The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Dores Divest impersonates chancellor’s email, calls for divestment from fossil fuels

The email included a video message from actor Brian Baumgartner, who plays The Office’s Kevin Malone, as well as links to their petition for divestment and calls to join the organization to help plan a campus-wide disruption on Feb. 23.
Immanual John Milton
Dores Divest, a student group advocating for divestment from fossil fuels, sent an email to part of the student body impersonating the chancellor on Jan. 25, 2021. Screenshot taken of email. (Hustler Staff/Immanual John Milton)

LAST UPDATED: Jan. 26 at 6:08 p.m. CST

Dores Divest, a student group focused on encouraging the university to divest from fossil fuels, sent an email to a portion of the student body posing as Chancellor Daniel Diermeier with the subject line “Bird People and Kirkland Hall: Urgent.”

The student group took responsibility for the action in a message to The Hustler. DivestVU, another student group advocating for fossil fuel divestment, and Vanderbilt Student Government were not involved, per a message from Student Body Vice President Shun Ahmed.

“Our goal was to send the email to the entire student body and key administration officials. Our analytics allow us to confirm that the email has at least 3,000 unique opens since sending at close of business today,” Dores Divest said in a message to The Hustler. Dores Divest updated this figure on Jan. 26 to over 9,000 opens.

The organization was not willing to disclose its methods, however, the email appears to be sent from the chancellor’s email account via Mailchimp, an email marketing company.

“If you are reading this, then SEAL Team Ron and I have successfully #hacked Vanderbilt’s email server to send you this important video message,” the email said.

In a chat with VUIT at 6:17 p.m. CST, a representative stated “this email appears to be spoofing the [chancellor’s] email address. Please delete and disregard the email, as there is no cause for concern. No further action is required on your part.”

Dores Divest said the email is harmless and only links to its pages and video.

Dean of Students Mark Bandas sent an email at 10:25 p.m. CST, informing the community that Vanderbilt is investigating the incident.

“Vanderbilt IT is actively investigating the issue and anyone involved will face disciplinary consequences,” Bandas said.

Impersonating a university official or any other person is a violation of policy according to Chapter 3 of the Student Handbook, entitled Student Accountability. The handbook also states that students are subject to corrective action, individually or as a group, when they violate university policy.

The message included a video from actor Brian Baumgartner, The Office’s Kevin Malone, in addition to links to the organization’s petition. They also included a call to join the organization to help plan a campus-wide disruption on Feb. 23, the first reading day of the semester.

The group said in a message to The Hustler that its goals in sending the email were to hold the administration accountable for their “terrible investment performance” and to state “loudly” that it feels as if the administration is not taking concerns about climate change seriously despite student body demands.

“While I may not support these disruptive tactics, I can completely understand where they’re coming from, when it feels as though the administration is ignoring us,” DivestVU Co-Founder Emily Irigoyen said.

According to Irigoyen, DivestVU is still trying to organize a meeting with Vice Chancellor for Investments and Chief Investment Officer Anders Hall, in hopes of bringing up action on the issue of divestment to the Board of Trust, a group of 24 trustees who governs the university.

Meanwhile, Dores Divest said, “While our peer institutions wash their hands of big oil in the name of tackling the growing climate crisis, we literally have to enlist celebrity support and cyber antics just to bring the Vandy admin to the table. Therefore, we’re hard pressed to believe that university leaders really “Commodore Care” about the health of the global and campus community (or anything that Al Gore says at our “unity” webinars) – but we’re open to being surprised.”

The email also issued a direct challenge to the chancellor and told him to meet with student and faculty leaders in the next 30 days to discuss divestment. 

“There is no planet B – your move Chancellor,” the email said.

Diermeier commented on student movements advocating for divestment in an interview with The Hustler on Nov. 19.

“The purpose of the endowment is to support our students and faculty,” Diermeier said. “It provides support for undergraduates, supports Opportunity Vanderbilt and supports the research of a faculty. It’s not intended to be an advocacy tool.” 

The university has not responded to an immediate request for comment.

This piece has been updated with the Jan. 25 email from Dean of Students Mark Bandas and the number of opens of the email.

The Hustler will continue to update this piece as more information becomes available. 

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About the Contributors
Immanual John Milton
Immanual John Milton, Former Editor in Chief
Immanual John Milton ('22) is from Minneapolis, MN. He studies computer science, economics and business. Before being Editor in Chief, Immanual was a deputy news editor. He can be reached at [email protected].    
Avery Muir
Avery Muir, Former Managing Editor
Avery Muir ('21) is from Bethesda, MD. She studied political science and economics in the College of Arts and Science. Avery has been on staff since her first year at Vanderbilt, previously serving as a staff writer, Life Editor and then Copy Editor. In her free time, Avery likes drinking way too much coffee and exploring the Nashville food scene. You can reach her at [email protected].    
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