time scorer is exactly what Alabama needed to compete as they lacked a player who could single-handedly take over late in games last year. Sexton joins the top leading scorers from last season to make up what should be a team with a strong core and depth. Alabama has the pieces to compete with the top teams in the nation, and not just in football.

6. Arkansas

Despite getting out in the second round of last year’s tournament, Arkansas gave eventual national champion North Carolina a scare. A large chunk of that same core of players is back this year making them a team to watch for. Led by three guards in Daryl Macon, Jaylen Barford and Anton Beard, the Razorbacks can spread the floor which can cause nightmares on defense. Through their first two games where they completely rolled through Bucknell and Samford, these three guards were their top scorers and if they can continue to run their offense through these guys, Arkansas should have their eyes set on yet another tournament bid.

7. South Carolina

After a cinderella-esque tournament run as a 7 seed into the Final Four, SEC player of the year and NCAA tournament hero Sindarius Thornwell graduated, leaving South Carolina without their best player over the last four years. While the ceiling may not be as high as it was last year for the Gamecocks, not all hope is lost. Forward Chris Silva, their top returning scorer and top returning rebounder, is back for his junior year and should continue to dominate the glass as he did the first two games putting up 10 rebounds in each game. This is a team with experience that knows how to win even against all odds as they showed last season, so don’t be too quick to count them out.

8. Mississippi State

Joining his older brother Quinndary, Freshman G Nick Weatherspoon (#36 in ESPN’s top 100) helps comprise a team that has both experience and fresh faces that can provide the spark that this team needs. Furthermore, since they lost one of their best players in Malik Newman to Kansas via transfer, Weatherspoon and the other guards such as Tyson Carter will need to step up and fill the hole that he left in their backcourt. In their first game, the Bulldogs rolled through a clearly inferior opponent in Alabama State, getting the production they need to be successful from their more experienced guys who they will need to rely on going forward.

9. Vanderbilt 

Despite the fact that the Commodores lost arguably their best player from last season in Luke Kornet, they have retained three of their four highest scorers in Matthew Fisher-Davis, Riley LaChance and Jeff Roberson who were a major key to their success last year. After last season’s heartbreaking loss in the round of 64, the Commodores are hungry to dance once again. Even with an early loss to Belmont, it is hard to rule out them out just yet as they have received immense productions from their freshmen, particularly Saben Lee, and they have retained a strong core of players who feel like they have unfinished business after last season.

10. Auburn

The biggest story coming out of Auburn this past year, all football activity excluded, was the major scandal that rocked the the college basketball world that ended with the placement of two support staff members on administrative leave and HC Bruce Pearl’s future in danger. However, even with the uncertainty brought on by the looming allegations, the Tigers started the season strong with a 28 point win over Norfolk State. Standout Freshman and leading scorer from last year Mustapha Heron is back for his sophomore year and is primed to lead a more experienced Auburn squad that is hopeful for its first tournament bid since 2003.

11. Ole Miss

Returning three of their five highest scorers from last year, Ole Miss has retained a strong set of players from last year’s 22-14 team. In their first two games, especially the second one, Ole MIss appeared to completely play down to their opponent, winning by just 10 against a truly bad opponent in Eastern Kentucky. However, last year this squad showed that it could play with almost every team as they beat South Carolina in the last game of the regular season before South Carolina made their cinderella run. Seeing that this very similar team found success last year, Ole Miss shouldn’t dwell on their very mild early season struggles.

12. Georgia

Fourth highest scorer in the SEC last season F Yante Maten is back for his senior year and projects to lead this Bulldogs team in point, rebounds and blocks. Joining him is highly touted 4-star recruit F Rayshaun Hammond who should play a big role for the Bulldogs as well. These two guys are keys to their success and through the first two games they have stepped up, with Maten averaging 21.5 points and 13 rebounds, and Hammond averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds of his own. If these two guys can continue to attack the glass and score the ball, Georgia could make some noise and get their 13th tournament bid in school history.

13. Tennessee

Two years ago, James Daniel III led all of Division 1 in scoring with 27.1 points a game at Howard University. After an ankle injury last season, Daniel transferred to this Tennessee squad, desperately in need of a consistent scorer. While Daniel has struggled through the first two games, Tennessee has been able to win albeit against very subpar opponents, largely due to Junior F Admiral Schofield. Next Wednesday the 22nd, the Volunteers will have their first true test of the season against Purdue, and Schofield, Daniel and the entire Tennessee team will need to step up if they want a fighting chance at winning.  

14. LSU

After landing 4-star recruit freshman phenom Tremont Waters after he originally committed to Georgetown, LSU gained a bit of confidence heading into the season. However, Waters joins a team that went just 2-16 in SEC play. Despite this, in their first game of the season, the Tigers were able to roll through Alcorn State, largely thanks to a 27-5-5 performance from Waters. While LSU may not have a huge chance at the tournament, they should be fun to watch and, if they play to their potential, play spoiler to the top-tier SEC schools later in the season.

SEC Football Power Rankings: Week 12

It was a topsy-turvy, wild week in the SEC, and with this week’s games set to be barn-burners, here’s our power rankings for this week:

  1. Alabama

If you thought the Crimson Tide would lose to Mississippi State this past week, you’re crazy. However, if you thought the Bulldogs would give them a close ballgame, you’re crazy smart. Not many people thought that Alabama would be the ones playing catch-up in Starkville this past week. In the end, Alabama may have pulled away with the victory, but they won by only one touchdown scored in the final thirty seconds of the game. The Crimson Tide’s stout defense was shaky for most of the game, making Alabama fans hold their breath. To these Alabama fans that were uneasy last Saturday: don’t fret, you’re still the best team in the nation.

  1. Auburn

In two weeks from now, the Auburn Tigers will face the Alabama Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl. Assuming they don’t lose in upset fashion to Louisiana-Monroe before then, the Tigers showed the nation they’re ready for the task at hand. This week, they played the Georgia Bulldogs, previously ranked first in the College Football Playoff rankings. The result was an absolutely fantastic performance by the Tigers, as they steamrolled through Georgia en route to a 40-17 victory. While the scoreboard dictated that Auburn’s offense was the story of the game, their defense and special teams deserve just as much credit. In fact, they held the best run game in the SEC to only 46 yards. The Iron Bowl is sure to be an amazing game; if the Tigers can pull away with a victory, they just might get a rematch with the Bulldogs.

  1. Georgia

Plain and simple, the Bulldogs should not have lost that game to Auburn. Luckily, Georgia has the blessing of being the SEC East, meaning their season is far from over. Assuming they can protect their quarterback Jake Fromm better than this past week, they’ll be playing in Atlanta against either Alabama or Auburn for a chance at the SEC title game. That is, barring any major setbacks.

  1. Mississippi State

It seems counterintuitive for the Mississippi State Bulldogs to blow a game and remain in the top four of our power rankings, but then again, it was Alabama. There were countless positive takeaways for the Bulldogs: Nick Fitzgerald did what he does best, throwing for over 150 yards on 13 of 24 passes to go along with 66 rushing yards and a touchdown, Aeris Williams rushed for two touchdowns, and until the very end they had their way with the Alabama defense. Surely they’ll bounce back next week against Arkansas, right?

  1. LSU

What once looked like a hopeless season for LSU has come around. They beat Arkansas 33-10, and quarterback Danny Etling looked like a deadly duo alongside running back Derrius Guice. While Guice ran for 147 yards and three touchdowns, Etling kept the LSU defense guessing with 217 passing yards and two touchdowns. When this LSU team plays to its full potential, they’re a fun team to watch. LSU has only Tennessee and Texas A&M left in SEC play, and with two wins they could prove their dominance.

  1. South Carolina

The Gamecocks are still second in the SEC East, yet the power dynamic is so prevalent that they are still as low as six in our power rankings. They beat an atrocious Florida team by eight points and played mistake-ridden football, as quarterback Jake Bentley threw for three interceptions and no touchdowns. At the very least, the Gamecocks will now finish with a winning record. At the very most, the Gamecocks will finish with a winning record. Not much more they can do to boost their rank.

  1. Kentucky

Unfortunately, the Wildcats demolished the Commodores this week without any setbacks. On offense, running back Benny Snell Jr. finished with 116 yards and 3 touchdowns, while their defense figured out Vanderbilt’s flawless game plan: throw the ball, if that doesn’t work, try again, and if all else fails, do it once more before you punt. The result was the Kentucky defense sneaking away with four interceptions on Kyle Shurmur. Next up, they’ve got the Georgia Bulldogs, who will certainly put an end to their fun.

  1. Texas A&M

The Aggies cruised to a 55-14 win this week and snapped their two-game losing streak. Quarterback Nick Starkel had a great day, throwing for a whopping 400+ yards and 4 touchdowns. Meanwhile, on the defensive side of the ball, they only allowed two touchdowns all game to go along with one interception. What’s even more crazy is that they only allowed seven completions all game, for a total of 24 passing yards. So, what gives? Are the Aggies the real deal? Nope, they played New Mexico.

  1. Missouri

Missouri crushed Tennessee this weekend in what seemed like an offensive showcase for them. Quarterback Drew Lock threw for over 200 yards and 4 touchdowns, all while they had two running backs tally 155 and 216 yards respectively, each with a touchdown. Up next, Missouri will be playing the Commodores in a match that will tell us whether they’re decent or Tennessee is just really bad.

  1. Mississippi

Much like Texas A&M, Ole Miss played a great game this week, winning by a score of 50-22. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu threw for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns while running back Jordan Wilkins ran for 124 yards and a touchdown. In the grand scheme of things, this win means very little coming against the unranked Louisiana-Lafayette Rajun Cajuns. Ironically, Ole Miss will play Texas A&M next week.

  1. Vanderbilt

The Commodores got crushed this week by the Kentucky Wildcats. Nothing went right; Kyle Shurmur was forced to throw the ball over forty times, tallying four interceptions. However, until Tennessee proves us otherwise, Vanderbilt is still the best team in the state. Look for Vanderbilt to bounce back at home vs. Missouri this week.

  1. Arkansas

Derrius Guice absolutely ran over the Razorback defense this week en route to 147 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Razorbacks are losing hope, despite having the chance to show that they mean business: beating LSU this week would’ve skyrocketed their ranking, but they were clearly not ready. Next week, Arkansas plays a very good Mississippi State team–if they have any hopes of giving their season a chance, they have to come out on top.

  1. Tennessee

RIP Butch Jones. Moving on.

  1. Florida

Hey Gators fans, at least basketball season is kicking off.

The perfect playlist to kick off your Thanksgiving break

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, meaning many Vanderbilt students will be leaving campus in an exodus to homes across the country and the globe. Whether you’re getting pumped to see your family after a long semester or gearing up for some heated political conversation with your grandparents, a Thanksgiving playlist is necessary for the ride home and the hours spent in meal preparation. The “A Vanderbilt Thanksgiving” playlist can be found on Spotify and includes songs from Louis Armstrong, Kenny Chesney and Lynyrd Skynyrd, so there’s a little something for everyone at the table.

category: Life, Music

In Defense of HOD

I’ll never forget the time I heard a bio-major describe Human Organizational Development as “that major with the coloring books.” I can’t blame her for having such a thought. HOD is the joke major on campus. One only needs to look on Facebook or speak to a cynical Engineering student for proof. As an HOD major myself, there are times when I question the practicality of what I’m learning. After all, there’s no reason to learn about about Small Group Dynamics if I can’t write a paper, balance a chemical equation or handle lab equipment, right? Maybe I should switch to Chemical Engineering and actually be of use to society.

Many misunderstand HOD as a program. Although it is a fine major in its own right, it functions best when paired with a second major.

HOD’s goal is to understand human development. To accomplish this goal, the major’s classes equip students with soft skills like critical thinking, effective communication and “team dynamics.” If these skills seem vague or ordinary, that’s because they are; yet, you would be surprised to see how often these skills are forgotten in our daily lives. We get sick of hearing “correlation is not causation,” but then click on headlines about weed-use resulting in lower IQ scores and cow farts causing global warming. We read about cancer cures in mice without reviewing previous evidence about earlier experiments failing in clinical trials.

HOD arms students with a vocabulary and theoretical toolbox to conduct scientific investigations. An example of HOD at its peak is HOD 2500: Systematic Inquiry. In the class, students come to understand experimental procedure, research ethics and evidence-based decision making, all while learning the concrete steps to improve these skills. Making a survey? Limit the number of questions and be careful of biased language. Looking to prove causation? Use multiple observers and make sure you’re measuring using the right tools.

In a competitive job market, following the textbook will no longer cut it.

So how can this help the STEM major? Well, if you’re thinking about going into research, you need to ensure experimental validity and reliability if you want to get funding. It’s that simple. Even if you know all the different bond angles of carbon or the catabolic processes required for energy generation, that won’t matter if you don’t do effective reviews of the literature and end up repeating the same mistakes as previous experimenters. No one cares if you “found” a cure for cancer if you use outdated, unreliable tools to measure success and prove your point.

The true strength of HOD is that it helps researchers, thinkers and workers with hard skills use them better. In a competitive job market, following the textbook will no longer cut it. Thinking proactively, looking for overlap between fields, and reimagining the work of those who came before are what will set you apart.

So here’s a prescription for one HOD class, be it HOD 2500, 1250 or any of the other great entry-level courses. Take the class sometime during your four years here. You’ll be a better STEM major for it. Plus, who doesn’t like coloring once in awhile?

category: Featured, Opinion

Behind Enemy Lines: Missouri Tigers

It’s a make-or-break game for the Vanderbilt Commodores on Saturday when they take on the Missouri Tigers.

To get a better look at the Tigers, we went behind enemy lines with Brooks Holton, assistant sports editor and Mizzou Football beat writer for The Columbia Missourian. Holton gave his take on Missouri’s season and what to expect on Saturday.

Follow Brooks on Twitter @brooksHolton.

Vanderbilt Hustler: Last season, Vanderbilt lost to Mizzou in a disappointing late-season game that demoralized the team’s fans. Obviously, Mizzou is not the same team that they were last year. What has this 2017 team had that last season’s team did not?

Brooks Holton: It might seem like a lot has changed, but I think Missouri’s 2017 season is following an arc similar to 2016. Both teams were underwhelming and had confusing starts to the season but rebounded over the home stretch.

I think this team has more to prove than it did last season. The honeymoon period was short lived between Missouri fans and Barry Odom after he finished 4-8 in his first year as head coach, but he had positive momentum to end 2016 with wins over Vanderbilt and Arkansas and 11 returning starters on offense. So people expected improvement. When that didn’t look like that was happening to start the season, and when players appeared to be folding in a couple of bad losses to Purdue and Auburn, fans wanted Odom out.

But, as bad as things were in Columbia during the four-game losing streak to start this season, I think the team getting that out of the way early helped – rather than have it happen between Week 5 and Week 9 like it did in 2016. Odom went on a fiery rant after the loss to Auburn, and the team rallied around him because they want to prove just as badly as he does that they’re capable of turning things around here.

Stars like Drew Lock and J’Mon Moore gaining another year of experience helps, but I think last year’s team could go toe to toe with this year’s in terms of strong individual leaders and had more experience on defense. This year’s team seems to have a better sense of cohesion, though. Last fall was more of a transition year, and the team had Odom’s first season as a coach serving as a security blanket that could explain why things didn’t go so hot. But a core group of players returned for this season, and Odom has more of his recruits getting considerable playing time. It started out rough, but they’ve been able to mesh well, and we’re seeing that now with the team playing the most complete football it has all season.

VH: In the last four games, the Tigers have put up more than 40 points. What’s been behind Mizzou’s late-season surge?

BH: Honestly, a favorable schedule. The offense showed it was capable of big plays early in the season, but that was against Missouri State in Week 1, and some bad performances followed. The unit gained some momentum in losses to Kentucky and Georgia, but it took back-to-back games against Idaho and Connecticut for it to hit its stride. That carried over into matchups against down Florida and Tennessee teams.

Individually (and aside from Drew Lock): receiver Emanuel Hall, tight end Albert Okwuegbunam, the offensive line and running backs Ish Witter and Larry Rountree III. Hall’s proven himself to be one of the best deep-ball threats in the conference. Okwuegbunam caught five touchdowns between the Idaho and UConn wins and is a matchup nightmare over the middle of the field. The offensive line was one of the best in the country last season and is matching that performance this year. With standout RB Damarea Crockett sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury against Georgia, Witter and Rountree have exceeded all expectations as replacements at the position.

You also have to give a lot of credit to Missouri’s defense during this winning steak, too. Sure, the competition hasn’t been spectacular, but the unit has been dominant over the past four weeks and has come a long way from allowing 42 points to an FCS school in Week 1. Seeing more life from the guys on the other side of the ball — and getting better scoring chances off turnovers — has definitely helped the offense, too.

VH: Everybody in the SEC knows about Drew Lock’s incredible passing ability, but who is another player that could make a serious impact on the game on Saturday?

BH: Ish Witter. The 5-foot-10 running back has been playing the best football of his life these past few weeks, and after posting a career-high 216 yards against Tennessee he had to have been licking his chops watching Benny Snell Jr. score three times against Vanderbilt’s run defense. In wins over the Vols and Florida the past two weeks — easily Missouri’s best performances of the season — the offense has made a far more concerted effort to establishing the run from the get-go than it did earlier in the fall.

It’s resulted in two dominant performances, and Drew Lock has still been able to get his through the air. Even when Witter is subbed out, Rountree is a dynamic, powerful back. He runs to contact and still breaks off 50-yard runs, but it’s almost like he wants to do that because trucking a defender is the cherry on top of the highlight reel.

VH: Vanderbilt will be holding their senior night with prominent players like Ralph Webb being honored. The Commodores will also be playing with some fire on the brink of bowl elimination. Are the Tigers prepared to enter an emotional Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday?

BH: Missouri hasn’t won an SEC road game since Nov. 22, 2014, but I think all signs point to the team being capable of handling the environment. It seemed like players welcomed the change in scenery and a more energized, hostile crowd at Kentucky, but that was also because most Missouri fans had left the stadium before the third quarter ended in losses to Purdue and Auburn. At Georgia, the team played close for the first half. So I think prior experience, the confidence gained through the five-game win steak and the focus demanded by being one win away from bowl eligibility will have players ready.

They will, however, need to start fast. That’s been less of a problem the past two weeks, but that’s also because Florida didn’t capitalize on a first-drive interception and muffed a punt, which set up a touchdown, on Missouri’s second possession.

VH: What is your prediction for the game and why?

BH: I think Vanderbilt plays more inspired early than it did last week and, if it can get a few stops on defense early, holds close for awhile. But it’s hard to pick against Missouri when it’s been playing its best football of 2017 these past few weeks. If Vandy comes out like it did against Kentucky, this won’t be a close game.

With that being said, Shurmur is the best quarterback the unit has seen since Jake Fromm in Week 6 and could find holes in the defense that others capitalized on earlier in the season. He’ll want to rebound from last week’s disaster, too. Webb can provide balance and will want to end his career in Nashville with a big night. So I could maybe see this turning into a shootout if Missouri can’t produce a few turnovers.

Regardless, I think the Tigers cover the 8.5-point spread and could make it even uglier if the same problems that plagued Vanderbilt last week carry over to Saturday.

Three Matchups to Watch: Missouri Tigers

Vanderbilt and Missouri’s seasons have experienced opposite momentum swings during the season.

The Commodores began the season 3-0 and defeated then ranked Kansas State before losing six of their next seven games. They are still yet to win an SEC game. On the flip side, the Tigers lost six of their first seven games and were on their way to becoming the joke of the SEC. However, they are currently riding high on a four-game win streak including blowouts of both Florida and Tennessee. Vanderbilt’s quest to win their last two games and remain bowl eligible will not be easy at all as the Tigers will come into this game with all the momentum.

Here are three match-ups to look out for this Saturday.

Vanderbilt Pass Defense vs. QB Drew Lock

While the Commodores have struggled defensively in all of their losses, much of the damage they have given up is on the ground. Their pass defense has been solid all year. In fact, it ranks 28th nationally in yards per game allowed (191.7). The passing defense will face arguably its toughest test of the season when quarterback sensation Drew Lock comes to town.

Even though Missouri was struggling early, Drew Lock has been outstanding all season. The junior has thrown for 3,012 yards and 35 touchdowns already. He also is completing just under 60 percent of his passes, and there has only been one game where he has not thrown for at least 215 yards. His passing yards are by far the best in the SEC as well as the tenth highest in the nation.

The Commodores will most definitely have their hands full with Lock on Saturday.

RB Ralph Webb vs. Missouri Run Defense

Webb is arguably the best Commodore running back ever; he owns the school record for career rushing yards and total touchdowns. On Saturday, he will play his last game at Vanderbilt Stadium. Webb has 3,955 yards over his four seasons along with 29 total touchdowns.

As good as Webb’s career has been, he has certainly seen a dip in his numbers this season. He only has 613 total rushing yards this season. Some of this is due to him not getting as many carries as he has gotten in earlier seasons. Last week, he only had nine carries even though he averaged 7.8 yards per carry. Look for Webb to go out with a bang on Senior Day.

Missouri’s defense is definitely not the strongest point of their team. Their rushing defense ranks 80th out of the 129 teams, and they give up and average of 177.8 yards per game. However, the unit has been playing much better as of late. In their wins against Florida and Tennessee, they gave up 93 and 146 yards respectively.

LB Oren Burks vs. RB Ish Witter

Burks is another big-name senior playing in his final home game. He has 64 tackles this season and is eighth in the SEC in this category. He had one of his best games of the season against Kentucky when he recorded 12 total tackles and a sack. Burks will need to step up and be a leader for the rest of the season and do what he can to improve the Vanderbilt run defense that is one of the worst in the nation.

Witter is having his best season of his career. He has recored 720 rushing yards this season and is averaging over six yards per carry. He had his best game of the season against Tennessee when he ran for 216 yards on 24 attempts and scored a touchdown.

If Missouri can establish a run game, it might be another long day for Vanderbilt.

Mental Health Memos: Online appointments at the PCC

Student Health now offers online appointment scheduling, which comes as a relief for many students reluctant to make phone or in-person appointments. However this development, alongside knowledge that student health is the only VUMC facility to currently allow online scheduling, begs the question: when will the PCC follow suit? In fact, as a person with social anxiety that often prevents me from making phone calls or conversing with strangers in person, I’m more surprised that the PCC has not always offered online appointment scheduling.

It should be acknowledged that the system currently only allows same day appointments to be scheduled online, but it has been stated that there will be more long-term scheduling options in the future. The PCC offering same day scheduling would almost certainly be untenable, but long-term scheduling would be completely feasible.

To be clear, the PCC offers an online form with basic information you can fill out, to then schedule a phone assessment. This, however, is deeply different from scheduling an in-person appointment via an online portal, which is what Student Health now offers. Phone assessments regularly lead to in-person follow-up appointments, so even if you use the online form, you are still going to have to be on the phone with a PCC staff person, defeating the typical purpose of online scheduling. There is documented research that people with anxiety prefer text and online communication to phone use, and as anxiety is typical in college students it would be logical for the PCC to attempt to accommodate its patients.

Beyond even the importance of a university resource doing its best to assist students, as is its job, there’s an economic logic to adding online scheduling. Pulling data from a different medical center that schedules appointments, those phone calls take an average of four minutes. Even if we cut that time in half assuming that Vanderbilt is somehow more efficient, that’s two minutes per call meaning hours of calls per day. In switching to online scheduling which requires minimal monitoring there is time saved that could be put towards other tasks, or in cutting back on hours and putting that money towards more diverse care providers.

I truly am proud of the development of an online appointment system for the Student Health Center. At the same time, the fact that such a system is possible for Student Health makes it clear that it should be possible for the PCC to create one as well. While there will be arguments of obstacles with confidentiality, these issues are regularly surmounted by non-University medical providers. This is a public demand for online appointments, not just by me, but by a number of students who have shared this sentiment with me.

Road to Atlanta Week Eleven: Down goes Georgia and down goes Butch

Just one week after clinching an SEC East championship, Georgia suffered its first loss of the year in a blowout against Auburn. The Bulldogs, who were ranked No.1 in the College Football Playoff poll, still control their own destiny in the SEC, and will face the Iron Bowl winner in Atlanta in December.

Georgia was outgained by Auburn 488-230 on its way to a 40-17 loss. The Bulldogs allowed 167 of those yards to Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. In contrast, Georgia’s running game, which had been this team’s strong suit up to this point, could only muster up 46 yards.

Jake Fromm was sacked four times by the Auburn defense and had little time to throw. He ended the day with a mere 13 completions for 184 yards and a touchdown.

Florida’s free fall has no end in sight after a 28-20 loss to South Carolina. New starting quarterback Malik Zaire left the game with a knee injury and was replaced yet again by Feleipe Franks, who will start for the Gators going forward.

The game was full of mistakes from both sides. Florida threw one interception and lost two fumbles, while South Carolina threw three picks and lost a fumble. Both offense lines failed to establish a pocket, and each allowed seven sacks.

South Carolina running back A.J. Turner carried the ball 22 times for 136 yards, and fellow back Mon Denson rushed for two touchdowns.

Kentucky crushed Vanderbilt 44-21 in Nashville.

Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur uncharacteristically tossed four interceptions and was forced to throw 43 times as the Commodores completely abandoned the ground game early. The offensive line struggled mightily in protection, as they allowed five sacks and six tackles for loss.

Benny Snell ran for 116 yards and three touchdowns, and he continued to terrorize SEC East defenses. With the strong performance, Snell became only the ninth Wildcat to rush for 2,000 yards in his career and the first to have two consecutive seasons with 1,000 yards rushing.

In Butch Jones’ final game as head coach of the Volunteers, Tennessee lost 50-17 to a newly revitalized Missouri squad. Missouri gained 658 yards to Tennessee’s 285.

Missouri quarterback Drew Lock completed 13 of his 28 attempts for 217 yards and four touchdowns. In a change of pace, the Tigers utilized their running backs more. Ish Witter ran wild for 216 yards on 24 carries, and Larry Rountree III added 18 touches and 155 yards.

Tennessee started true freshman Will McBride at quarterback due to Jarrett Guarantano’s ankle injury. McBride tossed two interceptions to go with one touchdown and 139 yards. He also ran 14 times for 63 yards, which was more than any of the Volunteer running backs.

In Week 12, most teams nationally are playing schools from mid-major conferences as warm up games before rivalry week, but the SEC East is full of conference games. Georgia hosts Kentucky in Athens in an absolute must-win, as it looks to rebound from an embarrassing loss to Auburn. Wofford visits in-state foe South Carolina before the Gamecocks play their actual in-state rival Clemson the following week. Florida hosts UAB, a team with twice as many wins as the Gators do in its first season back since football was cut in 2014. LSU comes to Knoxville to face a Tennessee team led by interim coach Brady Hoke. Missouri visits a Vanderbilt team that is still winless in SEC play.

category: Featured, Football, Sports

‘Murder on the Orient Express’ an engaging melodrama

A group of strangers onboard a passenger train suddenly become embroiled in a high-stakes murder investigation. Adapted from Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel, Murder on the Orient Express is a star-studded whodunit filled with intrigue and nostalgia. Climb aboard the ill-fated railcar this weekend—everyone’s a suspect and it’s up to you to solve the case before it’s too late.

Director Kenneth Branagh weaves a snowbound murder mystery with an A-list cast and a sweeping vision of twentieth century Eurasia. Murder on the Orient Express is a rich panorama of society in 1934, bringing corners of the globe together to achieve a story rife with discovery and drama. Hercule Poirot (played by Branagh himself) is a quick-witted, idiosyncratic detective, forestalling war in the Holy Land when we first meet him. He is soon whisked away by a European head of state, boarding the famed Orient Express for a brief holiday en route to his next case.

His railbound holiday is short-lived, however. When a fellow passenger is brutally murdered in his cabin, Poirot must interrogate the ten other passengers to identify the killer before he/she strikes again. From there, the audience is introduced to Poirot’s fellow passengers, each possessing a unique backstory full of intrigue and suspicion. Johnny Depp, Daisy Ridley, Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Josh Gad, Leslie Odom Jr., Willem Dafoe, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, Olivia Coleman and Sergei Polunin unify to create a diverse, interconnected world in the story’s 1934 setting. Meeting each character and comparing his/her story against the detective’s evidence is a delightful race against the clock. The case is far from open and shut, however, and Murder on the Orient Express strings you along masterfully before its dramatic finale.

While Branagh strings the audience along exceedingly well with a well-paced story and immersive characters, his movie at times veers into melodramatic self-importance. Poirot’s debut is a prime example. He first demonstrates his investigative prowess by single-handedly preventing war between Muslims, Jews and Christians in Jerusalem with a prosaic monologue written to garner ooh’s and ahh’s from the audience. His mustache is also over-the-top comically long and flush to his face. It’s meant to elicit bemused veneration, but instead teeters between archaic and cliché, suggesting the same of the director’s vision for his own character’s lead role. The movie’s dialogue and subthemes feel forced at times as well, as police officers go from reporting details of a case to Poirot one moment to philosophizing about human nature the next. This movie is at its best when it tells a simple, escapist story.

Overall, I had a fun time with Murder on the Orient Express. It’s a fun trip back to a bygone era with an engaging cast, a simple story structure, and a satisfying conclusion. Branagh tries to juggle too many themes at once, however, as this movie lacks weightier implications and suffers from forcing them. Forced attempts at profundity come with cheesiness, and I found myself wishing Poirot would stop staring so dramatically throughout the movie. Nonetheless, Branagh’s movie is a simple and lively tale that scores a 7/10. For an engaging story and a brief escape from responsibilities and schoolwork, go see Murder on the Orient Express this weekend.

Space Jam: Rendezvous with A/2017 U1

In the past few months, an unknown object from deep space raced around the Sun, as close as Mercury’s orbit, before curling around and speeding back off into the void. This object’s extremely unusual angle and its incredibly high speed have made some think that the object is in fact a visitor from outside our solar system. In accordance with this significance, and also in accordance with astronomers’ world-renowned naming creativity, the object has been given the truly memorable name of A/2017 U1.

That sounds like the work of alien intelligence, but in reality, A/2017 U1 is almost certainly something entirely natural. It is thought to be common for small objects such as asteroids or comets, especially those on long-period orbits that stretch well out into the outer solar system, to be gravitationally manipulated in such a way that they are given enough speed to escape the Sun – effectively being ejected from the solar system.

The early days of our own solar system, when various random pieces of debris collided to form the planets, were incredibly chaotic, and it is thought that a lot of material was ejected in such a way at that time. We’ve known that planets exist in other star systems for decades now; we’ve also been able to see planets forming in other star systems that are far younger than our own. So it is only natural that those other star systems would eject copious amounts of their own debris. While space is immense and most of these objects may spend an eternity aimlessly drifting, it makes statistical sense that at least one would find its way to our solar system in time.

It is possible that A/2017 U1 is actually just another object from the Oort Cloud, a vast field of comets that has not been directly observed but is believed to extend as much as a whole light year from the Sun. Comets originating from the Oort Cloud also have extremely long-period, eccentric orbits. However, if A/2017 U1 were a comet, then we would be able to see signs of its ice melting as it comes closer to the Sun, forming a sort of cloud. We haven’t been able to see those signs, so it is believed that the object is asteroid.

Assuming that A/2017 U1 is in fact what we think it is, a temporary guest in our solar system from somewhere else, then what does it mean? The solar system is already immense, and we may think of the far, far vaster space beyond that as static and unchanging. But even small things such as A/2017 U1 show us that the space beyond can and does throw surprises every so often.

category: Featured, Space Jam, Voices

On white people in diversity work

When I was a sophomore in high school, I joined a group called Peer Multicultural Educators. It put forward initiatives like orientations that prepared new students to participate in a diverse environment and educated them to prevent microaggressions. Being in PME was one of the most important parts of my high school experience; however, when I started, I often wondered (and imagined other people wondering) “What’s a white girl doing in diversity work?”

At the time, I didn’t have a good answer– I just had the vague feeling that it was something I wanted to be a part of. Three years later, I still don’t have a perfect response. But, I am more convinced than ever that people from privileged groups should participate in this kind of work.

If there’s anything that you should understand as a privileged person in diversity work, it’s this: it’s not about you.

To begin with, diversity work is broad. It involves a conscious effort to create and celebrate diversity in a workplace, organization or school. But just having a numerical diversity–for example, a certain number of minority students on campus–isn’t enough. Diversity work also means striving for the inclusion of different groups and identities. At Vanderbilt, this includes training students in social justice work, supporting cultural groups on campus and facilitating conversations about racism and classism. Vanderbilt students have the opportunity to participate in programs like iDialogues, which opens up space for conversation about social identity. The Office of Equity, Diversity also holds programs like Unconscious Bias Workshops. Clearly, diversity work on campus is very accessible.

However, there are plenty of wrong reasons to get involved in diversity work if you’re from a privileged majority group. First, don’t get involved because it’s a “learning experience.” Don’t get involved to broaden your worldview. Don’t get involved to make up for your privilege. This turns diversity work into a self-centered, self-improving activity. If there’s anything that you should understand as a privileged person in diversity work, it’s this: it’s not about you.

Second, don’t get involved because marginalized groups need a savior. Don’t get involved because it’s your “duty” as a person of greater privilege. Don’t get involved to pass on your wisdom and knowledge to the world. This assumes that you, as a member of a majority group, have superior moral and intellectual qualities. The perpetuation of this harmful mentality goes completely against the goals of diversity work. Additionally, if you’re part of a majority identity, you will never understand the experience of oppression as well as a person from that marginalized group. This is not about you getting to show off your knowledge or prowess.

This doesn’t mean that good reasons don’t exist. If you’re part of a majority group, get involved in diversity work because you genuinely care about the issue. Get involved because there’s strength in numbers and your presence adds strength. Get involved because, while you, as a part of a majority, are not the person to lead a charge against racism or sexism or injustice, you still have influence, especially on your family and friends.

Finally, get involved because humanity is not a zero-sum game. Diversity work might seem like something that benefits only marginalized groups. There might even be a nagging voice somewhere in the way back of your head that whispers that more-for-others means less-for-you. But this is not true. When others live without fear, you prosper, too. When others have the right to fully express themselves, you prosper, too. Here at Vanderbilt, we are a part of a fairly diverse student body; when others get an equal chance to learn and grow, you prosper, too.

No matter who you are, work towards diversity, inclusion and justice is rarely fast or glamorous. And as a privileged person in diversity work, you shouldn’t just assume that you know what your role should be. Sometimes the best way for you to participate is by shutting up and listening. You will undoubtedly make mistakes; I know that I have. But none of this means that people from privileged groups should dismiss diversity work and say, “That’s just not my thing.”  How can issues that affect all of humanity not have to do with you? It doesn’t center around you, and it doesn’t need you personally– work against unjust systems will go on whether or not majority groups play a role –, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t engage. In fact, it’s all the more reason to participate.

Emma Mattson is a first-year in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at

category: Featured, Opinion

Vanderbilt promotes campus sustainability with Rand Green Roof

This past summer, the Vanderbilt Green Fund organized the installation of a green roof on the third floor of Rand. The rooftop addition provides campus sustainability benefits such as heat insulation during the winter, building protection from UV rays and improved stormwater management. Vanderbilt News reported a full list of the green roof’s environmental perks.

Vanderbilt is already home to four other campus green roofs, some in places that students may least expect. Hidden green roofs include the Kissam Courtyard, the Medical Center Plaza and the Nursing Green Space by the Pedestrian Bridge. These foliage-filled spaces resemble traditional lawns and flower beds, but actually elevate above metro street levels, qualifying them as green roofs. The Engineering & Science Building also houses vegetation on its rooftop.  

The Rand roof, however, is inaccessible to students for safety reasons. The balcony contains no precautionary safety railing and was built mainly to brighten the visual of one of campus’ most frequented buildings. The installation is visible from the outside.

The Rand Hall green roof was first proposed in 2012 by a group of civil engineering students, including Vandy alum and former NFL football player, Andrew East. At the time, a green roof was too ambitious of an initiative for the past budget. Last year, the Green Fund budget expanded to $150,000, allowing for greater project funding.

Applications to the Vanderbilt Green Fund are currently open. Students interested in pursuing a campus sustainability project can submit their proposal on AnchorLink. Chelsea Hamilton, SustainVU’s Sustainability Outreach Coordinator, said that successful projects include research on environmental impact, campus energy data, cost, payback analysis and the help of a Vanderbilt sustainability staff member. First draft proposals are due Tuesday, Nov 12. The formal application is due on Dec 3.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

‘Maria de Buenos Aires’ challenges opera norms, bringing Argentine passion and abstraction to the stage

When “Maria de Buenos Aires,” a tango operita, debuted in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1968, the opera did not gain much traction. Fast forward 49 years to its opening in Nashville, Tennessee, and the show sold out before the Opera’s 2017 season.

Around 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11, The Noah Liff Opera Center transformed into a smoky, intimate tango club. Guests in sparkling floor length gowns and well-fitted suits sipped on Malbec and spoke to strangers in hushed voices over the candlelit tango tables. Circling the elevated stage, the guests knew they were in store for a new take on the traditional art of opera.

“Once you come into this space, you enter a different world. You’re not walking into a theatre; you’re coming into an experience,” said Nashville Opera CEO and Artistic Director John Hoomes.

Source: Anthony Popolo for Nashville Opera

The opera follows the life of Maria, played by Mexican mezzo-soprano Cassandra Zoé Velasco, throughout her life as a prostitute in Buenos Aires. Seduced by the city and its tango, the audience watches as she returns to the streets as the Shadow of Maria following her death. “Maria de Buenos Aires” is an abstract tale of lust, loss and tango with music by Ástor Piazzolla and libretto by Horacio Ferrer. For the entirety of the performance, the Spanish lyrics’ English translations were projected onto the wall.

However, the English translations did not necessarily answer all of the audience’s questions.  

As a surrealist opera, the music and lyrics arrived to Hoomes without guidelines on how to convert this tango operita to a staged show. With lines such as, “When the sound arouses me, I will bite it hard in the mouth” and “So many things, one by one, spring from her ovaries,” it’s not exactly clear who exits stage left, or whether there is a stage left.

“I wanted to listen to the pure music and use the text as a guidepost. Little by little, I would arrive at imagery. I looked at it like being a writer or painter with a blank canvas. It was my job to see something in the blankness,” said Hoomes.

As he explored options for the performance, Hoomes remained fixated on capturing the danger and sensuality he felt when he visited hole-in-the-wall Buenos Aires tango clubs. The force behind Maria’s authenticity and the show’s successful mystique? Two professional Argentine tango dancers from Miami and a bandoneón, which is a squeezebox that drives the distinctive tango sound.

Source: Anthony Popolo for Nashville Opera

Perhaps most importantly, Hoomes found the perfect Maria in the petite, sympathetic Velasco, a young Mexican opera powerhouse.  

“I always sing the role of ‘the good girl,’ so I was surprised when John cast me. I loved that he was not interested in ‘Maria, the prostitute,’ but rather in ‘Maria, the woman.’ Because this is a surrealist opera, I’ve had the freedom to choose who she is,” said Velasco.

Channeling her experience at Teatro Colón in 2012 and employing her smoothest porteña accent, Velasco brought an entrancing, vulnerable Maria to the often hardened role. Through swift vocal transitions and visibly raw emotion, it was tempting to overlook the seductive tango performance and focus on Velasco as she dominated the stage.

Source: Anthony Popolo for Nashville Opera

Despite its beauty and dark romance, “Maria de Buenos Aires” is extremely nonlinear and heavily reliant on symbolic, metaphorical language; this opera is not for those who seek closure or set answers. Upon exiting the show, audience members who watched the same opera could leave with completely different interpretations. Astonished commentaries and questions such as, “Who is el bandoneón?” left viewers strained and seeking answers—exactly the way that Hoomes wanted.

“If the audience thought they could put the opera art form in a box, I want this show to push the boundaries. This genre is huge and can be done so many ways. I want them not only to relish in the music, but to walk away thinking, ‘If ‘Maria de Buenos Aires’ is opera too, then I need to rethink my position.’”

Vandy Fems presents Women in Comedy

Vandy Fems’ Women in Comedy event on Nov. 8 began with a picture and a question, “for $20, can you name five of these female comedians?”

The audience buzzed. Surely, they recognized someone. They knew they’d seen her somewhere. But only one person could name four of these rising comedic stars, and the emcee decided that it was close enough. She handed over a crisp $1 bill, to reflect the wage gap.

With that, a night of empowerment and stand up commenced. After a presentation outlining the possible causes of the lack of female representation in comedy and difficulties female comedians face throughout their careers, six different comedians from both the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities performed a five minute stand up routine. Then, Tongue ‘N’ Cheek collaborated with local improv artist Allison Summers to close the show.

Each of the stand up comedians joked about a wide range of topics—everything from cringy middle school crushes to experiences as an adopted child to awkward encounters at weddings. The jokes were often sprinkled into anecdotes, or just peppered off, giving the audience a sample of what a longer set might look like. The diversity in both the delivery styles and content challenged the still existing stigma that women are either not funny, or not as funny as their male counterparts.

“For so long, women were just not seen as funny. It still goes into the double standard, where any woman who is powerful or demanding as a boss or in an office is seen as bossy instead of a leader. So when any woman tries to be funny, she’s seen as rude or crude,” managing editor of The Slant Alex Wolfe said. “The more and more we have representation, and the more smart, funny, intelligent women really come to the stage, on TV or film or stand up or anywhere they can, the better it is for everyone.”

Talking to three professional Nashvillian comedians, it was clear that women are still fighting an uphill battle to be recognized as purely funny—without gender distinctions.

“I kind of relate it to racism, and this idea that other sides will come at you and it’s either overt, with people just literally saying, ‘Women aren’t funny’ out loud, and then there are subtle ways where people question you,” comedian Britt Birrer said. “Most of the time if I talk to someone about loving comedy, I feel like they think of me more as a fangirl, not like if I watched George Carlin when I was younger. He inspired me directly.”

In the same way that Birrer gained inspiration directly, it’s likely the same for other young women. The issue of access to comedy at a young age often prevents young women from pursuing comedy to begin with. These three hilarious stand up artists all became comics in very different ways and didn’t begin their comedic journeys until they found groups in or after college. Allison Summers joined an improv crew in college and followed some of her friends to the Second City in L.A., Britt Birrer started going to open mic nights in a comedy club in Sacramento and Courtney Warner decided to pursue comedy instead of music after watching an episode of “The Office.”

“I’d like to help other women save time for the things I had to give myself permission for, it took awhile,” Birrer said. “As we all know, it’s rare to see a young girl valued for being funny versus being polite.”

Listening to them describe their love for comedy in the form of witty banter made it clear why the Women in Comedy event is necessary, showing that women can  perform comedy and inspire others to try it. Warner kicked off their repartee.

“I equate comedy, at least for me, to finding your soulmate,” Warner said. “It’s easy to relate it to relationships and stuff because people have relationships with other people and I don’t but like you know, I have relationships with inanimate objects but like…”

Birrer jumped in, saying “If you did love someone and they loved you back, it might be what this feels like.”

Warner replies, “I’ve never felt that before, but like,”

“That’s the only way I think of it,” Summers says, finishing it off.

If you’re interested in exploring the Nashville comedy scene, as a performer or audience member, Zanies and Third Coast Comedy Club are great places to start.

Let’s be honest about why we’re here

For the majority of students at Vanderbilt, college is a way of getting somewhere else. We are here because Deloitte and JP Morgan don’t recruit at our state schools. We are here because top-ranked law schools and med schools prefer graduates from elite institutions. We are here because one day we looked at the US News and World Report ranking and saw Vandy was “top xxxxteen”—after all, our marketing department seems deeply committed to getting this message across.

We come here with the idea that we want to to be the best. The problem with this is that it creates a world of winners and losers. We are only best if there are people beneath us. Furthermore, this relation is almost always defined in economic terms—i.e. numbers. We want a top income, a top ranking and a top job.

In establishing our hegemony, we deny access to our institution. In an effort to reduce our acceptance rate, we give preference to early decision candidates, who, unlike many others, have the capacity to guarantee the income to pay for school even before applying for financial aid. In our obsession with numbers, we fixate on SAT and ACT scores, which we know are highly related to income, unlike other indices of academic achievement. The result? We have the highest share of students from the top 1% of income-earners in the nation, and only 30% of our students come from a non-affluent background (bottom 80% of household income). But it’s all fine because, hey, we’re top 14!  

Moreover, in treating college as pre-professional training, we do not treat education as an end in itself. Seldom do we go to our professors in office hours to ask questions which do not serve to improve our grades—GPA is another number with which we are obsessed—, and we do not take classes unless they serve a particular purpose in our career. Even how we “rate our professors” has a lot to do with whether or not they give us that ever-sought-after 4.0.

College used to be about stepping outside the world and questioning it. We do not do that anymore. In fact, we are more than willing to comply with the world in which we live because it’s rigged in our favor. We don’t question it because we have been focused on achieving the next goal for too long—our overachieving crusade started in high school or earlier.

This causes us to see our leisure time as binary. Whatever existence we have outside our classes is reduced to either drunken escapades or “internships and extracurriculars.” In talking about the latter, we use buzzwords that do not escape our obsession with professionalism. We talk of leadership, creativity and service, which are vague placeholders for even more things we do in relation to the market and our productivity.

we ought to challenge why we want what we want, and the people we want to become.

So what should college be about? I surely do not expect everyone to drop their ambitions and become underachievers. However, we should reserve a space in which we study for the sake of what we’re studying, and in which we examine our own lives and the world we live in. We should also give up our obsession with numbers. They are reductive and they do not represent us as individuals—just go look at that survey that says we are the happiest students in the nation.

Our campus is a microcosm of a much greater socio political order that considers everything in relation to the market. We have to combat it on our own turf. We ought to press our administration to expand opportunities to those who are not affluent. We ought to talk about issues outside the frame of the market. We ought to learn about our particular place in space and time. Most importantly, we ought to challenge why we want what we want, and the people we want to become.

Jorge Salles Diaz is a senior in the College of Arts and Science. He can be reached at

category: Featured, Opinion

Talk Foodie to Me: New Nashville restaurants

You might be getting to that point in the semester where you spend more time in the library than your room, and maybe you haven’t ventured off campus in a while. Here’s the rundown on six restaurants that opened recently in Nashville that you should try on your night out this week.

  1. Hopdoddy Burger Bar: This burger bar just opened in Hillsboro, and it has already generated quite the buzz. It is conveniently located, and has a casual feel so it is perfect for a quick meal out. They offer 15 different burgers along with craft beers, milkshakes and five different kinds of fries.
  2. Chauhan Ale and Masala House: This restaurant does an incredible job of creating a menu that blends traditional Indian flavors with trademark flavors of the south. My favorite appetizer is the Hot Chicken Pakoras, served with a ghost pepper sauce.
  3. Henrietta Red: Located in Germantown, this restaurant offers an oyster bar, shareable plates and a raw bar. Everyone can find something to satisfy their cravings here, but definitely check this place out if you’re a seafood lover.
  4. Prima: Another upscale option, this restaurant is also known not only for its food but an extensive wine list, and refined ambience. One of the head chefs opened Josephine, which is a classic Nashville favorite you should check out if you haven’t yet.
  5. The Mockingbird: The perfect place to find comfort food and global fare in a welcoming diner setting. I recommend brunch for the Paloma Popsicles and Churro Belgian Waffles.
  6. Cafe ROZE: Open until midnight, this cafe is perfect for college students and it’s also super affordable.The cafe serves breakfast all day, as well as sandwiches and salads. Their dinner menu offers creative cocktails and plates to share, so check it out with a group.

I hope you found your next dinner spot in Nashville and we look forward to keeping you guys up to date on all things food near you!

Sunday at Belcourt: ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’

A surgeon’s past comes back to haunt him when his family becomes fatally ill. When faced with the decision of who lives and who dies, he must race against the clock to defy fate and restore peace to his home. Yiorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer examines mortality through a cryptic family tragedy.

Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) is a soft-spoken physician living a quiet suburban life with his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two children. When a former patient’s son, Martin (Barry Keoghan), becomes enamored with Murphy, the surgeon politely indulges the young man before growing wary of his motives. From here, the story darkens, progressing from unsettling to chillingly tragic.

From the first frame, The Killing of a Sacred Deer aims to distress. Traditionally stable and personal, this movie’s dialogue and characters are instead impersonal and unsettling. These elements combine to tell a deterministic story bereft of morality or other redemptive qualities. Lanthimos‘ story instead deals with mortality, highlighting the Murphy’s illness with no context or reasoning behind this tragedy

There is no humor or emotional reprieve during this movie. The only levity arises from just how absurdly cold the Murphys are in conversation. Their most intimate moments feel hollow and learned, not expressive of deeper emotion. Farrell is excellent as the mild-mannered, robotic husband. Kidman is in her element as his equally-mechanical wife, her pale features and crystal blue eyes piercing in each scene. The children are equally lifeless— sharing stories at the dinner table with the vitality of cadavers.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is decidedly unsettling and withholding. Its story is lifeless throughout, deterministic in its chronicling of things fated to happen rather than hopeful in its protagonist’s journey and triumph over conflict. Detailing any more about its characters or the direction it takes once the Murphys become ill would undermine the reticence with which this film offers insight into its heady themes. This movie earns an 7/10 in my book for its originality and inhuman look at humanity. For a psychological mind-trip hitting on mortality and human fragility, head down to the Belcourt Theatre and check out The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

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