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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.

Six Vanderbilt community members report assaults between March 14 and 17

A student was reportedly thrown to the ground and had her phone stolen on campus on March 14, and students received reports of five other community members being groped between March 16 and 17.
Emergency phone station on Alumni Lawn, as photographed on Sept. 27, 2021
Claire Gatlin
Emergency phone station on Alumni Lawn, as photographed on Sept. 27, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Gatlin)

CORRECTION: This article was corrected on March 24 at 8:53 p.m. CDT to specify the location of one of the assaults.

Editor’s note: This piece contains mentions of physical and sexual assault.

Between March 14 and 17, six assaults were reported by Vanderbilt community members. The incidents included a March 14 assault and robbery reported by Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) and five sexual assaults (two on March 16, three on March 17) reported by Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD). All students mentioned in this article are being kept anonymous for personal safety concerns.

A female Vanderbilt student in the Class of 2023 was pulled to the ground and robbed on 25th Ave S., outside of Memorial Gymnasium, on March 14 at around 7 p.m. CDT. The perpetrator was brought into custody on multiple charges by MNPD later that night.

On March 16, Vanderbilt students received a security notice regarding two sexual assaults reported to VUPD that night. The email states that two female students reported that they were “grabbed in the buttocks by an unknown person.” One of these incidents reportedly occurred in the Greek Row area and the other allegedly occurred in 25th Ave/West End area.

Students also received a series of security alerts on March 17 via email and the AlertVU system notifying students of three more groping incidents that occurred that evening. The email states that all five incidents reported on March 16 and 17 have been attributed to one suspect, and it included a photo of him.

Vanderbilt community members received an email from the Office of the Dean of Students on March 18 stating that the March 16 and 17 groping incidents remain under investigation and that the suspect had not yet been apprehended. The email also encouraged students to call 911 or contact VUPD if they see the suspect, utilize the VandySafe mobile app and exercise general safety precautions.

March 14 assault and robbery

The March 14 perpetrator, identified as 28-year-old Darius Wade of Antioch, Tennessee, reportedly pulled the survivor to the ground by her hair and stole her cell phone. The survivor, who suffered knee and elbow abrasions, reportedly then screamed for help, shouting, “stop him!”

Subsequently, a 20-year-old male student tackled Wade, who responded by spitting on and punching the student, per an MNPD media release. Wade reportedly broke free from the grip of the student and was later apprehended and taken into custody by MNPD officials near Highland Quadrangle on 25th Ave S., following a search of the area by both VUPD and MNPD officials. Wade was jailed on a $60,000 bond and faces assault, robbery and vandalism charges. Per the MNPD media release, Wade allegedly broke a vehicle’s tail light with a rock in the nearby bookstore parking lot before the reported assault occurred.

Sophomores Kaitlyn Williams and Olivia Marco witnessed the incident while driving down 25th Ave S. together.

“At the intersection by Branscomb and Memorial Gym, we saw two people fighting on the side of the road,” Williams said. “[Wade] kept throwing punches, spitting and saying, ‘fuck you,’ and the other guy [the male student] was holding him and not letting go.”

In messages to The Hustler, the survivor expressed gratitude for the response of campus authorities after the assault.

“Campus police took huge precautions to make me feel safe and comfortable after the fact,” the survivor said. “They responded quickly and effectively and made sure that I was physically and emotionally safe. I have nothing but gratitude and respect for them.”

The survivor also praised the Vanderbilt community members who came to her aid during the assault and encourages other students to do the same if they witness an assault.

“If you see something happening, do something about it,” the survivor said. “Take the time to educate yourself on the best thing to do when seconds count. Yell, scream, make noise; people will notice and help. They did in my case, and I don’t think that Darius Wade would have been caught if they hadn’t.” 

Roughly 10-15 people surrounded the scene, according to Marco. She and Williams said they heard sirens shortly after driving past the scene, signaling to them that first responders were on the way.

“The police response was very fast, and there were so many people around to help, which makes me feel good about the support of the Vanderbilt community,” Williams said.

The survivor cautioned students on the dangers of taking the “Vanderbubble” for granted as a completely safe territory, stating the attack occurred on a route she routinely walks.

“It’s easy to let your guard down in a familiar campus space, but I would urge the Vanderbilt student body to consider walking with maybe one AirPod in rather than both,” the survivor said. “And if you’re alone, make sure someone knows where you are.”

Vanderbilt students have not received a formal security notice from the university regarding the March 14 incident, which the survivor said she found concerning. The university and VUPD did not respond to The Hustler’s requests for comment on the incident and lack of email notification.

March 16 and 17 groping incidents

In a message to The Hustler, a 22-year-old female survivor in the Class of 2022 said she left an extracurricular meeting on Greek Row at around 7:30 p.m. CDT on March 16 and was walking to the Kenect Nashville apartment complex when someone came out of Vanderbilt Parking Lot 5A and appeared to be following her. She said she first noticed the perpetrator when she was on the edge of campus near Wilson Hall.

“I started talking really loudly on the phone with my brother about my friend who was mugged on Monday to try to get this guy to get the signal and back off. He didn’t,” the survivor said. “I jaywalked across Division Street rather than waiting for a crosswalk, and he crossed over at the same time. I was watching his shadow, turning around and looking at him the whole time I was walking home because I was scared he was following me.” 

The student said the perpetrator “slapped [her] butt really hard with an open hand” as she was about to enter Kenect at around 7:50 p.m. CDT. 

“I was in so much shock. The feeling would come and go for the next few hours until I fell asleep,” the survivor said. “A friend and I tried to get Kenect to look at the security camera footage, but they weren’t doing a good job of finding it.”

According to the survivor, she called VUPD, and the department told her that similar incidents had occurred at around the same time as hers.

“They asked me if I had just called them because a different girl had just called them about a similar incident,” the student said. “They told me that three or four other girls had called them in the past hour-to-hour-and-a-half reporting similar situations.”

The survivor said she is disappointed in how some community members have responded to the reports of the assaults by making jokes and giving nicknames to the perpetrator on social media outlets, such as Yik Yak.

“It might seem like a funny situation, but once it happens to you, it’s traumatizing, and there’s no going back. I’m not sure I’m ever going to be able to walk that route home again,” the survivor said. “I haven’t walked into the entrance of Kenect again yet. I certainly would not feel safe at all on this campus, especially after what happened Monday, too. It’s just proven that Vanderbilt is not a safe place for young women to be by themselves, which is so unfortunate.”

A female student in the Class of 2024 similarly said her friend was slapped on the butt on March 16 by a man who had been following the pair in the Greek Row area. She said the perpetrator ran away, but she saw him again shortly after the incident.

“While I was on the phone with VUPD, the attacker walked by the [Greek] house, saw me through the window and started running. We got scared and closed all the windows and blinds. I told the VUPD dispatcher he had just passed the house,” the student said. “VUPD came to the house and talked to me and my friend.”

The student said she was dissatisfied with how VUPD officials allegedly exhibited lighthearted attitudes about her and her friend’s experiences. VUPD did not immediately respond to The Hustler’s request for comment on this interaction.

“When talking to my friend, the officers were joking around and not taking her very seriously while she was clearly upset,” the student said. “It’s up to the officers to hold individuals accountable for these awful actions. The fact that we were walking on campus together in the broad daylight following all the rules that administration sends out in their security emails and this situation still occurred is absolutely unacceptable. This is a point to prove that those emails don’t work; they don’t actually do anything.”

The student also expressed discontent with Vanderbilt administration’s timeliness in notifying students about the March 16 and 17 sexual assaults. She added that this experience has drastically changed her feeling of safety on campus.

“The fact that VUPD had to use the AlertVU system twice on March 17 in addition to the other emails they sent is extremely terrifying,” the student said. “I had never felt extremely unsafe walking around campus before this incident, especially when walking with someone else. It’s scary to know that even when walking together, you’re still not safe from everything.”

The survivor in the Class of 2022 similarly said she believes the university should have been more forthcoming with information about the March 16 and 17 sexual assaults, particularly because the locations mentioned in the security notices did not include the area in which she was assaulted.

“The only way I could’ve been aware of it was from a message in my sorority’s GroupMe, which I wish I had paid more attention to. I think Vanderbilt should’ve sent out an alert as soon as they got a second call about an incident like this because maybe it would’ve protected me and other girls from getting assaulted,” the survivor said. “I was out with friends Thursday night and got several AlertVU notifications about more assaults. It was scary to see that this guy could continue to do this without being stopped.”

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About the Contributors
Sam Stubbs
Sam Stubbs, Former Staff Writer
Sam Stubbs (‘24) is from Arlington Heights, Illinois, majoring in Human & Organizational Development and Communication of Science & Technology with a minor in Computer Science. He currently serves as a staff writer for the News section of The Hustler. In his free time, he enjoys building out his nonprofit startup, Chicago Beach CleanUp, rooting for the Chicago Sky and collecting vintage Vanderbilt streetwear. He can be reached at [email protected].
Claire Gatlin
Claire Gatlin, Former Life Editor
Claire Gatlin ('24) is a student in Peabody College studying human and organizational development and political science. In her free time, she enjoys going to concerts, reading and rollerblading. You can reach her at [email protected].
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