Opinion

Victims in Plain Sight: The Importance of Sharing Your #MeToo Story

Content warning: sexual violence, dating violence

“They force you to shut down, then judge you for not opening up” -R. H. Sin

We are living in a new age, and it has finally dawned on me that I shouldn’t let the fear of others’ repercussions stop me from releasing my anger that has been boiling under the surface for two years. I have learned over time – with nightmares, flashbacks, bouts of anger and frustration, social isolation, depression and an eating disorder – that the only way to move on from my own past is to address it head-on. Here is my story, in its naked truth, with personal characteristics and identifiers removed.

I am a survivor of dating violence, and I have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I have been quietly attending group therapy sessions at my university’s center for sexual misconduct prevention and response, speaking to a confidential Victim Resource Specialist one-on-one, seeing a therapist once a week at my university’s psychological counseling center and meeting with a therapist in my hometown.

Why haven’t I spoken up in the past two years? The answer is simple: my abuser is one of the most charismatic, well-liked boys in any crowd (and no, he is not a man; real men do not hurt women). In fact, people are so quick to take to him, I was afraid that everyone would turn against me if they knew. I saw this fear materialize with the reactions surrounding White House aide Rob Porter, who was revealed to have abused his ex wives. Our President rushed to Porter’s side, claiming that the allegations were false – despite photographic evidence – and that he wished him well during this “tough time.” In a society with this victim-blaming approach, how could a survivor have the courage to speak about her experience?

Not only are there many potential social repercussions, but there are legal obstacles as well. A victim who speaks out about her experience will be almost immediately contacted by campus officials and implored to start an investigation, as is directed under Title IX. Additionally, there is a wave of perpetrators claiming that the #MeToo allegations are false, and they are suing the victims for defamation. With all of these deterrents, it is easy to understand why so many victims have remained silent for so long.

“A mistake repeated more than once is a decision.” -Paulo Coelho

The boy in my narrative started out as a goofy, fun-loving guy. This transitioned to drunken nights punctuated with light roughhousing. Then – before I could even fathom it – it escalated to him blacking out and being careless with my body. In his many stupors, he broke my nose, bit down on my lip, bruised and scratched my neck, shoved my face under a running faucet, suffocated me with his body on my face, and almost drowned me. This was all occurring with the constant thought: is he doing this purposely, or is he just so unaware of his level of intoxication and his size? I chose to believe the latter, as I was infatuated with him, and so this occurred over a period longer than it should have. Regardless of the truth in his intentions, I’ve come to realize that what I have experienced is just as wrong in either case. I was abused, and I was my only witness.

During all of this, verbal and emotional abuse coincided with each incident: calling me names, gaslighting, body shaming, belittling, victim blaming, threats to break up, etc. The physically violent incidences are all memories that have slowly been coming back to me over the past two years, out of a repressed corner of my mind, as is characteristic of PTSD.

I didn’t realize the impact that his actions had had on me until one day, several months after we cut things off, I had my first panic attack. I realized that I needed to finally address what I had downplayed all this time. It took months before I could say “abuse” instead of “the a-word.” Like many other victims of interpersonal violence, I experienced shame, numbness, insomnia, anxiety, depression, overwhelming anger and guilt. However, the fact that I am able to write out this experience and share it with others is a sign of improvement, and I want this to serve as a beacon of hope for victims who have not yet reached this stage.

“and here you are living, despite it all” -Rupi Kaur

With the #MeToo movement, we have begun to recognize that there are many victims hiding in plain sight. There are people who you know dearly and care for who likely have not shared their story. There are many reasons, as I mentioned earlier, for why a victim is hesitant to come forward. Above all, no one wants to be labeled as crazy, and everyone wants to be taken seriously. Putting our most vulnerable selves into the public eye – to be potentially subjected to scrutiny, criticism and outright denial – is possibly the most stressful action a survivor can take. Especially in a campus setting, where many perpetrators are socially adept and well-liked by others, it is almost assumed that the friends of the accused will turn against those who speak out. Because of this, I have come to accept that there will be those who do not believe me, despite a plethora of evidence.

However, it is not only therapeutic for us survivors to put our experiences into words, but it is also helpful to demonstrate to the world the extent of this heinous problem. The importance of speaking out does not just apply to females; survivors are men as well. If we all were able to express our past without fear of retribution, and without the ridiculous level of sympathy others have for our perpetrators, the world would be more informed and more driven to action than ever. I encourage the Vanderbilt community to share your stories without fear, as I and many others like you are here to support you. If you don’t have a story to tell, share this one and others like it to demonstrate that this is a bigger problem than people realize. It is time to take action, now more than ever.

Project Safe is available to anyone who may need support and resources for issues of intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence. The Project Safe 24-hour hotline is 615-322-SAFE (7233). Any mandatory reporters who have questions about their responsibilities in regards to this story can contact Project Safe at 615-875-0660 or at projectsafe@vanderbilt.edu. The Project Safe Center is located near Alumni Lawn at 304 West Side Row (Cumberland House).

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Black in Medicine: The importance of representation and support

The post Black in Medicine: The importance of representation and support appeared first on Vanderbilt Hustler.

Letter from the Editor: Farewell, Vanderbilt

Hi Vanderbilt,

Wrapping up this year is the definition of bittersweet. My time as Editor in Chief has been rewarding, enlightening and fun. I’ve had the privilege of overseeing the Hustler’s second year as a completely digital news source, and not to brag, but we’ve been wildly successful. Our campus team has perfected their coverage of breaking news. Our sports staff has done deep digging into more than just games and plays. Our life staff has expanded their coverage of topics such as fashion and food. Our multimedia squad can be found at events all around campus, documenting Vanderbilt’s daily life and never missing a beat. There are never enough hours in the day to cover everything that we want to, but we spend every moment we can researching and reporting on the stories you’ve seen on the site all year. We’ve made mistakes, and we’ve handled them gracefully. While I’d love to take credit for all of these incredible accomplishments, I need to give credit where credit is due. The Hustler’s staff is composed of the most hardworking, bright, kind and inspiring people I know, and each and every one has played an instrumental role in our success this year. I’ve just been the lucky one that gets to guide and support them.

But I won’t lie to you–it’s also been a hard year. Moments that come to mind include the all-nighter I pulled fact checking this story about sexual assault allegations against a Board of Trust member and crying hysterically as I wrote this letter about the Nashville statement and this story about Perry Wallace’s legacy. I’ve seen students criticize the Hustler for posting clickbait and for being ethically and journalistically irresponsible when I know that those things aren’t even remotely true. But these challenges have taught me the true meaning of strength and conviction. Facing criticism in such a public way has taught me to never back down when I know what I’m doing is right, and to lean on the people I trust for help and support. I’ve learned to view feedback for what it is, and to distinguish helpful, constructive comments from hateful, uninformed ones. I have learned the power of treating everyone with love and respect, even when I’m upset or angry. I’ve embraced Michelle Obama’s famous remark: when they go low, we go high.

There are several people I want to thank as I wrap up my time as Editor in Chief. I’ll name a few here, but the list truly goes on and on. Dallas Shatel, Deputy Editor, has kept me sane and grounded, not to mention that he’s the best friend I’ve ever had. Paige Clancy, the Hustler’s advisor, has made herself available to me and the Hustler’s editorial board at all hours of the day and has been both my biggest fan and my biggest critic from day one. Sam Zern, Campus Editor, has impressed me beyond belief with her talent and interpersonal skills every day of the past year. I can’t wait to see the amazing things she does as the Hustler’s Editor in Chief next year–you’re all in for a treat. Cutler Klein, Sports Editor, has made it very clear that he will fight anyone that stands in my way, and I can’t wait to say that I know him when he’s a famous sports journalist someday. Claudia Willen, Life Editor, completely reshaped the Life section and brought her vision to life in an unbelievable way. Claire Barnett, Multimedia Director, inspires us all with both her dedication and with her unbelievable eye for good photography. Jenna Moldaver, Voices Editor, oversaw the birth and growth of the Voices section, which has recognized students as campus experts on the topics they’re passionate about. Allison Boyce, Social Media Director, has revolutionized the way that the Hustler communicates with the Vanderbilt community. My sister, Rachel, has dealt with me being all too unavailable during her first year at Vanderbilt and is still my best friend and role model, even though she’s the younger one (watch out for this one, world).

But the biggest shoutout goes out to each and every one of the Hustler’s readers, who are the reason why this publication has attained the success that it has this year. Without all of you, I wouldn’t have a reason to spend long days and long nights writing and reporting. You have provided your feedback, both positive and negative, which has made the Hustler something we all shape together as a campus community.

So thanks, Vandy, for lending me your pupils, even if it was only for a minute on Monday mornings when my email landed in your inbox. Serving as the Hustler’s Editor in Chief has been the greatest honor and challenge of my life, and I will cherish this experience forever.

All the best,

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It’s time to invest In Memorial Magic

When any student submits his or her application to Vanderbilt, chances are that bragging rights between their friends about which school has the best sports teams is not high on their list of priorities. When late March rolls around, most students will be concerned with finals, not the Final Four.

While some of Vanderbilt’s other sports, such as Tennis and Bowling, may be making successful campaigns, some of the most fun memories in college can come from cheering on major teams getting national attention. Vanderbilt has never been an athletic powerhouse or even a perennial contender, but the potential of next year’s Men’s Basketball team has sparked great excitement for everyone around campus.

If the university decides to back the program with the financial support it needs, students may someday dream of coming to Vanderbilt not just for the opportunities in the classroom, but also to root for a team that has the chance to cut down the nets at the end of March.

It’s impossible to expect the school to evolve into a powerhouse overnight, but next year provides an incredible chance for Vanderbilt to take a step in the right direction. If the university chooses to invest more strategically, we could reach a point in which Vanderbilt is competing for titles rather than competing in the SportsCenter Not Top 10. The Southeastern Conference lacks any depth in basketball powerhouses, with the Kentucky Wildcats being the only team consistently competing late into March. Additionally, Vanderbilt’s central location in a fun city like Nashville offers great promise in terms of recruiting.

While there will always be conservative spenders who believe that big investments can wait, it’s clear that Commodore Basketball is about to be ready for primetime. While they may have just come off of a tough season, head coach Bryce Drew has brought in a few incoming players who could change everything. For the first time in a long time, Vanderbilt is bringing in more than one High School Senior marked as “Five Stars,” meaning they are the most elite in the nation. Simi Shittu, Darius Garland, and potentially Romeo Langford are all top players in their respective states, and make up three of the top 15 spots on ESPN’s recruiting rankings.

In a sport in which a few key players are all that is needed to make a team great, next season looks very promising. If subsequent recruiting classes classes see these commits succeed and see the university fund internal improvements and demonstrate that it is dedicated to the team, Vanderbilt Basketball could turn over a new leaf. The Commodores are finally being presented with a real chance to be a national success, and the university needs to do its part and invest in a winning team.

Another factor pointing to Vanderbilt’s potential success on the court is how similar it is to other successful basketball programs. Villanova, who just dominated Michigan in the most recent NCAA Basketball championship game, has just under 7,000 students. Schools even smaller than Vanderbilt, such as Butler and Xavier, also are consistently competitors. Furthermore, while it is often a struggle for especially academically rigorous universities to pull in recruits, schools like Duke show that this is hardly an obstacle for the nation’s top basketball stars.

Other schools are taking this initiative with even less potential for success. For example, Northwestern University just underwent a total renovation of their arena after making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 2017. The only difference between Vanderbilt and these schools: they’re willing to spend the money.

On a larger scale, American interest in basketball is rising at an incredible rate. As parents worry about the lasting effects of concussions on their children, youth football is fading slowly as the basketball fan base grows and grows. The gameday experience of college basketball is unparalleled by any other, and Vanderbilt’s famous “Memorial Magic” is especially electrifying. That being said, any sports fan in Memorial Gym immediately feels the antiquity of their surroundings, and the arena desperately needs new seats, an updated concourse and modern  suites that recruits are taken to as a showcase of the school’s basketball prowess.

If even a fraction of the financial attention Vanderbilt constantly gives to its academic institutions and housing facilities was redirected to this project, these amenities could make fans feel less like they are at a high school gym built in the 1980s and still hold on to the historic atmosphere that makes Memorial Gym such a great place to watch basketball. Instead of having the program’s official website boast about how old its facilities are (even putting itself on a “Top 25” list that is downright embarrassing), Vanderbilt needs to put the money in so that someday that website can boast a Final Four berth, or even a championship.

The best part about investing in new amenities for our basketball program is the huge scope of its potential effects. Not only will the Men’s Basketball players and prospective recruits be ecstatic, these same improvements will be enjoyed by the Women’s Basketball team. The same resources dedicated to making the Men’s Basketball program would help make the Women’s program a championship contender under coach Stephanie White.

Most importantly, Vanderbilt is constantly promoting its plans to renovate the university under the name “FutureVU,” all with the goal of creating a deeper sense of community on campus. What better way to do that than to give students, faculty, and alumni the rallying point of a basketball team that could make runs to the Final Four?

It’s time for Vanderbilt to put its money where its mouth is.

After all, if the choice is between just one more opulent Yale-like dormitory guaranteeing 22-year-olds still have to live on campus and a championship-level basketball team, I think most of us know what we would choose.

Bryan Hollis is a first-year in the College of Arts and Science. He can be reached at bryan.p.hollis@vanderbilt.edu. 

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Men need to take action against sexual assault

Content warning: sexual assault

When I was collecting information for an article on the #MeToo movement at Vanderbilt, an unsurprising pattern emerged: everyone I interviewed was a woman. Sara Starr is the head of VSG’s Sexual Assault Prevention Committee (VSAP). Cara Tuttle Bell is the Director of Project Safe. Claire Smrekar is the Chair of the Provost’s Sexual Misconduct Prevention Committee. Nicole Baptista is the Project Coordinator of Vandy Fems. Molly Zlock is the director of the Title IX and Student Discrimination Office. It is clear to me that women are taking the lead on combating sexual violence on campus. While it is important that women feel empowered enough to try to change our sex culture and advocate for victims, it is problematic that men are not involved to a similar extent.

The problem of sexual violence is gendered. In the vast majority of cases, a man is the perpetrator and a woman is the victim. If we are seeking to root out sexual harassment and assault at its core, it’s imperative that men change their behavior. Men are the ones who are disproportionately catcalling, raping and everything in between. And on this campus, men have not only failed to take a leading role–they’ve failed to engage with the problem.

When I was going through the mandatory Green Dot bystander intervention training for fraternity members, I saw everything but engagement. Some knocked out after the first hour. Some took extended bathroom breaks. Some played on their phones. Some doodled. The group leader had to prompt many times for simple answers to simple questions. Looking around the room as I walked out of the training session, I felt that a lot of the men didn’t gain a thing.

Last Thursday, I attended Project Safe’s Prevention Procession and Survivor Speak Out. As the name indicates, there are two parts to the event. The first was a 15-minute march in solidarity with survivors. After this, the processors walked into a quiet room where survivors of sexual violence told their stories. In between the procession and the speakout, there was a station where members of Greek Life could swipe their Commodore Card to get credit for Greek Member Experience (GME), a program that each fraternity needs to participate in by getting enough swipes at events around campus to avoid suspension.

Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that most of the fraternity men I saw came to the procession, got their GME swipe and left before the speakout. They came to the walk, talked and joked their way through it, got their GME swipe, avoided confronting the problem laid bare at the speakout, and made it back to their houses and dorms in time to get ready for a night out. Looking around the room during the speakout, I couldn’t find most any of the fraternity men I saw at the procession.

Men, by and large, are causing the problems. But they’re not learning how to prevent the problem and they’re not willing to confront it. They need to take initiative. They need to attend survivor speak outs so they know the dire consequences of inaction. They need to pay attention at bystander intervention trainings so they know what to do when a friend isn’t respecting a woman’s boundaries. But they need to do more than that. Fraternity men need to call out their brothers for making rape jokes. They need to be willing to stand up to their friends who are taking advantage of women. They need to know how to recognize narratives of sexual harassment and sexual assault to help their female friends who may not understand the gravity of what happened to them get the help they need. And they need to know how to help their female friends who have been victimized.

All men on campus are capable of doing these things, and, rape culture won’t change until they decide to do them.

Max Schulman is a first-year in the College of Arts and Science. He can be reached at maxwell.r.schulman@vanderbilt.edu. 

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Unethical consumerism: How Gucci Mane’s Rites of Spring headliner status defies Vanderbilt’s “values”

Content warning: interpersonal violence

How we spend our money is a reflection of our values: when we purchase a good or a service, we are not just purchasing that good or service but everything that went into making it available, too. This is a key principle of ethical consumerism. We often view ethical consumerism as an individual decision, but this principle applies to organizations as well. The Music Group, a branch within the Vanderbilt Programming Board (VPB), invited Gucci Mane to headline Rites of Spring–Vanderbilt’s annual music festival. Based on Gucci Mane’s history of perpetrating interpersonal violence and the principles of ethical consumerism, this decision is a highly questionable one and may be potentially triggering for survivors of interpersonal violence.

We cannot ignore acts of violence for the sake of popular music.

In early 2011, Gucci Mane was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor battery. He allegedly pushed a woman out of his moving car after she refused his $150 offer to accompany him back to his hotel room. Furthermore, when commenting on the 2011 incident in his biography Gucci Mane did not show remorse, instead insisting the moving car was not traveling as fast as the survivor claimed. The crime he was charged with–pushing someone out of a moving car–is not the example we often think of when discussing sexual violence; the context, however–Gucci Mane committing violence after being refused sex–makes this case incredibly relevant in light of the #MeToo movement due to the ways it vividly shows how cultural acceptance of sexual harassment leads to physical acts of violence. We cannot ignore acts of violence for the sake of popular music.

Despite not being considered “recent” news, this information is quite easy to find. The aforementioned case was reported back in 2011–7 years ago. Who we choose to financially support and invite to our campus is a reflection of organizational values. As a student leader who has experience inviting speakers to campus, I am aware that Vanderbilt does its best to bring in outside speakers and performers that have not violated university values. The Music Group–and by extension Vanderbilt–has chosen to bring in a performer with a known history of interpersonal violence. There has been no attempt to discuss the choice to do so. Instead, it appears that the Music Group is attempting to sweep these allegations under the rug so students are unaware of these controversies unless they research the artist on their own. There was room to make this a conversation about interpersonal violence and methods of rehabilitation for perpetrators, as Gucci Mane did serve time for his crime.  There was room to make this part of a larger conversation about rape culture and the frequency of interpersonal violence in our society. Neither of these things happened. By saying nothing, Music Group is telling the student body that Gucci Mane’s actions do not violate university values.

It is hypocritical to financially support a known perpetrator of interpersonal violence while simultaneously making efforts across campus to create cultures of reporting and to support survivors…

It is not merely Music Group’s money that provides a stamp of approval for Gucci Mane’s history of abuse: approval is shown via ticket sales and physical attendance at the event. In recognition of this, I have personally chosen not to buy a ticket for this year’s Rites of Spring; however, many people have already bought their tickets and are in need of the break from finals that Rites can provide. It is an individual’s choice whether or not to attend at this point. If you have already purchased a ticket, deciding whether or not to show support by physically attending the event should at the very least be an informed decision.

Gucci Mane is certainly not the only musician who has been accused of power-based personal violence; going forward, Music Group–and all student organizations, for that matter–must be cognizant of actions and values they are endorsing when inviting guests to Vanderbilt’s campus. Looking at the history of the Rites of Spring music festival this becomes clear. In 1989 the Red Hot Chili Peppers performed as part of the Rites of Spring music festival, unlike the decision to invite Gucci Mane information about various band members sexually abusive behavior was not widely available at the time, however we must reflect back with the critical analysis based on new information. We can only be as ethical in our consumerism as information available to us allows, however in a time in which information is so readily available we can no longer claim ignorance or attempt to sweep abuse allegations under the rug. Quite frankly, it is hypocritical to financially support a known perpetrator of interpersonal violence while simultaneously making efforts across campus to create cultures of reporting and to support survivors through resources such as the Project Safe Center. As a student involved in activism in regards to interpersonal violence, it is disappointing to see a student organization make a decision like the choice to invite perpetrators of interpersonal violence to campus.

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University, unincorporated

My high school made sure to drill the college application process in our head the second we were able to think about it for longer than ten consecutive seconds. Consequently, even in my sophomore year mandatory meetings about it were far too frequent. A bit over four years ago, at one of these meetings, a panel of individuals who worked for the admissions of different universities was brought in to speak and answer our and our parents’ questions.  I don’t remember the context in which the following was said, the name of the man who said it nor the university he worked for, but it has stuck with me to this day: that the university is also a business, a business that educates and graduates.

At the time I didn’t think much of it. I just took it as a general statement of fact; pretty much everything in the world is a business. It was a model that, like it or not, all American universities adopt in some capacity. Yet, the more I ruminated about it over the years, intuitively it made less and less sense to me. If the goal of a business is to, for whatever reason, make money, wouldn’t that interest conflict with a university’s mission of educating and supporting students who are at the same time treated as consumers by the university? In other words: is it possible to marry the goals and intentions of scholarship and generation of surplus value?

My answer to this question is no. There are times, though, in which the interests of business and university—insofar as it is a place for scholarship and personal growth—are not necessarily at odds, but often, compromises must be made, and one interest is chosen above the other. Too often, in my opinion, “university-as-business” is chosen above “university-as-university.” Vanderbilt is no exception.

As much as the administration may want to make the change quickly, they, like a good business, must consider how it impacts their revenue.

It is not beneath Vanderbilt to put business interests ahead of its mission. For instance, Vanderbilt’s refusal to divest from the private prison industry, despite a unanimous VSG Senate vote recommending that the administration disallow private prison investment, demonstrates this phenomenon perfectly. The administration’s inaction is contrary to the stated support of “equality and compassion.” Furthermore, Vanderbilt maintains its early decision policy, despite arguments that ED favors the financially able and the recent Opportunity Vanderbilt initiative and goals to increase socioeconomic diversity. And, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, Wendy’s remains a part of the “Taste of Nashville” program, despite student protests a year ago, largely for economic reasons.In an ideal world, universities ought to adopt an entirely new model so that they don’t have to engage in a perpetual balancing act and make compromises to their scholarly intentions and service to a community. But until that day comes, if a university, Vanderbilt included, wishes to truly uphold its mission, it must place its business interests secondary to its interests of a university proper.

When preference is given to the accumulation of money, the actors who ultimately have the final say are not students, faculty or even administration, but donors and, paradoxically, prospective students insofar as they are consumers. In other words, university decisions are beholden to the questions: What will our donors think? How will our decisions impact prospective applicants? Consider the sluggish action of the administration on something intrinsically inconsequential like the renaming of Confederate Memorial Hall to just Memorial Hall. What’s in a name? The prospect of losing donors, evidently. As much as the administration may want to make the change quickly, they, like a good business, must consider how it impacts their revenue. Consider further the hesitancy towards taking action against greek life for hazing and the like. What would putting a fraternity on probation, or kicking it off campus altogether, mean for the future of donations?

When the university acts this way, as a business seeking surplus value, it structurally removes universities farther and farther away from their purpose of being pioneers of thought. In Vanderbilt’s words, having the university act as a business detracts from its goal to be “a center for scholarly research, informed and creative teaching, and service to the community and society at large.”

To a certain extent, this is not entirely Vanderbilt’s fault. Professor of Political Science at UC Berkeley Wendy Brown in her book Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution argues that recent economic and cultural shifts have lead to people seeing the value of higher education not for their intrinsic value and content but rather for their “return on investment.” Such a view is reinforced by the recent increase in relevance of college ranking systems, transforming the college decision process into something more like buying a car based on Consumer Reports.

The top two criteria for determining college rankings for U.S. News and World Report are graduation and retention rates–remember, as the panelist said the university is a business of graduating–and undergraduate academic reputation. It is worth noting the phrasing here: reputation is the object being evaluated, and academic is an adjective. In other words, perception is valued over reality, and for a prestigious private university such as Vanderbilt, even moreso. As Brown puts it: “elite privates continue to offer two unique commodities to their students…prestige and social networks that themselves yield socioeconomic access and status[.]This is why, amid declining cultural and economic value of the content of a college education, competition for admission to the top privates grow ever more ferocious.”

In fairness, evaluation of academics can’t be done justice by mass surveys or other prima facie metrics. But it is for that very reason that scholarship is slighted when the university acts as a business: academic value does not translate into the logic of the market. Various pieces have been written about how the university-as-business harms the value and nature of higher education itself. Professor Brown argues that it ultimately is harmful to a democratic society. One other thing reflected in the literature on the subject also remarks how public universities, due to dropping of government funding and thus increased dependence on tuition and student loans, are especially pressured into specializing to their benefit to the market rather than emphasizing their value as a place for higher learning.

So what about private universities such as Vanderbilt? To a certain extent, they are affected by the demands of the market, but less so due to, ironically, the nature of private endowments and the unique prestige that allow them to stand out in the “university market.” As I mentioned earlier, the academic content of Vanderbilt is independent of its prestigious casing which it markets, what the student-consumer is ultimately being sold.

It is because of this unique independence that Vanderbilt can place emphasis on the intrinsic value of higher education, and actually can follow through on its mission. Public universities don’t have this luxury. It is why I said earlier that Vanderbilt ought to place business second to the interests of higher learning–because it is uniquely predisposed to do so.

Even with a change in disposition, I still believe that the best thing to be done is for the university structure, public or private, to be upheaved entirely–the administration on one hand and students and faculty on the other cannot be competing parties with competing interests, they must be the same. Yes, it does fly in the face of conventional wisdom of the division of labor leading to increased efficiency, but efficiency is again a concern for a business. Maybe it is a far-fetched goal, but its one worth working towards. I don’t excuse the nature of Vanderbilt’s endowment itself nor any of its questionable investment activity so that the “university-as-university” can be preserved. Yet as it happens now, Vanderbilt has a $4 billion endowment that can pay the price of integrity and a commitment to its stated mission. Until that structural change occurs, until the day when integrity and commitment to scholarship and service don’t have a price tag, Vanderbilt ought to put that commitment first so that it does not lose its way.

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