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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.

Vanderbilt and elected leaders respond to Covenant School shooting

A university-wide meeting will be held live on Zoom by Chancellor Daniel Diermeier on March 29 at 2:30 p.m. CDT to discuss the shooting.
Vanderbilt Athletics
The scoreboard at Hawkins Field during a moment of silence held at the beginning of the Vanderbilt versus Lipscomb baseball game, as photographed on March 28, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Vanderbilt Athletics)

Vanderbilt administrators and city, state and national politicians responded to the March 27 shooting at The Covenant School in Green Hills that left six victims dead. Chancellor Daniel Diermeier will host a live, university-wide meeting about the shooting on Zoom on March 29 at 2:30 p.m. CDT.

Three children — all age 9 — and three staff members were killed in the shooting, in addition to the shooter. It is the deadliest school shooting since the tragedy in Uvalde in May 2022 and is the 128th shooting in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

Vanderbilt administrators’ responses

Diermeier wrote in an email to the Vanderbilt community that he was “horrified” by the news of the shooting. The email came eight hours after the shooter opened fire at Covenant on Monday. 

“This is a tragedy for the city of Nashville and its many communities, including here at Vanderbilt—from members of our community who have children, or know children or staff, at Covenant to colleagues and fellow students at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who cared for the victims as well as families with school-age children who are, once again, hearing of an act of violence on school grounds,” the email reads. 

The email included information about mental health resources for students, faculty and staff as well as bulletins on coping with grief and loss. Provost C. Cybele Raver reiterated Diermeier’s message on Twitter and expressed her condolences to those affected by the shooting.

“As we pause to process today’s events and grieve for the victims, it is important that we care for and support one another,” Diermeier’s email reads.

In a subsequent email sent today, Diermeier notified the community of the school-wide meeting to take place on March 29. The email included a YouTube video of Diermeier responding to the tragedy, in which he is visibly and audibly distressed. 

“We’ll support each other. We grieve with each other. And then we go to look at these issues and the horror of gun violence, of mass shootings. We’ll talk about it and educate our students. We do research. We engage in debates. We have policy discussions, and we try to find solutions,” Diermeier said. “For now, let’s take a moment and remember and reflect on what’s most precious in our lives.”

Peabody College Dean Camilla Benbow similarly sent an email to the Peabody community on Monday at around 7:45 p.m. CDT. Katherine Koonce (BS ‘85), the head of school at Covenant, was killed in the shooting, and multiple other Peabody alumni work at Covenant. 

Benbow referenced an open support session with the University Counseling Center and the Center for Spiritual and Religious Life that was held on Monday afternoon for Peabody students, faculty and staff.

“No one, whether child or adult, should have to be afraid to go to school or work in the morning. And yet we encounter too many situations that demand unexpected heroism,” Benbow said. “As we all wrestle with the implications of the latest mass shooting—this one in our own community—please know how very proud I am of our students and alumni who work to serve others and create positive change.”

Vanderbilt Athletics responses

Athletics Director Candice Lee shared her condolences to the families of the victims in a tweet on Monday.

“I don’t know how to process today’s events,” Lee’s Tweet reads. “I cannot make sense of such tragedy, especially one that violates the sanctity and security that SHOULD be found within schools.”

Vanderbilt Football head coach Clark Lea tweeted a hand-written note about the shooting in which expressed solidarity with the families of the victims. He also tweeted pictures of the Vanderbilt football team gathering last night to hold a vigil for the victims. 

“As a parent of young children, my heart breaks for those families that sent their sweet children to school yesterday only to have them not return home,” Lea wrote. “I cannot fathom the pain you feel. My heart cries for you.”

Proceeds from tonight’s baseball game between Vanderbilt and Lipscomb will be donated to the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which established the Caring for Covenant School Fund. Donations will benefit The Covenant School to help those affected by the shooting. A moment of silence and prayer among the players were also held at the start of the game.

“It’s just a very minor contribution, but a little means something. It’s more about standing by a community situation in a time of need,” Vanderbilt Baseball head coach Tim Corbin said. “I thought The Covenant School, when I spoke there back in 2014, was the most peaceful place I’d ever been.”

Politicians’ responses

President Joe Biden addressed the shooting on Monday afternoon at the beginning of a Small Business Administration Women’s Business Summit at the White House. He also referenced it while in Durham, North Carolina, today. Biden expressed gratitude for the swift response of the MNPD officers at the scene. 

“It’s sick,” Biden said. “A family’s worst nightmare.”

He called on Congress to ban assault weapons; two of the three guns the Covenant shooter brought to the school were AR-style guns. Biden also encouraged a focus to be placed on the mental health of students and faculty at Covenant after this tragedy.

“We owe these families more than our prayers. We owe them action,” Biden said.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper spoke at the MNPD press conferences on Monday and echoed Biden’s call for common sense gun reform on a TODAY show segment this morning. He called the shooting “our worst day.”

“Guns lead to tragedies,” Cooper said. “Whatever your political beliefs are, we should not be celebrating the cult of the gun.”

Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett (R) expressed his regret about the shooting in an interview on Monday. He stated he does not see a role for Congress in responding to gun violence and added that, as a Christian, he believes the U.S. needs “a revival.” When asked about preventative methods to protect students like his young daughter, Burchett stated that she is homeschooled and offered no other solutions.

“We’re not going to fix it,” Burchett said. “Criminals are going to be criminals.”

Tennessee Representative Andy Ogles (R), who represents The Covenant School, reaffirmed his choice to post a now-deleted picture of his family holding AR-style weapons around a Christmas tree in 2021. He tweeted his “thoughts and prayers” to the families of the victims on Monday. 

“Why would I regret a photograph with my family exercising my rights to bear arms?” Ogles told CBS today in regard to the post.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee tweeted about the shooting at noon CDT on Monday, offering prayers for the families of victims. He posted a video tonight about the tragedy, stating that one of the victims, Cindy Peak, was a close friend of his wife, Maria, and they had dinner plans the night of the shooting. 

“Like many of you, I’ve experienced tragedy in my own life, and I’ve experienced the day after that tragedy. I woke up this morning with a very familiar feeling, and I recognize that today many Tennesseans are feeling the exact same way – the emptiness, the lack of understanding, the desperate desire for answers and the desperate need for hope,” Lee said. 

Lee added the first thing people should do is pray, stating that “God is a redeemer.” He added that a time will come for discussions about policy, legislation and budget proposals.

“Law enforcement officials and educators across our state have been working for years, especially in the last year, to strengthen the safety of schools. That work was not in vain – the courage and swift response by the teachers, officers, and this community without a doubt prevented further tragedy,” Lee said. 

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R) was criticized for implying in a tweet on Monday that testosterone supplements and mental health medication may be a better explanation for the shooting than guns. The shooter identified as a transgender male.

“How much hormones like testosterone and medications for mental illness was the transgender Nashville school shooter taking?” Greene wrote. “Everyone can stop blaming guns now.”

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About the Contributor
Rachael Perrotta
Rachael Perrotta, Former Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Perrotta ('24) is from Cranston, R.I., and majored in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science and minored in gender and sexuality studies in Peabody College. She was also previously Senior Advisor and News Editor. If she's not pressing you for a comment, she's probably trying to convince you that she's over 5 feet tall, cheering on the Red Sox or wishing Nashville had a beach. She can be reached at [email protected].
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