Vanderbilt’s annual Fall Faculty Assembly took place on Aug. 27 over Zoom. The event included an address from Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, remarks from Faculty Senate Chair Catherine McTamaney and presentation of faculty honors and awards.
Diermeier’s address marks the first time the new chancellor has spoken directly to the university’s faculty since officially assuming his role on July 1. In his address, Diermeier spoke about the effort the university has expended in implementing the return to campus plan during the pandemic.
“We have had people literally working 16-hour days nonstop since March. Hundreds of people have worked together and collaborated in order to welcome our faculty and our students back on campus,” Diermeier said.
Diermeier stated that while this was not the easy road, he and the rest of Vanderbilt’s administration believed an on-campus semester necessary to fulfill the university’s mission of a residential college educational experience. Diermeier also cited the importance of Vanderbilt’s field-defining research, especially in relation to COVID-19, as a reason for the university’s return-to-campus approach.
While Diermeier said he is pleased with the current state of campus, he also emphasized the importance of continued and sustained effort to combat COVID-19. He stated that new precautions and procedures will be implemented as needed, such as the recent announcement of mandatory undergraduate testing starting Aug. 31.
“The bottom line is we’re proud on (sic) where we are, we are by no means done,” Diermeier said. “To quote Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end, it’s perhaps the end of the beginning.”
Beyond addressing Vanderbilt’s return to campus, Diermeier also recognized the “painful measures” that had to be taken in relation to the university’s faculty and staff due to the pandemic. He stated that unlike some other universities, however, Vanderbilt was able to avoid mass layoffs, mass furloughs and adverse effects to faculty retirement contributions.
Over the summer, ten athletic communications positions were terminated, along with Assistant Director of the Outdoor Recreation Center Linda Rosenkranz. The reason for these terminations is not yet known.
Diermeier ended his address with a positive outlook moving forward and a reminder to the Vanderbilt community of their transformative impact on society.
“These are unprecedented challenges. These are challenges that no generation has ever faced. There will be tough, there will be unexpected events that we’re not even contemplating at this point. But I’m confident that we will get through this together as one community and as one Vanderbilt,” Diermeier said.
Following this address, Diermeier recognized faculty that had recently completed 25 years of full-time service and presented the teaching and service awards from the past spring semester. Diermeier also presented awards typical of the fall assembly, including the Chancellor’s Awards for Research, the Chancellor’s Awards for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, the Thomas Jefferson Award for Distinguished Service and the Sutherland Prize for Research.
Following this presentation, Faculty Senate Chair Catherine McTamaney provided updates on the faculty senate, stating that the fall meeting will occur Sept. 3 over Zoom. McTamaney said that the Senate will focus on issues of equity and diversity while also informing the university’s response to COVID-19.
“We are confident that Daniel is a leader who will partner with faculty in challenging times, and we look forward to celebrating those successes together once we’ve endured these days,” McTamaney said.