Three thoughts: Lee, LaChance power Commodores past LSU

The Vanderbilt Commodores finished on the right side of a thrilling finish at home, picking up a much-needed victory over the LSU Tigers 77-71 after four straight losses.

With Matthew Fisher-Davis out again with a right shoulder injury suffered against Kentucky, Riley LaChance picked up most of the scoring load, and Payton Willis ate some of the minutes on the court left behind by Fisher-Davis’ 11.9 points and 27.7 minutes per game, per Basketball Reference.

On Fisher-Davis’ injury and the possibility of season-ending surgery, Coach Drew responded that the team is still waiting on an update.

“When we talk to the doctor we’ll get more information,” he said. “I’m not good on shoulders, I can’t really talk about what the doctor’s going to recommend for him.”

Here are three thoughts from Saturday’s win.

Riley LaChance puts on a Dazzling Display

LaChance needed a bounce-back game after back-to-back poor performances, as he put up just five points against Mississippi State and six points against Kentucky. It was clear early on that today’s game would be different, as 12 minutes into the game, he had already poured in 11 points, showing off his sweet shooting stroke.

The senior sharpshooter finished with 26 points on 8 for 14 shooting, including 4 for 7 on three pointers. His makes came through a beautiful collection of twisting jumpers from deep and nifty runners off the backboard. He also made two clutch free throws, shooting 6 for 6 on free throws overall, a welcome sight after his misses down the stretch against Kentucky.

This season, LaChance has averaged 8.1 field goal attempts per game, per Basketball Reference, but today he attempted 14 field goals with Fisher-Davis out.

When asked if he should be more aggressive in taking shots, LaChance said he doesn’t think so.

“Just playing within the offense,” LaChance said. “[Today], I think I took a little bit more, and guys did a good job finding me and creating open shots for me.”

The Commodores will need him to continue to exhibit his senior leadership and play on the court. In games where LaChance does not provide a strong scoring performance, the Commodores have very little chance of picking up a win.

Continued Struggles Defending Bigs

Vanderbilt has had its struggles defending in the post this season, and today looked no different. Duop Reath of the LSU Tigers shot 13-20 for 31 points, many through the post.

Djery Baptiste was mainly responsible for Reath, with Clevon Brown and Ejike Obinna seeing a few possessions on him as well. Baptiste gave a strong and disciplined effort, absorbing Reath’s bumps, maintaining good positioning and staying out of foul trouble. He avoided picking up his first foul until there was 8:56 left in the game, and finishing with just three fouls.

However, his performance was not effective enough, as he was a major part of Reath scoring 18.6 points above his season average of 12.4, per Basketball Reference.

Drew provided a mixed review on Baptiste’s defense.

“He had three blocks,” he said. “I think that’s a positive. [He’ll] try to get a little better at contesting at the end of it, but his positioning was much better today. That next step will be after you’re in the right position, what can you do to help stop them from scoring.”

Until the Commodores find greater success defending big men, they will continue to cede an advantage in the matchup at the center position. Obinna and Brown have not proven to be consistent answers either, and doubling the post has seen mixed results.

Saben Lee’s Continued Growth

Commodore fans are well-acquainted with Saben Lee’s ability to pull off impressive dunks with his speed, handle, and athleticism. He delivered the exclamation points of today’s game in clutch time with a one-handed dunk in transition and an incredible runner off the backboard while being fouled.

Early on, after the third game of the season, a win over UNC Asheville, Drew already recognized Lee’s talent, but also his room for growth as a floor general.

“[Lee] does a lot of things out there you can’t teach,” Drew said after that win early in the season. “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.”

Not only did he take over today’s game down the stretch, but he also continued to demonstrate maturity in making better reads and creating offense for his teammates, as well as playing really strong defense.

He made multiple impressive passes, including a hook pass to the opposite wing for a LaChance three, an on-target look to a cutting Roberson for the easy layup, and one-handed bounce pass feeds to the post.

Lee is a highlight waiting to happen, but it is his progress in contributing to the flow of the offense through good decision-making that should encourage fans the most.

Drew highlighted his patience.

“He was really working on the defensive end,” he said. “I thought he did a tremendous job. I think he was really patient, a good sign of good maturity. When his time came, he definitely took advantage of it.”

He took over the game at the end, but there is one play he probably wants back. With the Commodores in possession of the ball, up four with less than 40 seconds left, he threw a cross-court pass that was nearly stolen.

Lee has opportunity for growth still, and that is exciting.

Vanderbilt snaps losing skid with 77-71 victory over LSU

In a welcomed change, the Vanderbilt Commodores defeated the LSU Tigers 77-71 thanks to some late-game heroics from Saben Lee and Riley LaChance.

LaChance led the Commodores with 26 points on 8 for 14 shooting. The bulk of those points came from long distance, as he was 4-7 from three-point range.

The Commodores never seemed to jump to a comfortable lead in the first half, with LSU hovering around. The score was 34-28, with Vanderbilt needing every bit of LaChance’s 13 points to maintain the lead.

However, the team was able to extend their lead in the beginning of the second half in large part due the lethal combination of Jeff Roberson and LaChance. The duo combined for 46 points.

At one point, Vanderbilt stretched its lead to 16 points, but LSU used a 8-0 run to narrow the gap to 56-54.

Duop Reath was the catalyst for the Tigers, converting tough looks in the post as well as drawing fouls on the offensive end. The Commodores didn’t have an answer for him. Reath was constantly winning in the post, leaving head coach Bryce Drew scrambling to find an answer. The combination of Djery Baptiste, Clevon Brown, and Ejike Obinna weren’t enough, as Reath had 31 points on 20 shots.

Both teams traded baskets for several minutes down the stretch. The Commodores then went 4:15 without a made field goal before LSU took their first lead of the game on a Reath bucket with 2:21 left in regulation. From there, it was a hotly contested back-and-forth affair, with Lee’s heroics rescuing the Commodores from an all-too-familiar position.

Lee came in clutch in the final minutes of the game with a signature dunk following a steal on the other end of the floor. That gave the Commodores a lead they would not relinquish with a minute left to play.

Shortly after, Lee converted a layup and drew a foul on LSU’s Reath. Lee roared with passion after that play, energizing the crowd and the bench.

Lee scored 10 of the team’s final 12 points to seal the game. Drew had effusive praise for the freshman from Phoenix, noting a “great pace and great calmness about him.”

While Lee’s offensive brilliance shined in the final two minutes of the game, it was his defensive hustle in the first half that Drew highlighted.

“He did a tremendous job on Tremont Waters,” he said. “His patience showed a lot of maturity. His deflection and dunk on the other end were huge for us.”

An underrated part of the game in the first half was Lee’s ability to distribute the ball for his teammates. He had four assists, leading all players in the first half. Those recipients were able to draw fouls or score easily as a result of Lee drawing the defense around him.

In the second half, he started taking more shots, and they were falling. By the end of the game, he had 12 points on 5 for 7 shooting.

This was a well-deserved and much-needed win for the Commodores. Drew was proud of his guys, calling it “great to see our hard work rewarded,” after being on the losing end of the previous 4 games.

It was also “a tremendous redemption story” for senior Riley LaChance, according to Drew. LaChance had some noted late-game struggles, including four missed free throws against Kentucky just a week ago. He put a lot of extra work in the gym working on free throws and his shooting technique. It paid off this game in the form of four made free throws in the last two minutes of the game.

The Commodores follow this game with a matchup against the 21st-ranked Tennessee Volunteers on January 23rd in Knoxville. Tip off is at 6:00 PM.

“Listen With Me” takes mental health awareness to social media

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.

The “Listen With Me” campaign raises awareness by promoting a social media video campaign on Friday, January 19, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett // The Vanderbilt Hustler)

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.

The “Listen With Me” campaign raises awareness with a demonstration outside of Rand on Friday, January 19, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett // The Vanderbilt Hustler)

Women’s March 2.0 to take place Sat., featuring conference in addition to public demonstration

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.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

Blessing Ejiofor making tough transition from Nigeria to Nashville

In any American high school gym, you could find kids as young as six years old playing recreational basketball on the weekends.

Most rec leagues have all the fix-ins, such as uniforms and referees and coaches.

However, that wasn’t the experience for Vanderbilt Freshman center Blessing Ejiofor. She had never played a real basketball game with an officiating crew until she was a freshman in high school in Ebonyi, Nigeria.

“Usually I would go to the basketball court and watch people play,” she told The Vanderbilt Hustler. “And when they would leave, I would shoot free throws.”

Before her first basketball game, that was the extent of freshman center Blessing Ejiofor’s basketball experience.

“Basketball is huge in Nigeria, but here in America, you have all the facilities you need,” she said.

She mentioned how many Nigerian NBA and WNBA players are coming back to the country to build basketball courts, which is a welcome change from five years ago, when most players did not even return home to give back to the community.

Two of Ejiofor’s role models are Chiney and Nneka Ogwumike, the Nigerian-American sisters who starred at Stanford before both were first overall picks in the WNBA draft. Both return to Nigeria almost every year to run basketball camps.

Although the basketball infrastructure in Nigeria has been improving, realized she could find greater opportunities elsewhere and moved to Paterson, New Jersey, for her sophomore year of high school.

She was initially supposed to attend a school in North Carolina, but was informed once she landed in the United States that there was no host family available to house her there.

“I was just excited to be in America,” Ejiofor said.

Adjusting to a new life in New Jersey was difficult. She called her mother daily, but still admitted that the transition was tough, as even minute cultural differences could sometimes cause friction.

Ejiofor said that in Nigeria, “when someone older is talking to you, you don’t look them straight in the eye.” However, she found that in the United States, that was considered to be a sign of disrespect.

She cited the higher quality education and vast opportunities in America as the reasons she worked through such differences and finished high school in Paterson.

When the time came to choose a university to continue her academic and athletic career, Ejiofor had many options. Duke, LSU, Syracuse, and Miami were among the 20th-ranked center’s many offers. Vanderbilt’s unmatched academics stood out to her and her father, and were a major factor in her signing with the Commodores.

“I always wanted to go to Vanderbilt even when I was back in Nigeria,” Ejiofor said. “I knew I was going to come here.”

Everything was looking up for Ejiofor, but an immigration snafu had other ideas.

In September 2016, she was forced to take a year-long leave of absence when her visa expired. Her visa needed to be renewed in Nigeria after every two years, but she was unable to go back and renew it in time.

Last year, she joined a gym and worked out four to five days a week to try to stay in shape in preparation for when she could rejoin the team.

“I wasn’t in great shape, but I wasn’t out of shape completely,” Ejiofor said.

Even though she couldn’t be with the team has head coach Stephanie White took over the program, she still felt like a Commodore already.

“They were really supportive,” she said of her teammates and coaches at Vanderbilt. “They did everything they could possibly do to get me back.”

Her coaches even wrote to the U.S. Embassy in an attempt to speed up the process of obtaining a new visa for her.

After a year of paperwork and waiting, Ejiofor was granted a visa to return to the United States, and she enrolled at Vanderbilt this year.

Being out of school for a year made the academic transition crazy and stressful according to Ejiofor. With the help of her academic counselor, assistant coach Carolyn Peck, and her teammates, she was able to handle the workload.

Like many Vanderbilt students, Blessing remarked that she had to learn how to study once she experienced the university’s rigorous academics.

On the court, Ejiofor has come off the bench in 15 games. Her 6’5” frame has been useful against taller SEC competition.

Coach White’s fast-paced style of play was the complete opposite of what Ejiofor had been accustomed to.

“Back home, they just wanted me to be in the paint,” she said. “But here [the coaches] try to make you go out of your comfort zone as a post player.”

Ejiofor is optimistic about this team, which she describes as resilient and passionate.

“We have a vision, and we are going to get there soon,” she said.

Vanderbilt keeps it close but falls to defending champs South Carolina

Vanderbilt fell to defending national champions and 10th-ranked South Carolina 95-82. 

The game likely would have been more one-sided if All-American forward A’ja Wilson was not sidelined with an ankle sprain. Wilson is the two-time defending SEC Player of the Year and a leader for South Carolina.

Vanderbilt’s starting lineup of Rachel Bell, Cierra Walker, Chelsie Hall, Christa Reed, and Autumn Newby had no match for the Gamecocks’ height early in the night. Only Newby is over six feet tall, while South Carolina started three players taller than that.

South Carolina jumped out to an early 7-0 lead after the game’s first two minutes thanks to their superior rebounding. The Gamecocks finished the night with 31 rebounds, including 25 on defense.

With six minutes left in the first quarter, Coach Stephanie White subsistuted Kayla Overbeck and Kaleigh Clemons-Green into the game. Shortly after, Erin Whalen entered the game. This taller lineup fared better against a physical South Carolina defense, and Vanderbilt ended the first quarter down by only four points.

South Carolina’s defense was ferocious all night. The Gamecocks seemed to always be in the faces of Vanderbilt’s players and rarely let a shot go uncontested.

Whalen and Reed found success against that defense, though. In the first half, Whalen finished with 15 points on 75% shooting, including a perfect 3-for-3 on three-point shots. Reed added another 14 points.

Notably absent from the scoring sheet early in the game were Bell and Walker, who combined for just five points through the first two quarters. Walker found other ways to contribute, grabbing five rebounds and tallying three assists in the first half.

After two quarters of play, Vanderbilt trailed South Carolina 48-40.

The crowd was passionate throughout the game. After every controversial foul call, the fans screamed, and after every basket, they cheered as if it was the game-winning bucket.

White stuck with a taller lineup in the third quarter, and Whalen and Overbeck led an aspiring comeback. Each scored six points in the third quarter.

Early in the quarter, Vanderbilt’s defense got sloppy and started to give up easy open shots to South Carolina, but the Commodores tightened up as their offense began closing the gap.

With two minutes left in the third quarter, Vanderbilt was down by only two points.

Going into the fourth quarter, South Carolina led Vanderbilt 73-60. South Carolina forward Alexis Jennings sank a buzzer-beating three-point shot to close the third quarter and take some momentum away from the Commodores.

Still, everything seemed set up for a Commodore comeback heading into the fourth quarter. Calls started going Vanderbilt’s way, and Cierra Walker made two three-pointers early in the final quarter.

But South Carolina showed why it was a top-10 team even without its best player.

They went on a 19-7 run that started when they lead 64-62 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter and concluded not long after Overbeck fouled out four minutes into the fourth quarter.

Whalen ended the night with a career-high 25 points.

“She’s had some really good practices and came out and was aggressive,” White said of Whalen.

Reed finished with 23 points, and Walker scored 13 points to lead the Commodores.

“Christa’s been really solid,” White said. “She does so many things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”

South Carolina’s leading scorers were Alexis Jennings with 27 points and LeLe Grissett who added 22 points. Both shot over 90% from the field and combined for 22 rebounds.

“They were absolutely unstoppable. They played like All-Americans,” White said of the duo.

One thing to note was that for the entirety of the game, White stood on the sideline coaching and encouraging her team, while South Carolina’s head coach Dawn Staley remained on the bench unless she was arguing a call to a referee. The Commodore bench replicated White’s passion by standing up and cheering after every basket. Their energy and intensity can make this team competitive against the mid-level SEC competition they will soon face.

Vanderbilt visits Alabama on Sunday at 2 PM.

Q&A with Jelani Cobb, University of Columbia professor and staff writer for the New Yorker

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.

Vanderbilt Hustler conducts interview of Jelani Cobb moments before he speaks to the audience at Langford Auditorium on January 17th, 2018. (Photo by Brent Szklaruk)

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?

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

SEC Power Rankings: Is the SEC the best conference in basketball?

This is no typical year in SEC basketball.  On the backs of an impressive showing in the NCAA Tournament as a last year, the Southeastern Conference is beginning to stake its claim for the top conference in college hoops.  Joe Lunardi of ESPN projects eight SEC teams in the tournament field this year, just one team behind the ACC for the most by a conference.  If you’re looking for a reason why, it’s the level of parity that is unprecedented.  While the SEC is usually a conference characterized by teams chasing the Kentucky Wildcats, the narrative has changed.  Every team but one is above .500, and every game feels ever-so important in trying to weed out the pretenders from the contenders.  Here are the Vanderbilt Hustler’s SEC power rankings just a few games into conference play:

  1. Florida

The Gators already had a very strong backcourt returning from an Elite Eight run a year ago, but it’s not Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen leading the way scoring the basketball.  That distinction goes to transfer guards Jalen Hudson and Egor Koulechov, who combine to average nearly 32 points per game for this electric Florida backcourt.  Mike White’s group took the top spot in our early season power rankings, and after a slight fall from grace in the form of a three-game losing skid, the Gators are back on top of the ranks with the best record in SEC play.  Behind one of the top all-around point guards in the nation in Chiozza, elite shooters, and center John Egbunu on his way back from injury, Florida could make a splash in San Antonio come April.

2. Tennessee

Make no mistake about it, the Tennessee Volunteers are for real.  Rick Barnes coaches a battle tested team that has faced off against Purdue, Villanova, North Carolina, and Kentucky this season, winning two of those four.  The last of which, a double-digit victory at home over Kentucky, solidified Tennessee’s standing as a legitimate top contender in the SEC.  The Volunteers are led by Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams, two forwards who are undersized in the height department, but more than make up for it with muscular frames that allow them to bully taller defenders.  Grant Williams proved that en route to 37 points against Vanderbilt just last week.  Those two are surrounded by shooters on the perimeter that give Tennessee the balanced attack necessary to win the conference title.

3. Kentucky

There are three certainties in life.  Death, taxes, and a Kentucky basketball team dominated by freshman.  John Calipari has not shied away from his ways, starting five freshman routinely for his team.  With that, however, comes growing pains, perhaps more than we’re used to seeing in Lexington.  Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox have played up to par, but have yet to break out into the players that usually shoulder the load and carry this team (i.e. De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray, etc.)  Freshman point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks like he might be ready to step into that role, but even if he does, don’t expect Kentucky to break away from the pack.   The Wildcats have proved to be mortal in the SEC this season, dropping conference games to Tennessee and South Carolina.

4. Auburn

Is there any team in the nation more surprising than the Auburn Tigers right now.  Bruce Pearl has turned a team that hasn’t been in the conversation for best team in the conference since 1999 into a legitimate contender.  Auburn lost just its second game of the season Wednesday night, snapping a 14-game win streak.  A high-flying offense that ranks 16th in the nation in scoring with just under 86 points per game, the Tigers look to junior guard Bryce Brown and freshman guard Mustapha Heron to push the tempo and score in bunches.  Perhaps the most impressive part of this surprise surge for Auburn is the fact that this team might not have even tapped into its ability to shoot the basketball at a high clip yet.  Brown shoots just 39.5% from the field, while Heron shoots 43%, including 28% from beyond the arc.  If Pearl’s two stars can really find their stroke, Auburn could become even more dangerous than it already is.

5. Texas A&M

The Aggies looked like one of the best teams in college basketball after an opening night destruction of West Virginia in Germany.  Now however, A&M is tied for the worst conference record, dropping its first five SEC games and falling out of the AP top 25 for the first time all season.  In order for Billy Kennedy to turn things around in College Station, he has to go back to the basics.  The Aggies sport arguably the best frontcourt in the country, with D.J. Hogg, Robert Williams, Tyler Davis, and Tony Trocha-Morelos giving this team NBA size with the talent to match.  With a win over Ole Miss on Tuesday night, Texas A&M will look to go back to the dominating brand of basketball that had this team looking like a powerhouse less than a month ago.

6. Arkansas

The Razorbacks have a rare combination that makes them scary to any opponent: A trio of senior guards that can all defend.  Jaylen Barford, Daryl Macon, and Anton Beard are SEC veterans at this point, and understand what it takes to win big games, and in particular, close games.  Arkansas’s comeback win against Tennessee proved that Mike Anderson’s guys play 100% until that final whistle.  Barford is the leader of the group, and likely an All-SEC first-team selection at the end of this season with his proficiency at both ends of the floor.  The one caveat for the Razorbacks is that they have yet to win a true road game all season.  This is a team that thrives off the crowd in the Bud Walton Arena, and unless the SEC and NCAA Tournaments are going to move all their games to Fayetteville, something has to change.

7. Alabama

While Tua Tagovailoa might be the hottest name in Alabama athletics right now, Collin Sexton isn’t far behind.  The 6’3 freshman point guard out of Mableton, Georgia is averaging upwards of 19 points per game and is in full control of coach Avery Johnson’s offense.  Sexton is a lottery pick waiting to happen, as evident by his 40-point performance against Minnesota in a wacky 3-on-5 game that almost completed an epic comeback.  While Sexton has made this team go all season, the Tide has showed in likely its most important game thus far that it’s not just a one-man show.  With Sexton sidelined, Alabama pulled off the upset against Auburn, ending the Tigers’ win streak.  With Braxton Key working his way back into the lineup and John Petty starting to become a force offensively, Alabama is proving that this is a well-rounded team that deserves a place in the field come March.

8. Missouri

This is about where people thought Missouri would sit just over halfway through the season.  13-5 with a 3-2 conference record seemed feasible with the addition of Michael Porter Jr., the second-ranked freshman in the class with NBA star written all over him.  However, when Porter Jr. went down just a couple minutes into the team’s season opener against Iowa State with a back injury, all those lofty expectations went out the window, deeming the season a lost cause.  Instead, the Tigers haven’t broken stride, winning ten of their first twelve games without Porter Jr.  This looks to be the best team Missouri has had since the days of Marcus Denmon and the Pressey brothers, and Cuonzo Martin will look to continue silencing the doubters.

9. Georgia

Everything discussion about Georgia basketball starts and ends with Yante Maten.  The 6’8 senior has established himself as one of the best big men in the nation, and he is the primary reason why the Bulldogs sit at 12-5 heading into the thick of conference play.  Maten sets the tone on both ends of the floor with his 19.7 and 9.1 line that will no doubt earn him a first-team nod.  Georgia wins games by controlling the pace of play, making teams play a halfcourt game that favors a very deliberate Bulldog offense.  With Maten in the middle, Georgia ranks 18th in the country in rebounds per game and 28th in points allowed.  The Bulldogs likely aren’t good enough to compete for an SEC title without help for Maten, but if William Jackson or Juwan Parker can shoulder a little more of the load, Georgia has a real shot to surprise people and sneak into the dance.

10. LSU

It’s funny how basketball works out in Baton Rouge.  First the Tigers make the tournament as a nine seed, then they land the top player in the nation in Ben Simmons and miss out on the tournament.  Then they fall to the very bottom of the SEC in 2017, and now this team is 11-6 and knocking on the door for a tournament bid.  LSU may be tenth in our power rankings, but Will Wade has done a tremendous job with this program in his first year as head coach.  The Tigers have quality wins over Michigan and Texas A&M, and are in every game, losing to Kentucky by just three points.  Tiger fans can thank Tremont Waters for their success.  The freshman point guard is a very skinny 5’11, but he possesses the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, making him a one-man highlight reel.  Among these jaw-dropping shots is a 30-footer with under a second to play against Texas A&M to give LSU an enormous victory.

11. Mississippi State

The Bulldogs are 14-4 on the season, coming off an 18-point home win against Vanderbilt.  So how come this team couldn’t crack our top ten?  Probably for the same reason that they aren’t in the projected tournament field despite a strong record.  Mississppi State just hasn’t played anybody.  In the Bulldogs’ 13 non-conference games, they played zero power five teams, and just one top 25 team, 25th ranked Cincinnati, who beat them by 15 points.  A 1-3 start to conference play didn’t help quell the critiques.  Ben Howland’s bunch did just come off a big home win, however, and led by junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, the Bulldogs will look to knock off a few tough conference foes to throw their hat in the ring.

12. South Carolina

South Carolina is another team with a quality record, but an incredibly weak non-conference schedule.  The Gamecocks lost their only non-conference game against an RPI Top 50 team, a 64-48 loss to Clemson.  Frank Martin has faced a tall task trying to live up to the surprise Final Four season a year ago, especially after losing his top four guards from last year to the NBA, graduation, and suspension.  Still, South Carolina was able to pull off an impressive home win over the Kentucky Wildcats on Tuesday, highlighted by 27 points from Chris Silva.  The win was the epitome of the parity of the conference this season.  The 12th ranked team in our power rankings was able to knock off the 3rd ranked team by eight points.  Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, one quality win isn’t enough to vault this team into contention.

13. Ole Miss

Mississippi has seen all too well what happens when a team loses its best player two years in a row.  The departure of Stefan Moody in 2016 turned a tournament team into an SEC cellar-dweller, and the departure of Sebastian Saiz last season hasn’t helped.  Having said that, Ole Miss still sports a 10-8 record and a signature victory over our top-ranked Florida Gators.  If that’s not enough, the Rebels have the best names in the conference locked up.  Just ask Marcanvis Hymon, Justas Furmanavicius, Dominik Olejniczak, Illya Tyrtyshnik, and Breein Tyree, all featured on the team’s 14-man roster.

14. Vanderbilt

Oh how the mighty have fallen.  After two straight tournament appearances, and an impressive run in conference play last season that featured three wins against the Florida Gators, Vanderbilt now finds itself in last place in the SEC.  The loss of Luke Kornet appears to be too much of a burden to bury, as the Commodores find themselves sitting at 6-12, on the outside looking in to any form of a postseason berth.  If Commodore fans have anything to hold their hat on, however, it’s the possibility of a complete turnaround next season, as top-ranked recruits Simi Shittu, Darius Garland, and potentially Romeo Langford will don black and gold and attempt to rejuvenate this program.

Students able to access New York Times with free subscription through the university

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, 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.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

VSG talks first semester platform progress, end-of-year goals

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.  

Executive BranchCabinetCommiteesSenate

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.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

PHOTOS OF THE WEEK: Basketball, sorority recruitment, snow & more

Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball loses to Tennessee 92-84 January 9, 2018 at Memorial Gym. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
The Vanderbilt Commodores fall to the University of Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, January 13th, 2018. (Photo by Brent Szklaruk)
The Vanderbilt Commodores fall to the University of Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, January 13th, 2018. (Photo by Brent Szklaruk)
Saben Lee takes a shot while falling during the game on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball loses to Tennessee 92-84 January 9, 2018 at Memorial Gym. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball loses to Tennessee 92-84 January 9, 2018 at Memorial Gym. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Vanderbilt women participate in Formal Sorority Recruitment on Sunday, January 14, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Saben Lee drives to the basket during the game on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. (Photo by Hunter Long)
Snow day on the Vanderbilt campus as Nashville is hit with snow and ice on January 12, 2018. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
The Vanderbilt Mens Basketball Team plays the University of Tennessee in Memorial Gym on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow day on the Vanderbilt campus as Nashville is hit with snow and ice on January 12, 2018. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball loses to Tennessee 92-84 January 9, 2018 at Memorial Gym. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Vanderbilt Off-Broadway presents Green Day’s “American Idiot” in Blair’s Ingram Hall from Thursday, January 11 through Saturday January 13, 2018 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball loses 74-67 to Kentucky January 13, 2018 at Memorial Gym. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
The Vanderbilt Commodores fall to the University of Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, January 13th, 2018. (Photo by Brent Szklaruk)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
The Vanderbilt Mens Basketball Team plays the University of Tennessee in Memorial Gym on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Vanderbilt cancels classes on Friday, January 12, 2018 due to inclement weather (Photo by Emily Goncalves).
Vanderbilt Off-Broadway presents Green Day’s “American Idiot” in Blair’s Ingram Hall from Thursday, January 11 through Saturday January 13, 2018 (Photo by Madison Lindeman).
Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball loses to Tennessee 92-84 January 9, 2018 at Memorial Gym. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Vanderbilt Off-Broadway presents Green Day’s “American Idiot” in Blair’s Ingram Hall from Thursday, January 11 through Saturday January 13, 2018 (Photo by Emily Goncalves).
Vanderbilt women participate in Formal Sorority Recruitment on Saturday, January 13, 2018. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

Photos by Claire Barnett, Emily Goncalves, Madison Lindeman, Ziyi Liu, Hunter Long and Brent Szklaruk // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Commodores back LaChance after crunch-time misses in loss to Kentucky


When senior guard Riley LaChance, an 89% free-throw shooter entering the game, stepped to the charity strike with 29 seconds remaining in the second half and the Commodores trailing by four points, those were the odds he’d miss all three of his free throws.


Inexplicably, those odds proved to be in Kentucky’s favor, as LaChance proceeded to miss all three of his attempts.

Those misses proved to be the final nail in Vanderbilt’s coffin, as Kentucky finished off the Commodores by a final score of 74-67.

Combined with a free-throw miss earlier in the half on the front end of a one-and-one, LaChance was 0-4 from the line in the game. However, according to senior Jeff Roberson, that’s not the stat line that shows who Riley LaChance really is.

“We talked about it as a team after it,” he said. “Coach Drew especially made it clear that those free throws don’t define him. We’d rather have him on the line than anybody else. We trust him regardless. He’s going to shoot, he’s going to keep shooting and he’s going to make them. It doesn’t define him, he going to keep his head up and not lose confidence because he is a great player.”

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

LaChance was visibly upset with himself afterwards. Normally a sharpshooter, he missed all of his free-throw attempts and three-point attempts in this game, scoring just six points.

Even for a seasoned veteran like LaChance, that kind of game can take a toll on confidence. It’s the mark of a true athlete to be able to put something like that behind you.

Head coach Bryce Drew expects nothing more than that from LaChance going forward.

“He really doesn’t have a choice,” Drew said. “If you want to be a basketball player, you’ve got to have confidence. We talked about it in there, missing these three free throws doesn’t define you. You need to come back and get in the gym and we’re going to work tomorrow and we’re going to get better.”

“That’s the only choice he has. If he chooses a different path, it won’t be the choice that our program is going. He’s only going to have one choice in our program which way to go with his confidence.”

LaChance’s misses at the line did not cost the Commodores a lead or the game, however, as Kentucky was one step ahead of the Commodores the whole way through. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was a thorn in Vanderbilt’s side throughout the afternoon, putting up 22 points and adding six assists. Jeff Roberson led the way for the Commodores with 20 points.

Vanderbilt did pretty much everything right defensively for most of the first half. They had four steals in the first half and picked up 11 defensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes. If it weren’t for a few less-than-stellar foul calls and some breakdowns in the final minutes of the half, the Commodores could have held the Wildcats to less than 30 points in the half.

Kentucky players found themselves double-teamed every time they got the ball in the post. Drew said that was a game plan development that they beat to death in practice.

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

On the offensive side, it was a different story. After a great three-point shooting performance against Tennessee earlier in the week, Vanderbilt was 1 for 11 from long-range in the first half. They kept themselves alive and within a few points for most of the first half thanks to seven offensive rebounds.

Roberson said the team severely underperformed from long range in the first half.

“Their zone is pretty long, but I think we still had very good shots that we just didn’t knock down that we’re more than capable of,” he said. “We got a few more to fall in the second half, but it was just a matter of being ready to shoot. A couple of guys passed up some shots.”

Freshman phenom Saben Lee struggled with Kentucky’s sheer size on defense, getting stuffed at the rim on multiple occasions. However, he did get free for a highlight-reel alley-oop. Lee finished the first half with two points, two rebounds and an assist. He picked up his play in the second half to finish with 12 points and three assists.

Djery Baptiste made the all-hustle team in the first half. Despite some offensive blunders, his effort did not go unnoticed. Midway through the first frame, he missed an easy layup, but quickly made up for it with a block and an offensive board on the ensuing possession. Baptiste did pick up a pair of fouls, but still managed two blocks, two boards and two points in the first half.

Vanderbilt kept the score within six points for most of the half, but went the last 4:25 of the first half without a field goal and the last 2:50 without a point. A P.J. Washington free-throw and Sacha Killeya-Jones put-back layup in the dying second of the half brought Kentucky’s advantage to 36-27 at the half.

The second half started out as the polar opposite of the first half. Vanderbilt started hitting their shots, but looked as if they lost a step on defense. Kentucky had an easier time getting penetration in the paint and Gilgeous-Alexander started getting hot. A Payton Willis corner three-pointer got the Commodores within two points, but a quick bucket by Gilgeous-Alexander and a steal-and-score by Kevin Knox took the Wildcats’ advantage back up to six points at the under-12 minute timeout.

Photo by Ziyi Liu.

Drew said his defensive gameplan didn’t change in the second half to let Kentucky get more tough buckets.

“I think in the first half they just scored once on our double-teams and in the second half they got more just flat-out driving the ball,” he said. “I want to say over half of their baskets were non-assist baskets, so that’s just one-on-one driving it at us.”

Willis gave Vanderbilt its first lead of the half with a layup with 7:58 to go, but Kentucky quickly responded with a Washington dunk. Kentucky was clinging to a one-point advantage at the 6:19 mark.

Vanderbilt struggled to hit shots as the game approached the three-minute mark. A Knox and-one and follow-up layup put Kentucky ahead 64-59 with three minutes to play. Even after a Roberson up-and-under layup, a Hamidou Diallo corner three-pointer essentially clinched it for Kentucky.

The Commodores wouldn’t go down quietly, though. LaChance hit a layup and followed up a steal by getting fouled on a three-point attempt. However, his three rare misses from the line sealed Vanderbilt’s fate.

This was Vanderbilt’s seventh loss this season by ten points or less. That fact was not lost on Roberson, who is ready to start winning some tight ball games.

“We do have confidence,” he said. “We’re in every game, we’ve just got to find a way to break through and win these games. Being close is not good enough. It’s old. Everybody’s sick of it. We’ve got to win.”

Vanderbilt will hit the floor again on Tuesday when they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville.

IN PHOTOS: Snow & ice blanket Vanderbilt

Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Ziyi Liu)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)
Vanderbilt cancels classes on Friday, January 12, 2018 due to inclement weather (Photo by Emily Goncalves).
Snow and ice cover Vanderbilt’s campus on Friday, January 12, 2018, one day after 65-degree weather. Classes were canceled, creating a four-day weekend for students. (Photo by Claire Barnett)

Photos by Claire Barnett, Emily Goncalves & Ziyi Liu // The Vanderbilt Hustler

Three Thoughts: Vanderbilt still winless in SEC play after loss to Mizzou

The Vanderbilt Commodores fell to No. 12 Missouri Tigers 81-70, dropping their SEC record to 0-4. It’s just the second time since the 1988-89 season that Vanderbilt has started SEC play 0-4 or worse.

Here are three thoughts from the latest Vanderblit defeat:

Saved by the Bell

Rachel Bell, who recently celebrated her 1,000th career point, once again had a solid game. The senior Bell supported the team with nine points in just 16 minutes of time on the floor. Cierra Walker made a solid contribution on both sides of the court, leading the team with 17 points and adding three assists and a steal. Walker was hot from long-range, going four for five on the night.

She hit a corner three-pointer and-one play in the first half that snapped the Commodores’ cold streak in the first quarter. She also hit a three-point shot in the final minutes of the game.

Shooters Gotta Shoot

In basketball, you need to make your shots if you want to have any shot at winning.

Vanderbilt did not do this well on Thursday.

Chelsie Hall and Erin Whalen went 0 for 3 from the field in the first quarter, and Kayla Overbeck missed an open layup to finish the second half. Even in the paint, the Commodores struggled as Missouri pulled ahead in the second half.  The Commodores did well shooting from the perimeter in their thriller against Tennessee, but they were not able to create the same opportunities for themselves against Mizzou because of frequent turnovers, including four in the first half.

Head Coach Stephanie White said that Vanderbilt failed to capitalize on some of the momentum that built up on certain runs and that the team “kept looking too far ahead in the future” when it came to creating plays on offense.

Anchor Down, but D-Up

Missouri is highly-ranked, but Vanderbilt could have still done a better job limiting their scoring chances.

Vanderbilt allowed 25 points in the first quarter, 22 in the second, and 24 in the third, and just nine points in the final quarter. Granted, Mizzou pulled many of their starters in the final frame. Nevertheless, Vanderbilt’s defense incrementally improved over the course of the game and showed some promise for future games with rebounding. They grabbed a total of 30 rebounds throughout the game, including 10 offensive boards.

Vanderbilt has another opportunity to earn their first SEC win of the season on Monday when they take on Kentucky at 6:00 PM central time.

Vanderbilt falls to 0-4 in SEC play with loss to Missouri

Vanderbilt fell to 12th-ranked Missouri 81-70 at home to begin SEC play 0-4.

This is just the second time since the 1988-1989 season that the Commodores have gone 0-4 or worse to start conference play. Last year, the squad went 0-7 to start the SEC slate.

For the seventh game in a row, the team allowed at least 80 points. Defense has been lacking all year, and this game was no exception. Missouri saw may open looks throughout the game.

Coach Stephanie White went small with her lineup tonight. Four guards: Rachel Bell, Cierra Walker, Chelsie Hall, and Christa Reed started with forward Autumn Newby.

The Commodores started slow against Missouri. The Tigers led by as many as 12 points in the first quarter.

Vanderbilt was plagued by foul trouble early. Standout freshman Newby picked up two fouls in the game’s first six minutes and spent much of the rest of the half on the bench.

After that, White shifted to a taller lineup with Kayla Overbeck and Erin Whalen.

Even after the shift, no one could stop Missouri guards Amber Smith and Jordan Chavis, who combined for 31 points in the first half.

Both sides had trouble maintaining possession. In the first half, Missouri committed 11 turnovers and Vanderbilt gave the ball away seven times.

Vanderbilt began the second half down 48-37.

About halfway through the third quarter, Overbeck picked up her third foul of the night and was subbed out for Blessing Ejiofor to preserve a taller lineup.

Missouri’s Sophie Cunningham, who was named to the All-American Honorable Mention team last year, was held scoreless for the game’s first 30 minutes before sinking a three-pointer. Cunningham came into Memorial Gym averaging 18.8 points per game, but was held to just five points.

The Commodores were outscored 24-10 in the third, as Missouri continued to pull away, aided by Jordan Frerick’s eight points.

Player of the Game Cierra Walker continued her recent hot streak by going 4-5 from three-point range and scoring a total of 17 points.

“She’s just really solid and she’s shooting the ball really well,” White said of Walker.

Erin Whalen added 15 points and Kayla Overbeck tacked on another 12 in her return from a concussion.

White praised Overbeck’s effort and said, “she was very efficient” when she entered the game. Overbeck went shot 100% on her four attempts.

Vanderbilt faces Kentucky next on Monday, January 15th at Memorial Gym at 6 PM.

Second-half struggles continuing to bite Commodores

When the ball left Riley LaChance’s hands in the closing seconds of the first half of Tuesday night’s game against Tennessee, three sounds ensued.

The first was the screaming sound of the buzzer ringing throughout the arena.  The second was the swishing sound of the ball delicately descending through the net.  The third was the sound of the Vanderbilt contingent, as loud as it has been all year, yelling and cheering in unison.  The sense of “Memorial Magic” that had somehow eluded this team since a victory over Kentucky two years ago seemed to be back, and Vanderbilt was feeding off of it in the first half.

And just as quickly as it was there, it was gone.  What looked to be a team playing its most perfect brand of basketball, to the tune of 45 first half points, looked like a shell of itself in the second period.  The parading sound of the crowd became silent, and the Commodores watched the Volunteers drop 57 second-half points to earn a 92-84 victory.

The look on the faces of Saban Lee and Jeff Roberson in the postgame presser said it all.  They didn’t tell the story of a team experiencing a second-half collapse for the first time.  They told the story of a team that was sick and tired of not being able to get the job done during crunch time.

It’s hard to blame them.  Lee looked like Kyrie Irving in the second half with the way he was able to get to the basket at will.  Unfortunately, he looked like pre-LeBron Kyrie Irving, trying to pull the rest of the team behind him, fighting to earn a victory that was slowly slipping away.  Roberson, for his part, knows that role all too well.

The dilemma for Bryce Drew and his team is a serious one, and it’s not a newfound one either.  For the past calendar year, the Commodores have struggled mightily down the stretch in games, constantly giving up leads at alarming rates.

The first glimpse of this came on January 24th, 2017, in a home matchup versus Arkansas.  The Commodores were on the verge of reaching .500 for the first time in conference play, up by 15 with just six minutes to go.  With four minutes to go, the now ten-point lead still seemed sufficient, and with just 50 seconds to play, a six-point margin seemed just good enough.  Suffice it to say, none of those leads held, and the Commodore faithful watched Arkansas steal a crucial game in Memorial Gym.

The weeks that followed were largely positive for Vanderbilt, telling the story of a team slowly inching its way toward a tournament bid.  The setbacks, though, while not disastrous in the grand scheme of things, continued the narrative from the Arkansas debacle.  Vanderbilt watched a close first-half game turn into a blowout at the hands of Missouri, a six-point halftime lead flip to a six-point defeat against Kentucky, and a neck-and-neck rematch against Arkansas in the SEC Tournament turn into a rout that that at one point reached a 27-point deficit.  That was all topped off with questionable decision-making in the final seconds against Northwestern in the NCAA tournament.

For Vanderbilt fans, however, none of that mattered much.  The ends seemed to justify the means.  A tournament berth in Bryce Drew’s first year was an improvement over the previous season’s campaign, and with a successful season like that, it didn’t matter how they got there.  Sure, there were a few bumps in the road, but there was hope for the future.

Now, however, the near future has arrived, and those late game demons are still rearing their heads.  This time, Vanderbilt doesn’t have a winning record, or a prospective tournament bid to fall back on.  A 6-10 record halfway through the year has the Commodores on the outside looking in, not just for the NCAA Tournament, but for any postseason berth at all.

The Commodores have had their chances all year.  In the team’s first real test against USC at home, Vanderbilt was able to handle the tenth ranked Trojans all game, jumping out to an early lead in the first half and holding on until the final moments.  Poor defensive play on the block, however, allowed USC to continue to score in the paint, and Trojans’ forward Chimezie Metu dominated overtime to get the win.

The next out-of-conference home test came against Kansas State, and once again, the Commodores found themselves in the heat of a close game in the final minutes.  Again, though, Vanderbilt struggled to defend in the paint, giving the Wildcats easy points in the form of layups and free throws.  Kansas State scored on every possession in the final four minutes to close it out.  Middle Tennessee State had no trouble replicating these past two low-post performances down the stretch in its road win against the Commodores.

A one-point deficit at halftime turned into a double-digit loss to Arizona State, as did a one-point lead against Seton Hall and a two-point halftime lead against South Carolina.  Even in a win over Alabama, Vanderbilt watched a nine-point lead with a minute and a half to play shrink to just one by the time the final buzzer sounded.  Tuesday night’s loss to Tennessee was just the latest chapter in a string of sloppy endings.

With the season outlook flipped, do the ends still justify the means?  A lot of people already believe they do, viewing this Vanderbilt unit as incapable of competing in the SEC, existing only to boost the conference GPA.  The truth, however, is that Vanderbilt is right there.  Drew’s team has shown for the bulk of many games, often times for 35 minutes or more, that it can hang with whoever is across the court.  LaChance, Roberson, and Matthew Fisher-Davis have made a career proving that they can win in this program.  Lee is already looking like a star as well.  The personnel have the potential, but the execution isn’t there.

The common thread in all these late game losses is not hard to spot.  Grant Williams might as well have circled it with a yellow highlighter when he put up 37 points, 20 of them coming in the second half.  All of his second half field goals came in the paint, and all five of them came from within three feet of the basket.

Williams also shot 13/15 from the line, with 10 of those 13 coming in the second half.  Frankly, he was getting every shot he wanted.  He was spinning baseline for layups, getting Vanderbilt’s bigs to jump on ball fakes, and simply turning and dropping the ball in the basket.  When he couldn’t convert, he would go to the line for two more points.  It was the same failure to defend in the post that had plagued Vanderbilt throughout the late game struggles of the past year.

On that January 24th day, the Razorbacks’ comeback was largely due to the 16 free throws they shot over those final six minutes.  They made 15 of them.

The bottom line is that late in games, teams are going to try their hardest to get high-percentage looks, and for most teams, those looks are going to come from the paint or from the free throw line.  That’s the point where the defense is supposed to tighten the screws, to contest shots, to force lower-percentage looks, and to avoid giving up free points from the line.  Vanderbilt has failed to tighten the screws over and over again.  Just ask Williams, Metu, Nick King, Desi Rodriguez, and numerous other bigs who have tortured the Commodores this season.

On Tuesday night, Rick Perry knew that his two jobs for the second half were to pound the ball in the paint and to defend the perimeter.  Bryce Drew’s job was to prevent his team from getting bullied down low.  One of those two coaches did his job, and that’s why Perry’s team won the game.  It’s why Vanderbilt hasn’t been able to prevail in the second half of games for a while now.  The Commodores aren’t adjusting to stopping easy buckets in the second half, and particularly late in games.

After a loss to Seton Hall earlier this season, NCAA’s Andy Katz asked Bryce Drew how far away his team is from a breakthrough win.  Drew answered by saying he thinks his team is right there.  He’s right.  His team is very close.

But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

And for Vanderbilt, the time is ticking.

Saben Lee provides a spark, Fisher-Davis rolling off the bench for Vanderbilt

When there’s a lull in the game and you need a spark, who you gonna call?

For the Vanderbilt Commodores, it’s Saben Lee.

The electrifying freshman has been making some sensational plays throughout the year, including his posterizing dunk on Tuesday night against Tennessee.

It’s those plays that give the Commodores a boost when things are getting sluggish.

“Yeah, I think it energizes all of us,” Riley LaChance said on Thursday. “It energizes the fans in the building. He’s done that a couple of times this season. He makes some spectacular plays for us that definitely get us going.”

With a showdown against Kentucky looming on Saturday, LaChance says the Commodores will need as many high-energy moments as possible.

“Yeah, I think from him or from anybody else,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be a dunk or anything, it could be diving on the floor for a loose ball or defensive play. We just have to continue to play hard and play aggressive.”

It hasn’t just been Lee’s electrifying, high-flying plays that have been impressive. His overall skill set has improved. For example, he is making more three-pointers than he used to, which has been a huge boost.

Head coach Bryce Drew has been happy with how Lee has developed throughout the season.

“Saben’s been really good for the last couple of weeks,” Drew said. “He’s really elevated his game, he’s making good decisions and we need that from him. If he can have a real dynamic play like that, hopefully the crowd gets into it and helps our other players play with more energy.”

That dynamic play has given Lee a chance to be a regular in the starting lineup. Meanwhile, senior Matthew Fisher-Davis has found himself coming off the bench more often than not.

Despite not being in the starting lineup, Fisher-Davis is playing some impressive basketball. He’s third on the team in minutes played per game, second on the team in points per game, third in blocks and second in rebounds per game, even beating out center Djery Baptiste in rebounds per game.

When asked if Fisher-Davis was playing with an edge to get back into the starting lineup, Drew praised his senior but was hesitant to say if he would get a spot in the lineup.

“Hopefully he continues to shoot the ball well and continues to improve on his defense,” Fisher-Davis said. “He’s a big part of our team and we need him to play well.”

To Fisher-Davis’ credit, the reason he might not be in the starting lineup is because Drew intentionally doesn’t want to commit to a single starting lineup. He has rotated the lineups game in and game out depending on the team he is facing. Towards the end of non-conference play, the team rolled out a smaller lineup, but has since added more size to face tougher SEC opponents.

As for this weekend’s matchup against Kentucky, Drew still couldn’t commit to a lineup.

“It’s going to be game-to-game,” he said. “We’re going to see how practice is going the next couple of days, see how matchups go and go from there. Obviously, we’d love to get a flow and get a consistent lineup, but we’re just not there yet in our program.”

It’s safe to say Drew will need some size against the Wildcats, a team without a traditional big man but with plenty of size across the board. The Commodores will have to play a complete game in order to spring the upset on Kentucky.

“We have to rebound,” he said. “We have to take away easy points in the paint. We’ve had career nights for two bigs in our last two games. We’ve got to do a better job making them earn points a little bit harder.”

Vanderbilt take on Kentucky at 3 PM central on Saturday. The game will be televised on ESPN. 

Plan your MLK weekend: How and where to get involved

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:


MLK Kickoff
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.
Branscomb Circle
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.
Sarratt Cinema
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.
Langford Auditorium
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.
Sarratt Cinema
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.
Sarratt Cinema
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.
BCC Auditorium
Lead by Briana Perry


2018 MLK Weekend of Service
Saturday, January 13 at 5:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Fisk University
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
Vanderbilt Hillel
Hillel will be hosting a blood drive with the American Red Cross as part of their commitment to service for MLK Day.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

Chattanooga lawmaker introduces bill, reignites transgender bathroom debate

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.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

PODCAST: Vanderbilt-Tennessee basketball breakdown, Vol Twitter rantings

In this week’s episode of the Hustler Sports 20 on the 615 Sports Drive on VandyRadio, sports editors Cutler Klein and Max Schneider break down what went wrong in Vanderbilt’s tough loss on Tuesday night to the Tennessee Volunteers.

They also delve into why Vol Twitter is the worst Twitter out there.

Finally, Cutler and Max make the case for Matthew Fisher-Davis to be re-inserted into the starting lineup.

The Hustler Sports 20 is the official Vanderbilt Hustler sports show, featured on the 615 Sports Drive, airing every Wednesday at 6 PM central time on VandyRadio.

Listen in here:

The zeal of political correctness should translate into economic decisions

I was at my friend Daniel’s place in December. We were grabbing a beer, talking philosophy, and trying to assimilate the semester that had just ended. We went back and forth thinking about school, friends we might not see again and our respective experiences at Vandy.

Daniel discussed how he had been struggling with mindless consumerism, buying coffee from a shop that was involved in gentrifying a neighborhood. I immediately thought to myself, “How can it be?! Daniel is responsible, and very mindful of the social impact of his consumption”.

Suddenly, he had revealed to me something that perhaps I already knew but was too afraid to admit: Living in accordance to the principles one sets out for oneself is actually very challenging. What shocked me was not his attitude itself but my failure to recognize this obvious struggle—which should resonate with anyone who claims to stand for social causes—before Daniel had to spell it out for me.

I have since concluded that I don’t run into this problem very often because I don’t think hard enough about how to enact my own progressive values. But I don’t think this is just a “me” problem; rather, it is an “us” problem.

In progressive and liberal circles, values such as socially responsible spending do not bat an eye. This, counterintuitively, inhibits our ability to act upon these principles. When progressives take their values for granted, they risk obviating their meaning and implications.

Consider the example of Fast Fashion. The fashion industry has caused the deaths of thousands—take the Rana Plaza disaster, for instance—and the exploitation of millions. If progressives are to really do something about it, they need to stop buying from specific brands, avoid spontaneous purchases and do some research before going shopping. But one needs only to walk by the donation bins full of H&M t-shirts outside each dorm every semester to see that even progressives are oblivious to this problem.

I don’t know if people just don’t care to learn about these issues, or if they don’t think long enough about how to tackle them; it is probably both. In any way, this inaction seems to have embedded itself into our culture.

Progressive campus culture is nonetheless complex. Whereas economic problems are often overlooked, language is thoroughly analyzed. The progressive thoughtfully crafts every sentence so that it doesn’t leave their mouth with a particle of political incorrectness.  

Political correctness reveals that thoughtfulness and action can resonate in our culture. On this front, progressives have reason to be hopeful, but the challenges that lie ahead to make a move in the direction of mindfulness in the economy are still vast. Not only would a change for responsible consumption require a lot of time, it would also imply some serious opportunity costs.  

I have talked before about how we are contributing to the creation of a permanent economic underclass by denying equal access to our school. Stopping the proliferation of this trend, and the wider system that encompasses it, would necessitate that progressives make some serious sacrifices. They couldn’t place themselves in a position where they’d be the big law attorney that destroys campaign finance rules, or the doctor that only treats the wealthy or the financial manager who surreptitiously steals paychecks.

And the road for change does look really rocky. We have trouble not eating at Wendy’s! There was a tent outside Rand for days telling people why they shouldn’t eat there, yet I know many progressives—myself included—still stuff their faces with Frosties and sea salt fries.

Vandy grads who take that 180k big law offer at 26 will further the interests of the companies that have Americans overworked and underpaid. Those who decide to be managers and are not careful in choosing where they apply will probably end up working for these captains of industry, too. Those future doctors who take that cushy 350k neurosurgery position at a metropolitan hospital will deny access to their services to most.

That these connections are as hidden as the bodies they exploit should not be a justification. In the case of the progressive, ignorance is not a valid excuse. It’s about time those who stand against oppression start walking the walk as much as they talk the talk.

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

category: Hustler

Vanderbilt parts ways with special teams coordinator Jeff Genyk, per source

Vanderbilt has parted ways with specials teams coordinator/running backs coach Jeff Genyk, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Genyk’s departure was first reported late Sunday night by Trey Wallace of as well as Chris Smith of 247 Sports. It was later confirmed on Monday by The Tennessean‘s Adam Sparks.

Hired by head coach Derek Mason in 2016, Genyk had previously served as special teams coordinator with current Vanderbilt offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig at Wisconsin from 2013 to 2014. In addition, he has coached in some capacity at Northwestern, California and Eastern Michigan.

Genyk was successful with Ralph Webb at the running back position, mentoring Webb on his way to becoming Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher. Webb did not fumble the ball at all during the 2016 season, his first under Genyk.

On special teams, however, it was a different story. In 2017, Vanderbilt finished 12th in the SEC in gross yards per punt, 11th in yards per punt return and last in the conference in field goal percentage. However, they did finish in the top five in the conference in yards per kick return.

In December, sophomore punter Sam Loy announced he was leaving the university and returning home to California to train.

With the departures of Loy, Genyk and graduating kicker Tommy Openshaw, Vanderbilt will be searching for a punter, kicker and a special teams coordinator in the coming months.

Podcasts to help you attain your 2018 resolutions

2017 was a big year. Between a string of catastrophic storms, the White House administration change and the birth of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins, it was nearly impossible to update our Twitter feeds quickly enough. This year promises just as many surprises, so it’s up to you to stay on top of each day’s events in a comprehensive, meaningful way. Whether your 2018 resolution is to think deeper, run faster or love harder, there’s a story waiting inside the podcast app to help you get there.

If your 2018 resolution is…

  1. To stay informed
The Daily – The New York Times

The DailyThe New York Times
This 20-minute briefing is available by 6 a.m. on weekdays. Host Michael Barbaro tackles the day’s most prominent stories by delivering facts and analysis and including sources to speak first-hand.  

WSJ What’s NewsThe Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ What’s News podcast delivers the day’s top stories ranging from business to politics in less than 15 minutes. To track morning and evening news, this podcast has you covered with both a.m. and p.m. editions.

2. To find love (or understand why you can’t get a text back)

Why Oh Why – Andrea Silenzi
Unafraid to speak up about the awkward dating moments we have all tried to forget, Why Oh Why explores the intersection of technology and dating, love and sex from a variety of perspectives. While the host and guests’ storytelling is personal, it ultimately connects with the listener. You’ll shift your thinking from, “Why Oh Why Me?” to “Why Oh Why Us?”

Modern Love – The New York Times and WBUR

Modern LoveThe New York Times and WBUR
This popular podcast is hosted by Meghna Chakrabarti and editor Daniel Jones and features essays from the Modern Love column of the The New York Times. A self-proclaimed log of “stories of love, loss and redemption,” this podcast will pull at your heartstrings as it delves into a variety of forms and stages of love. Ranging from 10 to 25 minutes, Modern Love is a quick way to feel a burst of emotion and leave you thinking about the state of romance in 2018.

3. To gain new perspectives

Nancy – WNYC Radio
This podcast is an open conversation about LGBTQI life led by Kathy Tu and Tobin Low, two queer Asian-American bestfriends. Nancy is unfiltered and determined to reveal the serious realities of LGBTQI life without sacrificing jokes and jest. For a fresh perspective and a conversation starter, Nancy is a highly-acclaimed go-to podcast.

Where Should We Begin? – Esther Perel
Where Should We Begin? is not for hopeless romantics but rather for curious flies on the wall. Listeners are invited into anonymous couples’ therapy sessions to sit through their stories and examine the strength of human interaction. If you are looking for a fairytale, turn around. If you are interested in the harsh realities of relationships and romance, this podcast is for you.  

Code Switch – NPR

Code SwitchNPR
Code Switch, which refers to changing the way a person speaks or behaves in different environments, admits that race and identity can be sticky topics. This diverse group of NPR journalists is not intimidated by the barriers. In fact, they want to talk about them — even if it’s uncomfortable. Code Switch draws in diverse perspectives to discuss racial issues in politics, entertainment, sports and everything in between.

4. To get to the gym

20 Minute Fitness – Shape
If you’re interested in learning about the latest health and fitness trends, 20 Minute Fitness is a quick, easily-digestible podcast that will force you to consider the way you treat your body.  

TedTalks Health – TED

TedTalks Health TED
For visual learners, TedTalks Health invites accomplished doctors, researchers and other professionals to share their findings. Many of the videos are short, and the ability to watch the speaker’s presentation adds an additional element. This series makes the science behind health accessible, even if you only have a 10 minute break.

5. To stop mixing up “tip off” with “kick off”

Pardon My Take – Barstool Sports

Pardon My Take – Barstool Sports
If you are in the market for the most outlandish and most correct sports takes on the planet, you’ve come to the right place. Pardon My Take, hosted by Dan “Big Cat” Katz and PFT Commenter, is one of the best sports podcasts out there. Big Cat and PFT discuss the latest sports topics with the brash enthusiasm that Barstool Sports is known for. They also bring on plenty of prominent guests, including national sports reporters and even Anthony Scaramucci.

The Steve Dangle Podcast – Steve Dangle and Adam Wylde
Hosts Steve “Dangle” Glynn and Adam Wylde, along with producer Jesse Blake, talk about the latest and greatest around the hockey world. They focus a lot of their attention on the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they bounce around to all of the trending topics in the NHL. They’ll also tell some of their favorite stories from their wacky lives, including getting lit up by roman candles and starting their own fake rumor mill.

6. To dress better

Vogue Podcast – Vogue
The fashion world can often feel inaccessible and too high brow, especially if you’re just getting started. Vogue’s podcast gives a human touch to the seemingly impenetrable world of high fashion. Join host André Leon Talley as he chats about the fashion world’s hot topics and happenings with industry leaders.

GQ Style

Corporate Lunch – GQ Style
A behind-the-scenes look into the men’s magazine with editor-in-chief Will Welch and senior editor Noah Johnson, Corporate Lunch is a deep dive into men’s style. The weekly podcast hones in on the latest trends, figures and men’s fashion news of the week.

7. To take a deeper look at life

Philosophize This! – Stephen West

Philosophize This! – Stephen West
If AXLE has robbed you of the opportunity to fully immerse yourself in Descartes and Hume, fear not. Philosophize This! is a 30 minute podcast that discusses philosophical concepts and thinkers for beginners, eventually going further in depth and applying the lessons to today’s society.

Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell and Panoply Media
Have you always believed your history textbooks? Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell asks you to backpedal on a journey to reexamine history “in his attempt to correct the record.” In over 10 episodes examining past events, figures and cultural symbols, Gladwell examines the untold side of history in an effort to extract the truth.

8. To motivate yourself  

StartUp – Gimlet Media
StartUp is a mini-series about the trials and tribulations of starting a business. Launched by Alex Blumberg, a journalist that started the podcast with little business experience, StartUp is full of guest speakers and case studies exhibiting the grit and determination that it takes to be an entrepreneur.

Girlboss Radio – Girlboss Media

Girlboss Radio – Girlboss Media
Focusing on innovative and strong women, Girlboss Radio inspires its listeners and humanizes successful female figures. Host and entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso interviews moguls and go-getters to find out what makes them tick. Filled with humor, humility and advice, “Girlboss Media” is a must for all aspiring leaders.

category: Featured, Hustler, Life

Vanderbilt partners with Italian police to improve forensic techniques

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.

Thomas Kephart

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.”

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

EAD to split into three separate offices beginning Jan. 15

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.

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler

Peabody College receives $16,000 grant from state for teacher residency program

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.

Barbara Stengel

“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.”

category: Campus, Featured, Hustler


Dear Hustler Readers,

We didn’t have photos of the week this week since none of our photo staff was on campus over winter break. Thus, here are pictures of our dogs. Enjoy!


Claire Barnett, Multimedia Director

Hustler: Bruce Brookshire, Assistant Multimedia Editor
Name: Christmas eve fox hunting in the Virginia Piedmont area
Favorite activity: catching foxes
Hustler: Jenna Moldaver, Voices Editor
Name: Charlie
Favorite activity: Playing in the snow
Fun fact: She weighs four pounds
Hustler: Corinne Fombelle, Assistant Life Editor
Name: Reed
Favorite activity: Cuddling
Fun fact: He got snow boots for his paws in the -7 degree weather over winter break.
Hustler: Alexa Bussmann, Content Development Director
Name: Lucy
Favorite Activity: Snorting
Fun Fact: Lucy was bought at a gas station.
Hustler: Allison Boyce, Social Media Director
Name: Jasmine
Favorite activity: being a queen
Fun fact: I ate an entire bird once
Hustler: Sarah Friedman
Name: Harry
Favorite activity: Refusing to walk (pictured)
Fun fact: He knows how to open zippers, which is pretty cute until he unzips my backpack and eats my chapstick.
Hustler: Max Schulman, Opinion Editor
Name: Malcolm
Favorite Activity: Reminding us that he’s not housebroken
Fun Fact: He is named after black nationalist Malcolm
Hustler: Sam Zern, Campus Editor
Name: Doug
Favorite activity: squirrel hunting
Fun fact: Broke his back as a puppy so now walks with a waddle

Taking stock of the Commodores going into crucial week

As students return to campus for the new semester, the Vanderbilt Commodores will be taking the floor at Memorial Gym for two of their biggest games of the season.

The Tennessee Volunteers visit Nashville on Tuesday night at 8 PM (SEC Network), while John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats come to town on Saturday at 3:00 PM (ESPN).

With two of the best teams in the SEC on the schedule in the same week, this will be a crucial test for a Commodore team struggling with a record of 6-9.

Here are a few storylines to watch as Vanderbilt enters the thick of SEC play.

Big Boy Roberson

Going into this season, rebounding was a serious concern for Vanderbilt with the loss of seven-footer Luke Kornet. Many looked to center Djery Baptiste as the X-factor to step up in his absence.

While Baptiste has improved significantly this season, it’s been senior Jeff Roberson leading the charge on the glass. Despite standing at just 6’6”, he is leading the team in rebounds with 8.1 per game. He’s also sitting in fourth in the SEC in that category.

Roberson has done an excellent job of playing like he has a few more inches of height. His versatility has proven to be an invaluable asset for this team, and he will need to continue to knock down shots, as well as grab boards, if Vanderbilt wants to right the ship.

Shooters Aren’t Shooting

Vanderbilt is dead last in the SEC in points per game.

Dead. Last.

For a team that prides itself on the ability to shoot the ball effectively, that’s completely abysmal. That’s been the biggest reason for their struggles. If you can’t put the ball in the basket, you can’t win basketball games.

This general shooting struggle can be best attributed to their struggles from beyond the arc. Vanderbilt has attempted the most three-pointers as a team in the SEC, and yet they sit in 12th in three-point field goal percentage at 32.7%. For reference, they shot 37.6% from three-point range last season.

When you are relying on the three-ball to create offense, and those shots aren’t falling, you’re going to struggle.

Is it luck? A slump? It’s certainly not a lack of skill, as players like Matthew Fisher-Davis and Riley LaChance are notorious for their prowess from long-range.

Assistant sports editor Max Schneider took a deep dive into the team’s shooting struggles back in November.

Whatever the reason is, if Vanderbilt wants to jumpstart the offense, they need to find that touch from beyond the arc. That’s a much easier solution than changing the dynamic of the offense completely.

It’s RPI Season

If Vanderbilt doesn’t start getting some high-quality SEC wins, they’re in danger of missing out on the NCAA Tournament, the NIT and any other postseason tournament.

Right now, Vanderbilt sits at 155 in the RPI rankings. The next-worst SEC team is Ole Miss at 114th overall.

Considering that there’s 68 spots in the NCAA Tournament, plus 32 in the NIT, the Commodores are not even close to the postseason right now. However, their fortunes could change with some quality wins. Tennessee and Kentucky are 10th and 12th in the RPI rankings, respectively, so even just one win this week could be extremely helpful to their postseason resume.

In addition, the Alabama team that they beat last week sits just outside the top 50 at 53rd. If Vanderbilt wants to extend their season deep into March, they’ll need to get some RPI Top 50 wins. Luckily for them, they’ll have 10 more opportunities to beat teams in that top 50 this season.

It’s going to take a big second-half push to get them into any postseason play, but then again, they got to the tournament last year with a similar run.

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