There is no shortage of dialogue about mental health on campus. The Chancellor’s Office and Vanderbilt Student Government have both facilitated dialogue on the subject in an attempt to create a healthier campus culture. The “Go There” campaign provides a forum for students to break the stigma surrounding mental health and getting help. The Hustler has a column dedicated to mental health issues. This year, the Psychological Counseling Center is being transitioned into the University Counseling Center to better accommodate the new short term model of care.
However, several Vanderbilt undergraduates saw the potential for mental health awareness to spread through another platform: social media.
“It originally got started with a small group of people just thinking about mental health on campus and really wanting to, you know, promote more open conversation,” said Kyle Gavulic, one of the students who was part of the inception of the campaign.
Gavulic describes the founders of “Listen With Me” as a group of friends, many of whom had personally dealt with mental health challenges. Since the campaign’s inception, the student leader have been collaborating with the Chancellor’s “Go There” initiative, VSG’s Mental Health Roundtable and the Center for Student Wellbeing’s Imperfection Project.
To spread the word about de-stigmatizing mental health, Listen With Me is asking students to create sixty to ninety-second videos featuring a domino effect of some sort. If you would like to make a video, here are a few helpful guidelines. You should start with the phrase, “I’m here to listen, and here’s why,” before explaining why you support mental health awareness. You should then thank three people who have supported you, and challenge those three people to make a video as well with the words, “Will you listen with me?”. Finally, set off your domino effect. Videos should be posted to Facebook with the hashtags #ListenWithMe and #GoThereVandy.
Gavulic hopes that Listen With Me will ultimately encourage Vanderbilt students to stop covering up their mental health challenges, and openly discuss them with others.
“We’re just putting that ‘perfect self’ out, when really we’re all human and we should be talking about or mental health like we talk about our physical health,” he said.
This Saturday, the Women’s March 2.0: Power Together TN will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will feature a conference in addition to the public march. The event will take place approximately one year since the nationwide women’s marches that occurred following the 2017 presidential inauguration.
This year’s march will begin with a conference at TSU Avon Williams campus, followed by the march to Public Square at 2 p.m. and a closing rally at Bicentennial Mall. According to Shawn Reilly, a Vanderbilt senior who is on the Women’s March leadership team, the event will help those supporting women’s rights to get involved beyond the rally.
“Basically, last year, when we planned the rally and march, we had planned for this conference afterward because we had literally thousands and thousands of people, all super excited to get involved. So, we had this conference, and it was very poorly attended,” Reilly said. “That was kind of disheartening for us because we had all this power, right? But we didn’t know exactly how to get them into the room and train folks, and get folks really excited about actually putting in work. So, this year is really about moving from protest to actual politics. Getting folks to write to their legislators, getting folks to run for office, getting folks to do community organizing and make art.”
This year is really about moving from protest to actual politics
In order to empower attendees to do more for women’s rights beyond the march, the conference will have events and workshops focused on ‘artivism,’ faith and spirituality, grassroots organizing, legislative skills and issues and understanding elections. Additionally, there will be youth-specific workshops for high school and college-aged students.
By having a specific area of the conference dedicated to youth, Reilly hopes that younger people will feel more comfortable speaking up.
“Making sure young people have a space and a voice in the conference and the rally because so often, young people don’t have a seat at the table,” Reilly said. “And if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu, as one of my close friends likes to say. I think it’s very true. If you’re not going to speak for yourself, people are going to speak about you and for you. And I don’t think it’s appropriate. We need a number of different identities.”
In order to incorporate as many people as possible in the state-wide Women’s March, there will also be satellite marches across the state of Tennessee for those who cannot travel to Nashville. For more information on the rally and for conference tickets, click here.
Jelani Cobb came to Vanderbilt Jan. 18th to discuss racial protest in America with Chancellor Zeppos in the first Chancellor’s Lecture of the year. Late last year, Cobb wrote a column titled “From Louis Armstrong to the NFL: Ungrateful As The New Uppity” that discusses the rally where President Trump called out the NFL players for kneeling and his decisions as president. The Hustler had the opportunity to speak with Cobb prior to his lecture about the role of protest and media in this day and age.
Vanderbilt Hustler: Can journalists be purely unbiased and should they be?
Jelani Cobb: No, we can’t be because we are all human beings and we all have families and educational experiences and various institutions that we’ve been in contact with that have shaped our lives and our outlooks. You know, if you are someone who was raised in the military and moved around a lot that’s different than someone who was from a small town that has been stationary for their whole lives, and so we bring a particular set of outlooks to our world. The best that we can do is say that to recognize we are not objective and we are not unbiased, but then try to take steps to actively counteract our biases. The easiest way to do that is to talk to people you might not normally come in contact with. Talk to people who have different backgrounds from your own. Talk to people who have different ideological outlooks, you know, different politics, different faith relationships than yours. And that becomes a way of kind of actively creating a counterweight to the way that we like being conned to think as a default.
The best that we can do is say that to recognize we are not objective and we are not unbiased, but then try to take steps to actively counteract our biases.
VH: Do you think protest on campuses make a different impact than city wide protest? If so, how?
JC: I think they all have their own place. So for students that are organizing and being involved in activist work on campus you would have particular concerns that don’t relate to the concerns of the bigger community like a city. But more fundamentally probably students have an advantage in that they’re in closer proximity to the people who have power. Like most of the time you can walk right across the campus and there’s the president’s office or the chancellor’s office or whoever it is that is in charge. That’s different than your city council member or your congressional rep or the person who is enacting a policy that you may disagree with or whom you may want to get to act on your behalf in some way. And so I think that they’re not greater or lesser, but I think that they’re very distinct and kind of different undertakings.
VH: Do you think institutions properly honor MLK day? If not, what should they be doing differently?
JC: There’s a wide array, I think, of approaches to King day. Some that are better than others, and I think that the most valuable thing that people do or can do in recognition of King day is to give service to other people. I think that’s been the best innovation in terms of saying this is not a day off, but a day on. This should be a day that people can think about the struggles that have yet to be completed in the society. Do we have a full equality for everyone regardless of their race, their religion, their ethnic background, their sexual orientation, their physical abilities or disabilities. There’s all these categories of people who have been excluded in one shape or form at different times in our society. I think that is the spirit of King day, and I think it is why we should kind of recognize in the most humble and social-change oriented way.
VH: Do you think nowadays we can have movements the way we had the civil rights movement? Can we ever get the Million Man March or are people’s views too divided?
JC: If you are asking if we could have broad based mass popular movements, then yes I do. I think that there are lots of divisions in society, but there were divisions in society then and people were able to find a way around them. So there were people who were a part of the Civil Rights Movement who were not particularly religious, but it was a movement led by, for the most part, religious people. There are people who are not in the south, northerners, there are college students, there are white people who are involved in it. The whole kind of crux of this is for people to get beyond their particular points of entry in society and say these are the kind of common values we hold and common concerns that are confronting us and we can organize on the basis of that. That’s not just the civil rights movement. Every movement that we think about has had to go through some stage of that. The labor movement did, the movement for rights of gays and lesbians. Nobody starts out with a perfect choreography. They all have to go through the work of getting on the same beat.
VH: How do you think the NFL kneeling movement has raised questions about the impact of patriotism in America?
JC: It’s funny I had this conversation earlier. I think that there are different versions of patriotism. One of the versions that places a great deal of emphasis on respect for, admiration for and appreciation for the United States as is. And I think there’s another version that places a great deal of emphasis upon, maybe those things, you know, respect and admiration for what it is and has been, critically, but also a very big component of what it should and can be. And when those two definitions are in proximity they seem to clash. So there’s some people who thought that what Colin Kaepernick did was unpatriotic, but there were other people who thought that it was a reflection of patriotism. Remember the First Amendment in this country is to protect free speech. Literally the first one in those enumerated rights. Free speech is meant to be a mechanism by which the people get to offer corrective arguments to people who have power over them, and I think that is what he was attempting to do. So it’s not necessarily a question of whether we agree with it, but it’s a much bigger question of do we agree with the right to speak your mind?
During the past few days, Vanderbilt students have experienced an increased number of flu cases. According to Dr. Louise Hanson, Medical Director of the Zerfoss Student Health Center, the center saw between 50 to 75 cases Monday, 75 to 100 on Tuesday and over 100 cases on Wednesday. Before break and last week, the center had been seeing 10 to 15 cases per week.
While Dr. Hanson noted that the flu is ravaging much of the U.S.–especially the Southeast–a spike in flu cases during this time of year is not all that unusual. Several factors contribute to this year’s surge on campus, including a relatively inefficient vaccine and the coincidence of flu season with Panhellenic formal recruitment.
“The flu vaccine is thought to be less effective than usual, which is probably contributing,” Hanson said. “Unfortunately, our big flu spike is usually seen in late January or early February and doesn’t usually coincide with recruitment in sororities. So it’s the “perfect storm”–less than perfect vaccine, lots of exposures and an earlier flu spike than usual.”
Most of the cases diagnosed at student health have been in either Panhellenic women or in potential new members of Panhellenic organizations, Hanson said. She speculates that this is because Panhellenic formal recruitment, which began last weekend and will continue this weekend, brings approximately 150 women into each house during each party and creates a breeding ground for the virus.
Hanson recommends frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with those infected with the flu. Healthy adults are contagious beginning one day before symptoms develop until five to seven days after they become sick, Hanson said.
“People with flu can spread the virus to others up to about six feet away,” she said. “Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.”
Students who are experiencing fever, aches, cough or other flu-like symptoms, can either call Student Health and make an appointment or walk in if all appointment slots are filled. Tamiflu, an antiviral drug used to treat the flu, is available by prescription. If taken within 48 hours of the emergence of symptoms, Tamiflu can reduce the duration and severity of flu symptoms as well as prevent the spread of the flu.
Tamiflu may also be prescribed to students who have had close contact with someone who has the flu in order to prevent them from contracting the virus. Students who wish to obtain a preventative prescription should contact their Student Health provider through the My Health at Vanderbilt portal. If a student doesn’t have a regular provider, they can call the Student Health Center or walk in to receive the medication.
Many students who have tried to obtain Tamiflu from local pharmacies such as CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid have been met with disappointment as the pharmacies, met with a sudden increase in demand, have run out of the drug. However, the medicine is still available at the Student Health Center for approximately $140 without insurance. Most insurance providers will cover a large portion of the cost of the drug.
For more information about flu prevention, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm.
During winter break, the Hustler staff received an envelope in the mail from an anonymous source containing court documents from a 2001 case involving Shirley Collado (‘94), the president of Ithaca College and a member of Vanderbilt’s Board of Trust, having an improper relationship with a patient while she was training to be a trauma therapist in Washington, D.C. The maximum sentence for the charge was 180 days in jail and a $1000 fine.
The case ended with Collado, who has been on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust since 2014, pleading guilty “nolo contendere” (no contest) to one count of misdemeanor sex abuse, making her a second degree sexual offender. Collado’s sentence required her to complete 120 hours of community service, participate in counseling for health care providers who sexually assault their patients and write a letter of apology to the victim. In an interview with The Ithacan, Ithaca College’s student newspaper, Collado said that there have never been other allegations of sexual misconduct against her.
Vanderbilt University was not aware of these charges when Collado was appointed to the Board of Trust.
“Shirley Collado spoke openly and publicly about this issue at the time of her vetting and appointment as president of Ithaca College, which is when Vanderbilt became aware of the matter,” Vanderbilt University said in a statement to the Hustler. “She has consistently denied these accusations. These accusations will not affect her status on the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust.”
The Hustler reached out to Ithaca College for comment on Jan. 13. Days later, Collado wrote a letter to the Ithaca College community explaining the context of the allegations. In the letter, Collado denied the charges and discussed several hardships that led her to plead guilty in the case, including her husband’s suicide.
“In light of the resurfacing of this legal action, I want to unequivocally state now, as I did then, that the accusations in the court documents are simply not true,” Collado wrote in the letter. “If I had had more resources and was not dealing with my significant loss, I probably would have fought the charge. But I did what I felt was in my best interest at that time and followed my lawyer’s advice.”
Collado was a part of the first class of Posse Scholars, and received her undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt in 1994. She went on to pursue M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in clinical psychology from Duke University. Collado served as the Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Middlebury College until 2014. In this position, Collado was responsible for developing sexual misconduct and judicial policies, among other functions.
At Vanderbilt, Collado chairs the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, is a member of the Executive Committee and Campaign Committee, and recently completed a membership on the Land Use Committee. In 2015, she was given Peabody’s Distinguished Alumna Award. Collado was named the president of Ithaca College in February 2017.
At the time of the case, Collado was training to be a trauma therapist at the Washington Psychiatric Center Traumatic Stress Syndrome Ward, shortly after completing her Ph.D. According to the Government’s Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing from the case, while Collado was working at the Center, a patient stated that she and Collado “began a sexual relationship” in May 2000, when the two women kissed. According to the victim, Collado told her that these actions, which included fondling and kissing, would be “therapeutic for the victim; that it would bring her out of her shell,” the government memorandum states.
In her interview with the Ithacan, Collado denied this allegation. One of Collado’s former co-workers told the Ithacan they believe the patient’s allegation that she and Collado had a sexual relationship.
After the victim was discharged from the Center in June of 2000, she claimed that she moved into Collado’s house and that their sexual relationship continued. According to the government memorandum, the victim recorded these events in her journal. While Collado confirms that the victim moved in with her, she denies any sexual contact.
The victim notified other therapists at the Center of her sexual relationship with Collado in November of 2000. The victim forwarded emails that she had received from Collado as well as photographs from a trip she took with Collado to the therapists.
“As for us, I must tell you that not a day goes by that I don’t regret mixing everything up, setting poor boundaries and misleading you/[name omitted]/etc. In any way… Anyway, all this is to say that I am not good for you, [victim’s name]… As far as [adult male acquaintance of Collado] is concerned, we are working on many things including what we gained and lost from being intimate with you, building trust between us, deciding what we can be open about at this point…” read one of the emails, which was included in the government memorandum.
After this, founders of the Center were notified. Due to the evidence from the photos and knowledge of the victim, the Director of the Center believed her allegations. The Director of the Center has not responded to the Hustler’s attempt to contact her.
In the defendant’s memorandum, which is cited by the Ithacan article, Collado’s lawyer stated that had the case gone to trial, Collado’s roommate would have testified–and an expert witness would have confirmed–that the victim accessed Collado’s computer while staying in her home, and that the victim authored the emails that she forwarded to the Center as evidence of her relationship with Collado.
The Center viewed the outside relationship between Collado and the victim as an ethical violation and grounds for immediate termination. In her interview with the Ithacan, Collado claimed that she never had a conversation with the directors despite her attempts to contact them.
“The laws and ethical rules prohibiting sexual and outside relationships with former or current patients are designed to prevent the very activity that occurred in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Marcus-Kurn, who prosecuted the case, wrote in the government memorandum. “The law recognizes that individuals that are wards of psychiatric institutions are extremely vulnerable to being abused and taken advantage of. The laws are designed to protect them and punish anyone who violates the therapist/patient relationship.”
When the Director of the Center confronted Collado, she admitted that she’d lived with the victim and had been in the area of the Center where the victim claimed sexual contact took place, but denied any type of sexual relationship occurred.
The victim claimed she was too emotional to write a formal letter to the court about the impact that these events had on her. However, she expressed her feelings over the phone with the following statement:
“It brings on such immense pain and it is very very intense feelings of confusion. I start hearing her calling her name, I start smelling her, I start remembering her telling me that it would be good for me to sleep with Steve, and I remember being raped, and I have blocked that all out and I’m afraid that it would kill me if I start dealing with it right now. She has hurt me beyond belief and it’s like so bad that I can hardly touch it because it hurts so bad. I have to take it really slow. I know that I feel a lot inside but I’m not really sure what all of those feelings are because I try really hard not to feel them but I know that they are painful as hell. I literally feel that I will fall apart every time i think I’ll deal with it. And it hurts too much. And I’m really angry that she slept with me and that she convinced me to sleep with her boyfriend and I feel that I was raped and that there is nothing I can do with it because I believe it isn’t against the law in D.C.”
Collado continues to deny that any sexual relationship occurred between the two women at any time, despite the victim’s claims in the government memorandum.
“I can’t speculate why the therapists reported what they did,” she told The Ithacan. “What I can tell you, in a very general way, without disclosing her whole medical profile… this is someone who was treated multiple times — not just by me, by multiple hospitalizations and therapists — had a very serious psychiatric disorders that have lasted years upon years in a pretty serious profile when you look at dissociative disorders, psychotic disorders, things like that.”
The government memorandum, however, states that both of the victim’s two other therapists at the time believe her allegations against Collado, having known her for a long period of time and finding her to be an “extremely truthful person.”
“Although she may have flashbacks of prior abuse or may relive traumatic experiences, her therapists have stated that she does not fabricate or hallucinate things that simply did not happen,” the government memorandum said. “In other words, she has not experienced psychotic episodes and has never been diagnosed as psychotic.”
Ithaca College knew about this matter when they appointed her as president last year.
“We were provided with detailed information regarding this situation, and Dr. Collado was extremely forthright in answering all our questions,” the Board stated. “Then, as now, she vehemently denied the allegations that were made against her.”
The Ithaca Board of Trustees affirmed their support for Collado today.
“Since becoming president of Ithaca College, Dr. Shirley M. Collado has proven to be a great leader, demonstrating not only her commitment to students, faculty, and the broader college community but also to an openness and inclusiveness that are important assets for our institution moving forward,” the Board stated. “One of the things that set Dr. Collado apart during the search process was her compelling personal and professional story, which included not only significant accomplishments in her work life but also a background of achievement and overcoming individual challenges that made her the right choice for a college like Ithaca at this time.”
Tom Grape, the chair of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, defended Collado in an interview with the Ithacan.
“My own perspective about it is this is something of almost 20 years ago that was adjudicated in court and has been settled,” Grape said. “And I think for us to sort of go back and ask people, well, something that happened 20 years ago when there’s since been a 20-year history of behavior that is spotless, to me, the matter was settled with the court action 20 years ago.”
From President Collado
Recently, I learned that an anonymous source has been circulating misleading information to other colleges and universities and their news outlets about a traumatic time in my life that took place almost 20 years ago. Seeing how profoundly the facts and my character are being misrepresented and being forced to relive the pain of that time have left me feeling upset, perplexed, and targeted. I do not know who is disseminating this information or how widely it is being shared.
I have been candid about this very trying chapter of my life, and how it has influenced the way I approach my work and my personal path. I have discussed it over the years with confidantes and with leaders I’ve worked for. I discussed it with the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and the presidential search committee during my candidacy for president. While trying to maintain a degree of privacy and confidentiality for myself and other individuals, I shared the broad details of this story in an interview<https://www.ithaca.edu/president/news/incoming-president-shirley-m.-collado-shares-her-story-part-1-43846/> published by the college as part of my introduction to the campus community last spring.
Because the story is personal, it’s very hard to describe the details more publicly than I have in the past, with a campus community who is still getting to know me. However, after intensive reflection, I have decided that I must follow my commitment to owning our full stories with humanity and insight.
In 2000, less than a year after finishing my Ph.D., I was in training as a trauma therapist in a mental health center in a hospital in Washington, D.C., working with patients suffering from very severe psychiatric disorders that limited their ability to function independently. A short time after I began this work, my husband of three years killed himself in our home. He was my best friend and my rock, and I could not understand why he did this to himself and to us. I was devastated, and took a leave of absence to try to work through my overwhelming grief.
During my leave of absence, a former patient sought me out for help when she was in crisis and had no place to stay. Worried for her safety, I invited her into the home I shared with my roommate, but after a brief period I realized that I could not provide the support she was looking for while I myself was trying to heal. So, I let her know that she could no longer stay with us and helped her move out.
Shortly thereafter, I received the news that she was making allegations about me to the staff at the hospital. I suddenly found myself fighting a misdemeanor sexual abuse charge for allegedly having touched her once in a sexual manner above her clothing while she was under my treatment at the center.
I fought the charge to the best of my ability, but my fighting spirit was limited by so many things. I was in my twenties, had very little money and resources, and was grieving a profound personal loss.
And so, I juggled two very strong and opposing instincts: to defend myself aggressively against a painful, false accusation or to devote my energy to healing from my loss. My lawyer recommended pleading no contest to the misdemeanor charge so that I could just end the matter quickly and move on. After a lot of soul searching, I took his advice. I pled no contest, or nolo contendre, to the misdemeanor, ending the matter, and moved back to New York to be with my family, where I completed probation and community service.
In light of the resurfacing of this legal action, I want to unequivocally state now, as I did then, that the accusations in the court documents are simply not true. If I had had more resources and was not dealing with my significant loss, I probably would have fought the charge. But I did what I felt was in my best interest at that time and followed my lawyer’s advice.
I could have let this terrible episode discourage me from advocating for people with mental illness and limited resources, but there are so many people like my former patient who have experienced great trauma and illness and face extraordinary challenges related to health care, housing, employment, education, safety, and more. I actively continued teaching in the areas of trauma and the intersections of trauma, mental health, race, culture, and gender. And, I devoted a great deal of effort to improving services, support, policies, processes, education, training, and prevention related to sexual misconduct and gender-based violence during my tenure at both Middlebury College and Rutgers University–Newark.
I believe that the experience helped sharpen a sense of humanity and empathy that has been with me throughout my career in education. I have always worked to ensure that people’s full humanity is respected and understood, without reducing them only to their most visible labels, diagnoses, or social markers. When I work with students, staff, and faculty dealing with hardships, difficult decisions, big mistakes, losses, or trauma, I have a personal lens that is informed by my own experience and the amazing resilience that I know we all have within us.
I am deeply grateful for the unwavering support and compassion I have received from the board and from all those with whom I’ve discussed this difficult story. And I want to thank you, now, for giving me the time to share this deeply personal and painful part of my life.
Shirley M. Collado
A message of support for President Shirley M. Collado from the Board of Trustees
President Collado has the full support of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees. Since becoming president of Ithaca College, Dr. Shirley M. Collado has proven to be a great leader, demonstrating not only her commitment to students, faculty, and the broader college community but also to an openness and inclusiveness that are important assets for our institution moving forward. One of the things that set Dr. Collado apart during the search process was her compelling personal and professional story, which included not only significant accomplishments in her work life but also a background of achievement and overcoming individual challenges that made her the right choice for a college like Ithaca at this time.
The board of trustees, with the assistance of our search consultant Spencer Stuart, conducted extensive due diligence as part of our final candidate vetting process. This thorough background check included a leadership profile analysis and reference checks with a number of individuals we identified as having knowledge of her skills, character, leadership style, and accomplishments.
During the process, we learned of a legal action brought against Dr. Collado, nearly 20 years ago. We were provided with detailed information regarding this situation, and Dr. Collado was extremely forthright in answering all our questions. Then, as now, she vehemently denied the allegations that were made against her. She discussed at length the incredibly difficult circumstances she was facing at the time, and we came to understand the courage with which she navigated the tragic loss of her husband and the devastation of accusations leveled in this vulnerable moment. We know that her decision to resolve the legal action quickly was an extremely difficult one, made on the advice of legal counsel, to try to gain a sense of closure at a very fraught time for her.
As part of the search process, many people who knew or worked with Dr. Collado throughout her career provided answers to a wide range of questions that we had, including on the legal action. Their responses reinforced to us that Dr. Collado had the experience, drive, and personal qualities to make an exceptional president for our college.
It is important to note that, in addition to providing us with details on the incident, she proactively discussed it in an interview<https://www.ithaca.edu/president/news/incoming-president-shirley-m.-collado-shares-her-story-part-1-43846/> that was published by the college last March, shortly after she was announced as our next president. That interview remains publicly available on the Office of the President website.
It is evident that Dr. Collado’s subsequent life experiences, her professional successes, and her empathetic nature demonstrate resilience of character and an ability to both learn and grow from an extremely challenging set of circumstances.
As we stated earlier, Dr. Collado has our full support. She was the right choice when she was named president of Ithaca College last year, and her first six months in office have only reinforced our belief in what an exceptional person and leader she truly is.
Sam Zern, Dallas Shatel, Gracie Pitman and Jenna Moldaver contributed to this report.
For the next two months, Vanderbilt students will be able to request a free subscription to the New York Time. Their accounts will give them full online access to thousands of articles dating back decades, be it through their laptops, phones or tablets. Danielle Evans, the economics major responsible for program, said the next two months are a trial program meant to gauge whether or not enough students would utilize the free subscription.
“With this trial program, what we’re trying to do is get as many subscribers as possible and get a continuous readership,” Evans said. “That way, Vanderbilt can sign a permanent contract with the New York Times, and hopefully we can extend that to the Wall Street Journal.”
Evans began trying to bring the free subscription to campus during the 2017 spring semester. After coming back from a semester abroad, she discovered that Vanderbilt had discontinued its free print newspaper program, which gave students access to free copies of a number of major national newspapers, like USA Today and the New York Times. Although the university ensures that students can access research articles and scholarly journals free of charge, access to newspapers has been less consistent, with only print editions of the Wall Street Journal provided to the students in recent years.
Eager to get news access back on campus, Evans worked to secure almost 2,000 undergraduate signatures.
“People were actually really interested in the [newspaper] program, they really wanted it,” Evans said. “They just didn’t even know that it existed in the first place.”
Evans herself admits that she found her first copy by accident while in Central Library.
“That’s why they had some many leftover papers,” Evans said. “It was really hidden.”
During a presentation on the program, Evans was quick to stress the importance of papers like the New York Times in a university setting.
“This is a partisan time, and national newspapers that include different opinions and writers promote inquiry, discourse and understanding,” Evans said. “Though it can be argued that every newspaper has a bias, national newspapers are more reliable when subjected to fact-checking.”
She also likes to remind students that Vanderbilt provides free subscriptions to HBO, rather than to newspapers.
“Can you believe that we don’t have the New York Times and we have HBO?” Evans said.
With the trail program now live, undergraduate students can secure their own subscription at www.nytimesaccess.com/vanderbilt/, where they can make an account in less than a minute. Their accounts work on the New York Times mobile apps. The trial program will last for two months. After the program expires, university administration will decide whether the number of readers will warrant a full contract.
When students returned to campus this semester, they were greeted with Vanderbilt Student Government’s annual Mid-Year Report, which detailed the organization’s major accomplishments for the year. According to VSG President Jami Cox, the main focus has been ensuring that the platform points are addressed and that VSG communicates its progress with students.
“I think one thing that we really tried to do this year is stick to getting the platform done,” Cox said. “In a lot of years past it’s really hard once you get into the cycle of VSG and everyone’s coming up with new ideas and initiatives. It’s really hard to do what you said you were going to do the in the first place, so that was something we actually wanted to keep track of. We made sort of 20 platform promises and we’re at about 14 or 15 of those being done or in progress.”
In their initial platform, Cox and Vice President Ryan Connor emphasized the need for greater student involvement in VSG initiatives. They campaigned on the promise to include more students in meetings with administrators and to host listening sessions to gain perspective from students. During first semester, they hosted listening sessions with the Multicultural Leadership Council and Lambda and brought members of Vanderbilt SPEAR to meetings with administrators regarding the environmental sustainability of new buildings on campus. They hope to continue to host more sessions this semester, while also keeping in mind that organizations already have a lot of their own work to do.
We made sort of 20 platform promises and we’re at about 14 or 15 of those being done or in progress.
Another major initiative for the year is financial inclusivity. During the fall semester, VSG created a Economic Inclusivity ad-hoc committee, which will begin looking into best practices surrounding financial inclusivity during the spring semester.
“The Economic Inclusivity Task Force was something that we did immediately after we were elected,” Cox said. “We made an ad-hoc committee focused solely on economic inclusivity, for which Ryan Coyne and Ryan Connor are chairs. Their committee has been working on sort of a two-fold thing, because this is something that faculty and administrators are also caring about, so they’re working on a partnership with faculty for peer institution research for economic inclusivity.”
While VSG says 70 percent of platform points have been addressed thus far, some have had to be discarded. One of the points that is no longer being pursued is the separation of VSG from AcFee, the student led organization that is charged with distributing nearly $1.7 million per year to student organizations. According to Cox and Senate Speaker Molly Gupta, the organizations have grown apart over the years and VSG has largely severed its managerial involvement with AcFee, as old policies that required VSG members to oversee AcFee committees were done away with. Still, the organizations are financially tied together, and this year’s VSG leadership realized that separating the two entirely would be less productive than focusing on reforming the organizations instead.
“If we were to sever that there would be no student organization startup fund,” Gupta said. “So we thought that preserving that startup fund was more important than just taking off that platform AcFee piece.”
One way that VSG is looking to reform AcFee is by making it more accessible to the student organizations. By building relationships with vendors, Cox hopes that they will be able to bring down costs associated with running a student organization, like the price of t-shirts or pizza for events, for which organizations would often use AcFee funding.
In addition to partnering with vendors to alleviate student organization costs, VSG has also focused on building partnerships to increase access to Nashville for students. This year, Cox and Gupta met with Lyft to work on bringing less expensive rides to Vanderbilt students looking to explore the city or get to the airport. VSG was able to provide Lyft discount codes to students getting to the airport during Thanksgiving and Winter break, and has an ongoing partnership that gives students 50 percent off rides when travelling to Passport to Nashville sites.
During the spring semester, Cox hopes to continue expanding rideshare options to students, particularly to students who have to travel off campus for things like external mental health providers or doctor’s appointments. They are also hoping to work with the university to allow student tailgates for baseball games as a means of increasing game attendance. However, Gupta said that it is hard to know for sure what all will be feasible in the coming semester.
“Jamie and Ryan ran on a set of platform points and when you enter office there are another set of things that you have to deal with besides the things that you anticipate,” Gupta said. “We were aware, but because a lot of things are confidential to you until you are elected you are not informed of the timeline of how things work, so while you’re working on your platform you have to be responsive, and even now, looking forward to this coming semester, I can’t say a full agenda because I know I have half of my goals and then the other 800 percent will be responding.”
In addition to meeting with VSG leaders, The Hustler asked members of the VSG cabinet and senate to talk about their accomplishments during the fall semester and how those decisions affected and will affect the campus community.
Jami Cox, VSG President
As President of VSG, I worked with the executive board to provide student input in administrative meetings, support the initiatives of each branch, and strengthen the organization’s relationship with the campus community. As a representative of the students, I serve on various committees including the search committee for the Vice Provost for Equity Diversity and Inclusion and the University Transportation Strategy group. In coordinating VSG’s continued support of FutureVU initiatives, I sought to integrate each branch into implementation strategies. An example of such work is orchestrating the Campus Life committee’s new partnership between the university and Lyft. However, the most rewarding aspect of my role has been interacting with the student body, whether speaking to various student leaders in organizational visits or attending Common’s house events to get to know first years. I look forward to continuing this work with the rest of the executive board this semester.
Ryan Connor, VSG Vice President
Throughout my first-semester as Vice-President, I’ve worked alongside my committee members to lay the foundation for the Economic Inclusivity committee and prepare for our final administrative report. I’ve also worked with the executive board to advocate and empower students’ voices through a myriad of different initiatives. For instance, making a concentrated effort to invite students to our monthly meetings with Chancellor Zeppos has been an initiative that has proven successful and has been a great example of us leveraging VSG resources to empower students. Overseeing the committee branch has been an incredible experience, and witnessing the work of all the committee chairs and committee members has been amazing. The work they do changes campus in so many ways and it has been such a privilege to be their branch head this year.
Olivia Solow-Niederman, Chief of Staff
As a member of Exec and Cabinet, I am especially proud of the organization’s focus on and commitment to making sure that VSG remains transparent, accessible, and connected to campus. In Cabinet, we manage a lot of the behind the scenes logistics of the organization, from mentorship to professional development to volunteering to PR (we are so excited to have officially launched our VSG Instagram account @vanderbiltstudentgov). In addition, we have also been striving to expand our focus outwards through initiatives, partnerships, co-sponsorships, and the external student body email. In particular, two new positions to Cabinet this year— the Director of Active Citizenship and Service and the Director of Campus Outreach— have been working towards this goal by partnering with student organizations and administrative offices to develop campus responses to natural disasters and current events and by spearheading a Cabinet initiative to create an online guidebook to the many student organizations on campus, respectively. I am very motivated by the work that we have done so far as a Cabinet, as an Exec Board, and as an organization this year and I am looking forward to finishing the year even stronger!
Phyllis Doremus, Deputy Chief of Staff
This past semester I had the opportunity to work on a number of different initiatives, but the one that I am probably the most excited about is making Green Dot Training mandatory for all members of VSG. As student leaders, we are responsible for promoting the safety of students across campus and combating sexual assault. Completion of Green Dot training is critical to equipping students with the skills and confidence to safely and appropriately intervene to reduce, disrupt, and prevent sexual and intimate partner violence. Throughout the semester, I worked heavily with Sara Starr, the Chair of the Vanderbilt Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Committee, and Project Safe to coordinate training times and ensuring that each member was aware of the policy. Although we are still in the process of training all members, I am hopeful that this initiative can help continue to create a norm of mandatory Green Dot Trainings for student leaders across campus.
Julianna Hernandez, Director of Publicity
As the Director of Publicity, I successfully set up a PR Request form for other organizations to use as well as an Instagram page. The PR Request form allows all campus organizations to utilize VSG’s resources to publicize their events, therefore encouraging more attendance and outreach for various organizations. The Instagram page allows the campus community to easily see upcoming VSG events and co-sponsorships, as well as gain insight on the projects VSG does to improve campus life.
Lanier Langdale, Programming Coordinator
This fall semester I continued working on the Vanderbilt Mobile App. We added features that include viewing campus dining menus and nutrition, viewing your order status at the Pub, downloading football tickets, seeing your class schedule, reserving rooms, viewing your laundry status, and so much more. All of these changes work towards the ultimate goal of consolidating all of Vanderbilt’s resources into one mobile app as well as giving students easier access to the resources available to them!
Isabel Futral, Director of Programming
The programming team was able to co-sponsor 23 different events for 20 different student organizations over the course of the fall semester to spotlight everything from gaming conventions to cultural dinners and vibrant dance showcases. Our focus on providing funds to as many organizations as possible allowed us to learn about and support events both monetarily and through volunteership. These funds help student organizations host more events throughout the year by alleviating some of the budgetary constraints large events can have, and our work with the PR team increased awareness across campus of co-sponsored events.
Robert Travis, Director of Technology
My main initiative for the fall semester was increasing the visibility of the Judicial Branch online. This is the first year that they have been featured on the website, so having their biographies and the services they provide has been a huge step in increasing their accessibility. Two ongoing initiative that I will be launching over the weekend are the expansion of the website’s document hub to include Judicial decisions and the publishing of biographies on all of the Senators. These initiatives seek to expand accessibility to branches that are sometimes underutilized but provide vital resources to both the organization and the student body.
Andrew Brodsky, Director of Active Citizenship and Service
One of the largest initiatives that I tackled throughout the fall semester was Vanderbilt’s disaster response initiatives. Through working with campus partners such as OACS, the BCC, Athletics, and dining, we were able to raise thousands of dollars and donate several truckloads of clothing and supplies to communities impacted by the many natural disasters that affected communities across the country. Through this work, we were able to connect Vanderbilt to the larger U.S. community, while also supporting those members of the Vanderbilt community whose homes were affected by these disasters.
Carter Powers, Director of Human Resources
As Director of Human Resources, my main responsibilities include maintaining the VSG Attendance Policy and developing mentorship events to benefit our first-time members. We are in the process of planning a mentorship event for mid-February, and we hope to feature discussions revolving around how to take one’s VSG experience past VSG to other organizations and vice versa. In the attendance policy, we require our members to be actively engaged in the campus community by participating in our events or our Co-Sponsorships. Members earn 1 point for attending an event and 2 for volunteering. In the first, our members accumulated over 500 points. Through participating in these events, we hope that our members are more actively engaged in the community they serve and bring new perspectives back to VSG to more effectively advocate for students and groups across campus.
Zack Ely, Chief Justice of the Judicial Court
I major in Molecular and Cellular Biology, and this is my second year on the Judicial Court. As Chief Justice, I am responsible for facilitating Judicial Court proceedings and serving as the Court’s representative to the rest of VSG and the student body. In this academic year, we resolved an issue regarding an election for the Blair College Council President, and we revised our bylaws to reflect the current state of VSG and its Constitution. For the spring semester, we plan to update our archive of previous Judicial Court decisions with a concise summary, which should provide a useful reference for both the Court and the student body.
Sam DeFabrizio, Academic Affairs
The Academic Affairs committee produced a wealth of research regarding registration periods, mentorship programs, sample schedules and more. The work accomplished this semester lead to more thoughtful scheduling, better resources for incoming students, and more equity of opportunities surrounding the classroom.
Christine Lim, Campus Life
This semester, the VSG Campus Life Committee served as a bridge between students and administrators with the goal of creating better student experiences on campus. The Campus Life Committee collaborated with Lyft, the Rideshare Committee, Parking Services, and the administration on providing monthly discount codes to events. We also worked on rideshare programs that focus on economic inclusivity and safe rides, both on campus and throughout Nashville. We also launched a Vanderbilt mobile app, centralizing various campus services including laundry, tickets, dining, and other services into one location. In collaboration with Campus Dining, we have started to have monthly meetings where we discussed students’ suggestions in order to make better dining experiences for students. Several dining initiatives that we have launched include Chobani and Quest Bars as sides and increased dining options on campus and at events. Looking ahead, we are working on the annual dining survey, which will be sent out to students soon in order to gather feedback. Lastly, Campus Life worked with the Dean of Students on adding outdoor seating outside of Rand.
Brianna Watkins, Community Building, Outreach, and Diversity (CBOD)
During the fall semester the VSG Community Building, Outreach, and Diversity Committee worked on a number of initiatives. Some of our most successful initiatives so far has been working with the Career Center to increase information regarding post graduate opportunities for international students, collaborating with campus organizations to develop an accessibility checklist for campus events, working with administration to improve transfer students’ process of transitioning to Vanderbilt campus, and establishing a partnership with the MLC.
Nico Gardner, Executive Steering
Executive Steering has been busy this semester reforming the way we as VSG run candidate elections. We introduced and passed reform that provided more resources to the elections commission in order to ensure that elections are fair and better publicized. We also developed a new reimbursement policy for Senate candidates for their campaign expenses. We also sought to create an electoral system that was accessible and public to everyone, regardless of financial background and I strongly believe we have done that.
Simon Silverberg, Residential and Environmental Affairs
During the first semester, one of our most successful initiatives involved interviewing and surveying campus residents about gender inclusive housing, and we hope to expand gender inclusive housing options for incoming first-years. We have also pursued an array of environmental initiatives and are especially excited about an upcoming environmental education seminar that we will host alongside SPEAR. Additionally, the VSG Residential and Environmental Affairs committee has played a crucial role in promoting and supporting the Vanderbilt Green Fund and FutureVU initiatives.
Sam Garfield, Student Health and Wellness
As Chair of the Student Health and Wellness Committee, I do a lot of work with existing health and wellness organizations on campus. During the fall semester my committee created a Mental Health Roundtable to bring together campus leaders focused on mental health to centralize our efforts and discussions. Additionally, we were able to volunteer and work with grassroots campaigns such as #ListenWithMe and Health Guardians. Next semester, we hope to create an Advisory Board for the Recreation and Wellness Center and continue to advocate for more substance use education and awareness, as well as increased satellite services for campus institutions like the Center for Student Wellbeing on Commons.
Sara Starr, Vanderbilt Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention (VSAP)
In the fall semester, VSAP began our efforts to create a safe community for survivors, which can so far be best seen through the events we have held that seek to provide all survivors with a comfortable space to partake in events with each other. We are working to further establish these opportunities in order to create a community in which survivors can come together and support each other. We also successfully passed a bill that mandates that all of VSG must receive Green Dot training as part of our continuing efforts to create a campus community that is accountable for one another. We are continuing to work on creating ways to serve as a more truly representative committee and helping organizations across campus find their voices on these issues. We also intend to reissue our biannual Student Perspectives report by the end of this semester.
Barton Christmas, West House Senator
My name is Barton Christmas, and I’m a first year student from Paducah, KY studying History and Secondary Education. I currently serve in VSG as the Senator for West House. Over the course of the year, I’ve been meeting with various campus administrators in pursuit of shifting the school from Early Decision to Early Action as the primary admissions plan. I’m also working on legislation requesting the ability to host pets as guests, similar to the current ResEd policy of allowing registered human guests for up to three days. Hoping to make this school a more economically diverse and animal friendly kinda place!
Tam Wheat, Moore College Senator and Health & Wellness Liaison
I’m currently serving as a member of the undergraduate senate and as a committee liaison for VSG’s Student Health and Wellness Committee. In the past two semesters, VSG has hosted two town halls in collaboration with the Chancellor’s Strategic Planning Committee on Student Health and Well-being in order to receive student feedback on how to improve mental health on our campus. Some of the VSG senate’s formal requests for the administration are that off-campus referrals for psychological counselors are continually reduced, on-campus counseling centers become more adequately staffed and trained (particularly in regard to cultural competency) and that faculty continue to work with students to ensure that the classroom environment meets various mental health needs. As the senate representative for Moore College, I have been also been responding to the requests of Moore residents, working alongside committee chairs to install more water bottle filling stations both within Moore and other residence halls and to grant red line Vandy Van access to Kissam. The last initiative on which I am working is a campus beautification project– I would like to see more student-commissioned artwork showcased on campus, so I am collaborating with the Campus Life committee to achieve this goal.
Kate Petosa, East House Senator
I’m a first-year senator for East house and I have really enjoyed representing my dorm and the rest of the student body as a member of Senate. This year I have acted as a liaison on my house’s HAC, ensuring that every stays informed on senate legislation and VSG activities. I also co-sponsored a bill advocating for a better distribution of parking permits between Greek organizations and the student body. In the future I look forward to working with the Speaker of the House to plan a joint session between Student Senate and Faculty Senate to facilitate dialogue.
Chris Marcus, Murray House Senator
Chris Marcus is a First Year majoring in Economics and Political Science from Brookline, Massachusetts. In his free time, he enjoys running, watching sports and traveling.This year, he has been focused on increasing campus sustainability and improving Senate’s communication with constituents. This semester, he is interested in working on the reallocation of Senate seats as well campus dining reform.
Christian Cox, Peabody Senator
This year as the Peabody College Senator, I’ve been working on several initiatives. Together with VSG’s Executive Steering committee, I’ve helped create legislation that changed VSG’s election procedures to make positions more accessible to the student body. I’m also beginning to work on reallocating the Senate as Vanderbilt opens new residential colleges so that all students can be fairly represented.
Keeheon Nam, Blair College Council President
My name is Keeheon and I’m a senior clarinet performance major at the Blair School of Music. I serve in the VSG Senate as the representative of the Blair Student Council, for which I am serving as president. Currently, I am in the Health and Wellness Senate liaison group and we’ve been working with the committee to get their voice heard by writing legislation, as well as feature health and wellness issues and concerns of Blair students.
Lucija Tacer, Deputy Speaker and Highland Quad Senator
I currently serve as the Highland Quad Senator and Deputy Speaker. This past semester, I worked on a resolution responding to a student-led petition to improve music practice rooms on campus. Due to the legislation, the Senate was able to ensure the update of existing practice rooms with better sounds systems and the application of these recommendations to practice rooms in newly built dormitories. On Highland Quad, I worked on improving laundry services. The Highland laundry rooms were often out of order or required long waiting periods, because of the slow and unreliable processing of the swipe machines. After communicating with IT personnel, the cards readers now process significantly faster.
Austin Konkle, A&S Senator
My name is Austin Konkle and I have had the honor to serve as a senator for the College of Arts and Science for the 2017-2018 school year. I’m passionate about service and this year I’ve found that there’s no greater satisfaction than being able to serve our incredible community of students. Pressing onward into the spring semester, I plan on investigating further one of my original senate campaign platforms, heightening campus safety with increased lighting where necessary, as well as assist in restructuring the university’s community creed to more accurately reflect and channel the values of the current student body.
Kevin Zhang, A&S College Council President
Kevin Zhang is a Senior from Naperville, Illinois studying Economics and Political Science. Kevin is actively involved in the undergraduate business scene and has a passion for helping students find career pathways. In VSG, Kevin serves as the President of the College of Arts & Science Council and represents the College of Arts & Science Council in the VSG Senate. Kevin serves on the Committee for Economic Inclusivity and recently launched an initiative aimed at creating a digital version of the org fair so it’s easier for students to find their home on campus.
Patrick Timmins, Towers III & IV Senator
This year, I am working with the Chair of the Executive Steering Committee and members of VSG exec on reforming elections to be more financially inclusive. We aim to eliminate monetary barriers for campaigns, so that all students who wish to run are able. I am also working with the Office of Greek Life, Traffic and Parking, and Greek leaders to increase the number of F spots on Main Campus. My goal is to make parking more equitable by converting excess Greek spots into F/Zone 3 Parking.
Photos by Claire Barnett, Emily Goncalves, Madison Lindeman, Ziyi Liu, Hunter Long and Brent Szklaruk // The Vanderbilt Hustler
Photos by Claire Barnett, Emily Goncalves & Ziyi Liu // The Vanderbilt Hustler
Provost Susan Wente canceled classes Jan. 12 due to icy conditions making travel near the university unsafe. Additionally, Chancellor Zeppos declared an administrative leave day.
Students, faculty and staff received emails, text messages and phone calls at 5:02 a.m. on Friday alerting them of the announcement.
“Due to winter weather conditions, the Provost has canceled classes for Friday, January 12, 2018, and the Chancellor has declared an administrative leave day,” the message read.
While employees whose work is considered essential “to core operations” are still required to report to campus, non-essential staff was excused for the day, the message instructed.
There are several changes to dining hall schedules and other on-campus dining options due to the weather. Local Java will close at 10 a.m., and Rand Dining Hall and Bamboo Bistro will close at 2 p.m. The campus store in Rand, Pi and Leaf, and Suzie’s coffee shops will all be closed for the day. Commons dining hall will be open for regular scheduled hours. Campus Dining plans to announce more updates on their Twitter page.
“We always try and run operations on normal schedule and make adjustments based on our staff being able to safely make it to campus,” David ter Kuile, Executive Director of Campus Dining, said in an email to the Hustler.
A winter weather advisory is in effect until midnight due to below freezing temperatures, snow accumulations of up to one inch and ice accumulations of up to one tenth of an inch, Accuweather reported. Wind chill temperatures are expected to fall well below freezing and into the teens.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol instructed those who must need to drive Friday to be prepared for the worst.
If you have to get out on the roads please dress accordingly for the inclement weather conditions. Take a phone and charger, dress in layers, take water, food, blankets, warm coat and insulated shoes or boots. Be prepared for anything. pic.twitter.com/5yeJprKPC4
— TN Highway Patrol (@TNHighwayPatrol) January 12, 2018
The last time Vanderbilt canceled class due to inclement weather was during January 2016 after nearly eight inches of snow made travel to campus unsafe. Vanderbilt also canceled classes in Feb. 2015 when Tenn. declared a state of emergency, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean requested that all nonessential travel be suspended, and public transportation was suspended in Nashville.
A winter weather advisory for freezing rain, ice and snow in the Nashville area on Friday, Jan. 12 may require the administration to cancel classes. A posting on the Vanderbilt News site late Thursday evening stated that if classes do end up getting cancelled, students, staff and faculty will receive text, email and phone messages by 5 a.m. on Friday alerting them of the announcement.
According to AccuWeather as of Thursday night, ice resulting in difficult travel conditions, total snow accumulations of up to two inches and ice accumulations of up to two tenths of an inch are expected.
“All faculty, staff and students living off campus are strongly encouraged to evaluate road conditions along their commute and to use discretion in choosing whether or not to travel to campus if the university remains open,” the posting said. “Personal safety is the first priority.”
Metro Nashville public schools have already announced closings due to the probability of inclement weather. Additionally, all counties surrounding Vanderbilt have announced school closings for Friday, including Cheatham County Schools, Dickson County Schools, Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools, Father Ryan High School, Franklin Special School District, Lebanon Special School district, Murfreesboro City Schools, Robertson County Schools, Rutherford County Schools, Sumner County Schools, Wilson County Schools and Williamson County Schools.
The last time Vanderbilt canceled class due to inclement weather was during January 2016 after eight inches of snow made travel to campus unsafe. Vanderbilt also canceled classes Feb. 2015 when Tenn. declared a state of emergency, Nashville Mayor Karl Dean requested that all nonessential travel be suspended, and public transportation was suspended in Nashville. Provost Susan Wente is ultimately responsible for making the decision to ultimately cancel class, which she makes with the guidance of Vanderbilt Police, Campus Dining, News and Communications, Human Resources and Plant Operations.
On Monday, Jan. 15, Vanderbilt will take the day off of classes in observance of MLK Day, celebrating what would have been the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 88th birthday. While there won’t be classes that day, the university and various student organizations will host a number of events honoring King’s impact.
In an effort to increase student engagement with events throughout the weekend, Vanderbilt Student Government launched the #IStandWithJustice campaign, featuring student leaders sharing why MLK Day is significant to them.
“The #IStandWithJustice campaign is a new promotional strategy for MLK Day. The students on the planning committee wanted to find a way to remind campus why the holiday is celebrated in the first place,” VSG president Jami Cox said. “By asking a few students why they believe MLK Day is important, we hope to inspire other students to participate in the day’s activities. We are also encouraging people to use the hashtag throughout the week and on Jan. 15 to share their thoughts as well.”
In addition to the campaign, the university will host a number of events celebrating the life of King throughout the weekend. The commemoration of King’s legacy will begin with a Friday kickoff at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, followed by Vanderbilt’s annual Weekend of Service and culminate in a keynote address by professor Michael Eric Dyson entitled “Justice through Collective Action: Fighting Oppression without Suppression.”
Click below to see all MLK weekend events:
Friday, January 12 at 12:00 p.m.
Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center
Celebrate the beginning of MLK weekend with soul food and fellowship
Nashville Freedom March
Monday, January 15 at 9:00 a.m.
Kirkland Circle and Murray Circle, buses will leave at 9:20 a.m.
Buses will drop students off at the Jefferson Street Missionary Baptist Church at 10:00 a.m. and will make its way to TSU’s Gentry Center by 12:00 p.m. Busses will be available to transport students back to campus. Students may sign up for the march here.
Nashville Freedom Ride
Monday, January 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Kwame Lillard, Nashville Freedom Rider, will lead a tour of significant Nashville civil rights sites. Students must RSVP to the event.
Souls of the Dream: MLK Lunchtime Performances
Monday, January 15 at 11:30 a.m.
Come enjoy box lunches and performances by Melanated and Vanderbilt Spoken Word.
MLK Keynote Address: Dr. Michael Eric Dyson
Monday, January 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the Sarratt Cinema Box Office prior to the event and remaining tickets will be available in the Langford Auditorium lobby at 6:15 p.m.
Teach-In: Activism and Sports
Monday, January 15 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Lead by Dr. Brandon Byrd
Teach-In: Self-Care is Community Care: Practices for Building Healing and Justice
Monday, January 15 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Ingram Commons MPR
Lead by Lyndsey Godwin and Rev. Shantell Hinton
Teach-In: Freedom of Expression without Suppression of Speech
Monday, January 15 from 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Lead by Dr. Frank Dobson and Carin Brown
Teach-In: Injustice in the “It” City
Monday, January 15 from 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.
Lead by Briana Perry
2018 MLK Weekend of Service
Saturday, January 13 at 5:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The day will begin at Fisk University with a shared meal and a brief program before participants are bussed to various service sites around Nashville, where they will spend the day volunteering.
Blood Drive with the American Red Cross
Monday, January 15 at 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m
Hillel will be hosting a blood drive with the American Red Cross as part of their commitment to service for MLK Day.
Chattanooga representative Gerald McCormick (R) introduced a bill to the Tennessee State House of Representatives that would require the state to provide legal or financial assistance to school districts in the instance that they face legal action over the “adoption of a policy requiring students, faculty, and staff to utilize the restroom, locker room or other facility that corresponds to that individual’s biological sex.”
McCormick said in the Times Free Press that the purpose of HB1488 is to protect poorer counties who may not be able to afford the costs associated with a legal battle over the gendered use of facilities.
“I think the ACLU will try to find some poor county and go after them,” McCormick said in the article.
House Minority Leader Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), however, was quoted in the Times Free Press article saying that he was disappointed that the debate was resurfacing, as he hoped the state had moved past it.
Last year, a bill introduced by Sen. Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) that would have required all students in public schools and universities to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that corresponded with their sex at birth failed to pass in the Tennessee Senate after failing to receive proper motion from the Senate Education Committee. Beavers is currently in the process of running for Tennessee governor.
The bill was also withdrawn in the House by its sponsor, Rep. Susan Lynn (R-Mt. Juliet), who said that the bill needed to be tweaked before being reintroduced at a later session. At the time of publication, there is yet no indication that last year’s bill will be reintroduced.
Vanderbilt recently established a research collaboration with the Italian State Police to improve current scientific techniques for ballistics analysis and other aspects of forensic science. Vanderbilt’s Dr. Thomas Kephart and Dr. Anthony Hmelo, who are research professors in the areas of physics and engineering, partnered with the Italian State Police director of forensic investigation Pasquale Iafelice.
Kephart first met Iafelice in 2007 when Iafelice was working on his PhD at Vanderbilt. The two reconnected in 2015, when Iafelice visited the university and began talking about forensics work and ballistics analysis.
“We just struck up this conversation and I asked why they use this old optical stuff and then we started talking” Kephart said.
The methods for ballistics analysis – or tracing bullets found at a crime scene back to a particular gun – have changed little since the 1920’s.
Currently, forensic departments use simple optical microscopes to match bullets to the gun that fired them, but the accuracy of this technique has been questioned. A 2009 National Research Council review questioned the validity of the science of ballistics, and stated that it’s validity hadn’t been fully demonstrated.
Kephart and Iafelice had ideas about how people could improve current ballistics techniques and began working quickly thereafter.
“What we’re doing is using scanning electron microscopes and we’ve found some new techniques that are very promising; that’s what we’re pursuing. It’s taking it down to the nano level,” Kephart said.
Iafelice has a team in Rome that fires bullets into chambers, collects the bullets and brings them to Vanderbilt for analysis. At Vanderbilt, researchers look at the bullets on a nanoscale using high powered equipment to better identify the weapons that fired them. The team only consists of two professors for now, but Kephart hopes to expand the Vanderbilt involvement.
“There’s a lot more to forensics than just weapons investigation,” Kephart said. “There’s DNA, so we can reach out to the med school. These all have implications with the law so we can hopefully connect with the law school. There’s some engineering involved, so we could potentially – this could potentially lead to a number of departments getting involved.”
Kephart hopes that the partnership will lead to breakthroughs in forensic analysis and allow police departments to use innovative methods to more efficiently solve crimes committed with firearms.
“What we want to do is provide information for court cases where the right people get convicted and the wrong people don’t,” Kephart said. “You don’t want mistakes in this because lives depend on it, so if we can make any improvement at all in [forensic science], we’ll be happy.”
On Jan. 15, Vanderbilt’s Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action, and Disability Services office will open three new offices and officially begin its redesign aimed at increasing its effectiveness. The EAD is tasked with monitoring the university’s compliance with equal opportunity and affirmative action laws, providing religious and disabilities accommodations, investigating discrimination and harassment complaints and provide training in areas related to discrimination, harassment, disabilities, diversity and sexual misconduct.
Under the new structure, the office will be split into three, more specific offices: the Equal Employment Opportunity Office, the Student Access Services Office and the Title IX Office. All three offices will report to Vice Chancellor for Administration Eric Kopstain. Prior to the redesign, the services provided by these offices were all overseen by the singular EAD office.
The development of the redesign began last year with a “stakeholder engagement process,” which entails interviewing students, faculty and staff to determine the exact needs of the university.
“This new approach stems from a process begun months ago, and through listening to stakeholders and looking at peers, we have determined that Vanderbilt needs separate, dedicated offices to enhance our ability to provide timely, comprehensive and professional support services,” Kopstain said in a MyVU press release.
As stated in the press release, the equal employment opportunity focus will be on nondiscrimination and anti-harassment, faculty and staff accommodations and an affirmative action program in accordance with Vanderbilt’s requirements as a federal contractor. These specialized services will be overseen by former EAD director Anita Jenious in the Equal Employment Opportunity Office.
The Title IX office, which will focus on gender equity and sexual misconduct, will be overseen by Molly Zlock, who formerly served as Vanderbilt’s Title IX compliance manager and will now serve as director of the office and as the Title IX coordinator.
Tiffany Taylor, former Disability Services Program Director, will serve as the interim director of Student Access Services, which manages disability and academic accommodations.
The changes came about due to increased demand for equal opportunity, disability and Title IX services over the last few years, according to a university press release. Kopstain said in the release that the aim of the redesign is to increase the university’s ability to provide services to students in a more comprehensive and timely fashion.
Last week, the Vanderbilt Political Review published the third part in a series investigating how Vanderbilt handles power-based personal violence, which looks into various student opinions of the EAD and Title IX offices. The article called for increased accountability of the EAD office and widespread changes to address student needs and improve the experience of those who choose to go through with the reporting process.
The new offices and websites will open on Jan. 15.
Peabody College recently received a $16,000 grant from the state of Tennessee in order to fund the development of a teacher residency program in partnership with Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS). Comparative to a medical school residency, this new program for master’s students will allow participants the opportunity to gain clinical experience in MNPS alongside experienced educators before becoming fully licensed teachers. The first cohort of teaching residents will begin in the fall of 2018, and the Tennessee Department of Education will provide funding to support the program for the next two years.
Barbara Stengel, the associate chair for teacher education in the department of teaching and learning and a Peabody professor, said the residency program will strike a balance between competing visions of teacher education. On one hand, traditional teacher education is curriculum-he
avy. Students in these programs have more time for reflection and research, but less time for learning through teaching. On the other hand, some programs require minimal, if any, coursework and rely solely upon learning through teaching, resulting in a weaker conceptual framework upon which to rely.
“We are trying to find a way that provides the time to develop, to think about research and theory, and time to work with more than one teacher, but also to understand school life from the beginning of the school year all the way to the end,” Stengel said. “Our answer has been residencies.”
According to Stengel, the residency program benefits master’s candidates in three specific ways. First, the master’s students will obtain a full time job with a salary in MNPS. Second, students work as part of a teaching team. Third, teacher leadership will be emphasized as an essential component of the program.
The school is continuing to apply for grant funding through the Tennessee Teacher Residency grant program, through which up to $1 million may be awarded to support the full development and implementation of the program. While other institutions for teacher education do provide teacher residency programs, Stengel emphasizes that the collaborative nature of Peabody’s program sets it apart.
“In our grant, we are going to propose not just money for the residents, but also money for stipends for the leaders of the teams,” Stengel said. “That’s what’s different about our efforts. It builds on coursework that’s already in place and it takes advantage of teaming and teacher leadership. That’s not happening in the other teacher residency programs, and that’s really important.”
One means of collaboration that the program focuses on is teaching in teams. Teacher teams, whether across grade level or specific subjects, allow teachers to develop a network of support for one another. Thus teachers can fill in gaps, ensure students are not left behind and compare progress and performance across different subjects. The addition of residents increases the number of teachers available to provide interventions with students in need.
I want to teach our students to collaborate from the get go
Teacher teamwork not only benefits the students; it also helps the teachers themselves. Teacher teams promote respect for autonomy, allowing teachers themselves to make decisions concerning issues such as integrated curriculum and differential grouping, without orders from higher authorities.
“Teachers are smart people, so create a structure where you’re giving them the opportunity to make decisions,” Stengel said. “Put residents in places where they can imagine this way of working as a teacher. If they do that, when they go to other places, they’ll demand that; they’ll ask for that, and that will change the system.”
Stengel said the teacher residency program is a modest program with a large goal, seeking to engage students from all directions through the formation of thick partnerships, not only between teachers but also between teachers and those in social services, such as counselors. She said this interdepartmental network of support is especially critical in schools with disadvantaged children who suffer from trauma and adverse childhood experiences.
“I am convinced that urban teaching is a team sport, and not enough people view it as such,” Stengel said. “I want to teach our students to collaborate from the get go.”