Six takeaways from the Dean of Students emails you may have missed


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Anna Butrico

At the dawn of the new academic year, Vanderbilt has released last year’s safety reports to the student body. Vanderbilt releases the reports to comply with several pieces of legislation, such as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 and the Tennessee College and University Security Information Act.

The University released the reports via three emails to the student body on Sept. 30. The first email was focused on crime statistics, security and fire safety, listing the actions the university takes and policies it maintains in order to protect students. The second email provided institutional and consumer information, including policies surrounding student privacy, non-discrimination practices, financial aid, graduation rates and more. The third email included information about alcohol and drugs, copyright and miscellaneous other policies. This last email included passages from the student handbook about alcohol and other prohibited substances, health risks and warning signs of using or overdosing,and the consequences of copyright infringements on campus.  

In case you didn’t have time to read the emails in full, we’ve collected the top six things you need to know about on-campus crime, sexual assault resources, campus drinking policies and their punishments.  

  1. In 2015, Vanderbilt saw the greatest amount of aggravated assault on campus. There were 10 reported cases on campus last year, a number that staggers over the two cases in 2013 and 2014 combined.
  2. Vanderbilt had fewer reported rape cases in 2015 than in past years. Vanderbilt University Police Department released information that said there were nine reported cases, when in 2014, there were fifteen cases.
  3. However, Vanderbilt acknowledges that the vast majority of rape cases go unreported. Their report carefully elucidated the resources available on campus, which range from the Project Safe Center, Vanderbilt’s Center for Sexual Misconduct and Response, to the Vanderbilt University Police department.

The policies explained the difference between a mandated reporter, one who, by law, is required to relay any information they receive about sexual assault to a campus authority, and a confidential resource, which will not pass on that information unless a student is in danger of harming themselves or someone else. They explained that Vanderbilt staff members generally, unless listed as different in the document’s descriptions, are mandated reporters.

Additionally, they highlighted Project Safe’s new distinction as a limited confidential resource. A student can disclose information to the Project Safe Center without triggering a university investigation. However, Project Safe must report the identity of a person who discloses that they have initiated an instance of sexual assault.

  1. There were fewer liquor law violation referrals on campus than in year’s past. There were 299 referrals in 2015, while there were 451 the year before.
  1. Vanderbilt policy forbids on-campus students from participating in drinking games, and prohibits them from consuming pure grain alcohol. Funnels, beer bongs and all other devices that expedite alcohol consumption are prohibited.
  1. Vanderbilt University will issue out sanctions if students violate their Drug and Alcohol Policy. These sanctions are not as harsh as their state and federal counterparts though.

Vanderbilt’s minimum sanction for a student’s first violation of their alcohol policy is an educational conference. There may be discussions of an accountability plan, with counseling and community service components. Tennessee’s minimum sanction for this same first offense is considered a Class A demeanor. Perpetrators can receive imprisonment charges up to eleven months, or a fine of no more than $2500, or both.

The federal government’s penalties are much harsher than the state’s: first conviction requires a fine of at least $1000, as well as up to one year in prison.