This story has been updated to reflect that the email was a joint statement from Chancellor Diermeier and Provost Wente, and to clarify that gatherings of any size require the use of masks, not just those with greater than ten people.
Vanderbilt’s ninth Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, in conjunction with Provost Susan Wente, sent an urgent message to students reminding them to obey COVID-19 guidelines. This message followed an email from Dean of Students Mark Bandas outlining penalties for infractions against the policy.
While other peer institutions chose different approaches to start their semester, schools such as the University of Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill elected to hold some in-person classes, just as Vanderbilt did. However, this week, both universities announced that they would be suspending in-person classes for two weeks and the semester, respectively, due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases on campus.
As a result of these peer institutions’ recent decisions to scale back operations, Chancellor Diermeier and Provost Wente emphasized in an email to students that any disregard for COVID-19 policies will not be tolerated. Diermeier and Wente added that disregarding health requirements may also carry criminal consequences within the city of Nashville as well.
“We write this not to scare you but to be perfectly plain that the situation happening at other universities can be avoided at Vanderbilt, but only if you anchor down, step up, and do your part,” Diermeier and Wente said in the email. “Only if you make the right choices.”
Students who elected to come to campus have decided that physically receiving an education at Vanderbilt in Nashville is the most important thing in their lives, Diermeier and Wente continued, and will be able to prove that as Vanderbilt students, they do the right thing. Vanderbilt students’ responsibility will demonstrate that the community responded to the pandemic with strength and courage, Diermeier and Wente said.
Diermeier and Wente’s message followed an email from Dean Bandas iterating the student accountability consequences that would follow any university policy violations. Bandas highlighted the student gatherings policy before reminding students that the policy applies to both on and off-campus activity.
Per the policy, students may engage in small, informal meetups of 10 students or less as long as the gathering complies with Vanderbilt’s COVID-19 guidelines. Parties and social events, with or without the presence of alcohol, are prohibited regardless of whether they’re held on- or off-campus. Students received an email outlining these policies, and the return to campus testing guidelines, on Aug. 18.
“The minimum sanction applied by Student Accountability if a student is found responsible for hosting a gathering that violates the policy will be suspension for a minimum of one semester; a first sanction may be as severe as expulsion, depending on the nature of and circumstances surrounding the violation,” Bandas said in the email. “Attending, participating in or otherwise supporting, and/or concealing a gathering that violates the policy may also result in suspension or expulsion for a first offense.”
According to the email, students residing on campus who break these rules will be removed from their residences with no reimbursements for tuition, housing or any other fees. The email concluded with a reminder that any student’s actions may affect not just their future at Vanderbilt, but the lives of their peers as well.