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.

BREAKING: Divest Coalition protesters sit in at Kirkland Hall, at least seven suspended

The protesters intend to sit in until Vanderbilt allows a VSG BDS referendum vote.
Students+protest+outside+Kirkland+Hall+for+a+VSG+BDS+amendment+vote%2C+as+photographed+on+March+26%2C+2024.+%28Hustler+Multimedia%2FSavannah+Walske%29
Savannah Walske
Students protest outside Kirkland Hall for a VSG BDS amendment vote, as photographed on March 26, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Savannah Walske)

The rundown:

  • At 9 a.m. CDT on March 26, a group of 27 undergraduate protestors from the Vanderbilt Divest Coalition rushed into Kirkland Hall. The students are calling for administration to allow the student body to vote on an amendment to the VSG Constitution that would prevent VSG funds from being used on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement’s boycott targets. As of 9 p.m. CDT, all 27 remain inside and police presence outside the premises have continued.
  • At least sixteen students say they have received “interim suspensions” from the university. At least one student who was not inside received an interim suspension that was overturned. Under suspension, students are prohibited from campus, including in residential halls and classrooms. Returning to campus without approval can result in criminal trespassing charges and subsequent arrest.
  • Nashville Scene reporter Eli Motycka was arrested around 1:30 pm CDT for alleged attempted trespassing. He has since been released, and District Attorney Glenn Funk told the Scene that he will not press charges against Motycka or any reporter “for peacefully doing his or her job.” Motycka has not been charged with a crime.
  • Students inside report “inhumane” treatment, such as being denied the ability to go to the bathroom without being escorted out of the building. Individuals outside are not allowed to bring in food or water for protestors. Students protestors have urinated in bottles instead of leaving and one student removed their tampon within the sit-in due to feeling early symptoms of toxic shock syndrome.
  • At least 50 students have been demonstrating outside Kirkland Hall all day, in support of the students staging the sit-in.
  • Last week, VDC staged a week-long sit-in on Rand Lawn after the university alleged the BDS amendment would be illegal and cancelled it. The referendum was scheduled to go to a vote on March 25 after a petition in its favor gained 600 student signatures.

UPDATE: March 26, 2024, 6:29 p.m. CDT

A group-written statement to The Hustler from the protestors inside Kirkland Hall reads that Vanderbilt’s statement contains misinformation.

“Students were grabbed and assaulted, and defended themselves from CSOs on their way to protest at the Chancellor’s office in an attempt to exercise their fundamental rights to free speech and free expression,” the statement reads.

The statement further claims that Vanderbilt’s stated commitment to freedom of expression falls short given its admitted limits on protesting.

“They are admitting that they do not value protests as a legitimate form of political action, and only permit “protests” as they see fit. This is consistent with their lies about their support for free speech,” the statement reads.

Students affirmed that they will remain in Kirkland Hall until forcibly removed or until their demands are met.

UPDATE: March 26, 2024, 6:06 p.m. CDT

In another statement to The Hustler, the university alleged that students were physical with Vanderbilt employees to gain entry into Kirkland Hall. These staff members were working in Kirkland Hall, despite the university stating it was closed for construction.

“Some students physically assaulted a Community Service Officer to gain entrance and proceeded to push staff members who offered to meet with them,” the statement reads.

In the statement, the university emphasized the centrality of free expression and civil discourse to Vanderbilt. Protest limitations, such as those outlined in maps distributed at today’s protest, were said to be necessary for community safety and the preservation of university operations.

“We, as a matter of policy, define time, place and manner limitations. The safety and well-being of our community is a top priority,” the statement reads. “The university will take action when our policies are violated, the safety of our campus is jeopardized and when people intimidate or injure members of our community.”

The university has not notified the larger Vanderbilt community about anything related to the sit-in or protest but said it will “keep our community informed” with updates.

UPDATE: March 26, 2024, 5:51 p.m. CDT

In a statement to The Hustler, a university representative said Motycka was arrested for repeatedly trying to enter Kirkland Hall, claiming the building was “closed for ongoing construction.” The statement later modifies the status of the building operation, stating that the building is “closed to the public for ongoing construction.” Signs on Kirkland Hall’s doors state that the building is closed for construction and access is prohibited by anyone but those with offices in the building.

The university representative previously told The Hustler that Kirkland Hall was resuming full business operations in mid-February 2024 after renovations, which have been since completed. Vanderbilt employees have been seen leaving the building at the end of the work day. His arrest occurred during business hours.

Motycka denied being warned to leave as the statement says he was.

UPDATE: March 26, 2024, 5:34 p.m. CDT

The Scene reported that Motycka was released and police returned him to campus at around 4 p.m. CDT, after which he promptly left the campus. Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk told the Scene that he will not press charges against Motycka or any reporter “for peacefully doing his or her job.” Motycka was not charged with a crime due to Judicial Magistrate Timothy Lee of the Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County General Sessions Court not finding probable cause to hear Vanderbilt’s charges against him.

UPDATE: March 26, 2024, 3:48 p.m. CDT

Matt Masters, a coworker of Motycka, said Motycka was taken to Davidson Downtown Detention Center, where he remains.

UPDATE: March 26, 2024, 3:12 p.m. CDT

Another student participating in the sit-in, who is being kept anonymous for protection from professional retribution, said at least seven students participating in the sit-in have been issued interim suspensions due to a “potential violation” of university policy. Another protestor, who is being kept anonymous for protection from professional retribution, was also suspended but did not enter Kirkland Hall. They are the only student who remained outside Kirkland Hall to be suspended.

The Hustler obtained a protestor’s suspension notice, which did not outline the alleged violation. Under suspension, students are prohibited from campus, including in residential halls and classrooms. Returning to campus without approval can result in criminal trespassing charges and subsequent arrest, the letter reads. The suspended students remain on campus in Kirkland Hall. Suspended students may obtain personal items from their dorms with approval from the Office of Student Accountability.

“According to the Vanderbilt University Student Handbook, suspension, pending an investigation and accountability meeting, may be imposed when there is a reason to believe the action is necessary to maintain University functions or to protect the safety of individuals,” the suspension notice reads.

A university representative addresses the protesters at Kirkland Hall, as photographed on March 26, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)
Chief Administrative Officer Mary Helen Davidson addresses the protesters at Kirkland Hall and distributes maps, as photographed on March 26, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)
The map student protestors were given, as photographed on March 26, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

Students protesting outside received maps from Chief Administrative Officer Mary Helen Davidson at around 1:30 p.m. CDT outlining protest restrictions near Kirkland Hall. They dispersed at around 2:45 p.m. CDT, which protestors said was done out of fear of repercussions from the university.

March 26, 2024, 2:45 p.m. CDT

Twenty-seven Vanderbilt Divest Coalition protesters rushed into Kirkland Hall through the front entrance at around 9 a.m. CDT today and remain inside four hours later amid alleged threats of forcible removal and interim suspension. Protestors told The Hustler that they intend to remain inside until the university allows the student body to vote on an amendment to the VSG Constitution that would prevent VSG funds from being used on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement’s consumer and organic boycott targets. 

A rally of around 50 students is also occurring outside the entrance to the building, held by supporters of protesters sitting in. The protestors inside and outside Kirkland Hall are chanting lines such as “Diermeier Diermeier, you can’t hide, you’re supporting genocide,” “V-O-T-E,” “All we’re asking for is democracy,” “Dictator Diermeier” and “Diermeier, you’re a liar, you set free speech on fire.”

A student protester being kept anonymous for protection from professional retribution told The Hustler that forcible removal was threatened to the protestors by VUPD at around 11:15 a.m. CDT if they did not exit the building and end the sit-in within 15 minutes. The student also said they were threatened with interim suspension by VUPD if they failed to leave. VUPD officers are guarding all doors of Kirkland Hall.

A university representative denied The Hustler’s request to allow student reporters and photographers into Kirkland Hall, claiming that it is still closed due to construction. The university previously told The Hustler that this work was done in February. Furthermore, on March 19, The Hustler interviewed Chancellor Diermeier at Kirkland Hall, and the construction site is listed as complete on the FutureVU website.  

Kirkland Hall houses Vanderbilt administration offices. A university representative previously told The Hustler that, once its renovations were complete, it would be open to Vanderbilt community members “with business in the building.”  

Around 1:30 p.m. CDT, Nashville Scene Reporter Eli Motycka was handcuffed and detained by VUPD for “trespassing” and taken away in a VUPD vehicle. Motycka did not enter the building but spoke to individuals inside it.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

View comments (18)
About the Contributors
Tasfia Alam
Tasfia Alam, Multimedia Copy Editor
Tasfia Alam (‘25) is from Los Angeles and is majoring in neuroscience and political science in the College of Arts and Science. When not writing for The Hustler, she can be found obsessing over a new book, trying to expand her music taste or taking pictures of pretty sunsets. You can reach her at [email protected]
Aaditi Lele
Aaditi Lele, Former Editorial Director
Aaditi Lele ('24) is majoring in political science and climate science with a minor in South Asian Language and Culture in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as News Editor. Outside of The Hustler, you can find her crocheting, practicing calligraphy or counting down the days until she can see her dog. She can be reached at [email protected].    
Katherine Oung
Katherine Oung, Data Editor
Katherine Oung ('25) is majoring in political science and computer science and minoring in data science in the College of Arts and Science. They are from West Palm Beach, Fla., and were previously Deputy News Editor and Managing Editor. Katherine enjoys working on freelance journalism projects and making incredibly specific Spotify playlists. They can be reached at [email protected].
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].
Josh Rehders
Josh Rehders, Former Photography Director
Josh Rehders ('24) is from Houston and is studying computer science in the School of Engineering. When he is not shooting for The Hustler, Vanderbilt Athletics or freelancing, he enjoys finding new music and good food. He can be reached at [email protected].
Savannah Walske
Savannah Walske, Staff Photographer
Savannah Walske (‘26) is from San Francisco and is double majoring in psychology and Spanish in the College of Arts and Science. When not shooting for The Hustler, you can find her playing guitar, photographing pretty Californian landscapes and obsessing over her dog. You can contact her at [email protected].
More to Discover

Comments (18)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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A
Alli
1 month ago

Ridiculous that students are calling it “inhumane” to not be allowed to use the bathrooms in the building in which they’re trespassing, and be allowed to come right back to trespass after. Should campus security also do food and pharmacy runs for them? And it’s so silly to say a student removed a tampon after feeling “early warning signs” of toxic shock syndrome. That is not at all how TSS works, you wouldn’t remove your tampon and suddenly be fine. If you had somehow already begun to develop this serious bacterial infection, you would still need to be hospitalized after removing the tampon. And the odds of getting TSS are so vanishingly small, even if you left your tampon in for two weeks. These examples just show me how unserious and self-flagellating these demonstrators are.

A
Alum 1982
1 month ago

Amazing you managed to write the entire story without mentioning Israel or Gaza once! Maybe it’s about some other BDS. Nicely sanitized article to make the administration happy that is showing itself to be part of the current fascist trend toward criminalizing freedom of the press such as via arresting a reporter. Disgusting.

M
Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  Alum 1982

Who are you to tell a university where and where not to invest their money? What gives you the right to believe you could tell somebody what to do, expecting them to bend to your will? Clearly, you feel passionate about the subject, but good people do not want to control the actions of others. Fascists and neo-Marxists, on the other hand, live for control while claiming to be on the right side of history.

G
Gio!
2 months ago

This is wonderful news and an example of how college campuses should be treating pro-Muslim terror demonstrators. A bunch of entitled white kids abusing what they perceive to be the hired help is not a good thing. Chanting for Hamas isn’t a good thing. Let their parents pick them up and take them home. And I hope they’re not allowed back on campus ever.

S
Sheryl
1 month ago
Reply to  Gio!

“White kids”? Do you know each one’s identity? If you are going to make an allegation bring your receipts. Better yet, leave “race” out of it. They are Vandy students that should learn consequences.

M
Mike
2 months ago

This is a classical model that builds off of the Columbia University protests during the Vietnam War. The lesson learned should be that the protesters want violence to be enacted on them so they can gain more supporters and further their political ambitions while claiming to be victims of an oppressive system. Such activism should not be tolerated in a place that is supposed to encourage the free flow of ideas through open discourse and debate. They don’t want debate, which is why they use their methods. The radical roots of this protest should be very obvious to anyone who has studied the 1968 protests. These protesters are a minority and try to claim to be the majority by being the loudest voice in the room. They know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so they will continue their radical methods, encouraging other universities to follow suit.

The university should act carefully, taking a firm stance toward open discourse. It should promote open panels that aim to provide mutual understanding while upholding firm values of remaining civil. If students and activists don’t know how to use their words to persuade their points, the university has failed them, and they will graduate going into society and into institutions behaving in the same manner. We cannot continue to replicate nor improve our existing system with such behaviors from students who cannot articulate their passions effectively.

J
Jill
2 months ago
Reply to  Mike

Absolutely. 1968 repeats itself. If Vandy fails to teach the students to present their argument without coercion and hostility, then it colludes unwittingly; rendering itself a college unworthy of being branded as the Ivy of the South.

M
Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  Jill

The university will continue to exist, but the spirit is clearly dying. We are living in a world where radical leftists have infiltrated the university by establishing cultural grievance studies intended to shape the class consciousness for their revolutionary ambitions. If you look at all of the demands for divestment signed by Vanderbilt professors, you will clearly see that all of them are coming out of disciplines that were intended from their founding to use culture to attack the capitalist system and the Western notion of the nation-state. Truth with a T is under attack. The neo-Marxists do not believe in objective truth; rather, they believe in staging a revolution of radical subjectivity. This is why everything goes back to your truth? And not the Truth. Veritas, courage, and a dedication to bringing awareness of how the university changed in 1968 is the only way to combat the spirit of totalitarianism that relies on subversion and conspiring with the uneducated masses to provoke an anarchist revolution. Because the true radicals don’t care what comes after; they believe in dialectics and the backward thinking of Marxist Leninism, which believes that violence is the locomotive of history and it is the only way to advance to the next stage of socialist/communist development. The problem is that the left has completely abandoned economics, and the conservatives are too arrogant to understand that we need to upgrade the economy. We need to upgrade our economy because wealth inequality has grown too wide, which historically resulted in radicalization and revolution.

S
Shocked Grad
2 months ago

Vanderbilt’s conduct here is reprehensible. Blatant lies and censoring the press.

M
Michael
2 months ago
Reply to  Shocked Grad

How does one arrive at that illogical conclusion? Where is the censoring of the press? What are the blatant lies? Perhaps the only lies here are you and your decision to remain anonymous while using inflammatory rhetoric without having the capacity to articulate and defend your views. Explain yourself.

A
Alum 1982
1 month ago
Reply to  Michael

arresting a reporter is censorious muzzling of the press and chilling speech. The lies are the utterances of the administration in this situation, not the. people reporting (who managed to never mention what the BDS movement is protest is about as to who they want to boycott.

M
Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  Alum 1982

I guess the rules shouldn’t apply to those who illegally occupy private property and claim to be on the right side of history. Looks like we need to make an amendment so that the rule of law doesn’t come down on people who claim to have beautiful hearts with hypocritical actions.

T
Tessa
2 months ago
Reply to  Shocked Grad

no, the mob breaking and entering, assaulting others and trespassing, calling 911 for nothing, is reprehensible. they are criminals and some will have arrest records for their crimes. they all should.

A
Alum 1982
1 month ago
Reply to  Shocked Grad

Agreed. I graduated in 1982 and feel the same. Censoring the press is quite clear when they are muzzling a Nashville Scene reporter. Part of a trend worldwide to criminalize speech, and since VU is not a state college they are taking full advantage of their private school sheltered ability to spit on the Bill of Rights.

T
Tariq
2 months ago

Great work. Keep it up guys. Alumni are proud. Those who disagree with anonymity (given the examples of obvious retaliation by the school, yet nashville government attorneys say the school has no grounds to press charges) are ignoring the sudden and unfair changes to the lives of the student as well as the democratic sentiments of the VSG. Also, hiding one’s own name in the endeavor to learn others’ is hypocritical.

P
Publius
2 months ago

Do not believe keeping the names of these anti-Israel demonstrators quoted anonymous is of sound editorial decision or consistent with the Hustler’s own handbook.

A
Alum 1982
1 month ago
Reply to  Publius

being anti-genocide is the point, despite your attempt to portray this protest as sullying of the robes of a sacred cow.

M
Mike
1 month ago
Reply to  Alum 1982

Genocide has a specific definition, which is the intentional purpose of eliminating people based on their ethnic or cultural identity. The only acts of genocide have come from Hamas. The Palestinians do not have an ethnic or cultural identity. It is a term for Arabs living in the region of Palestine. If Israel was dedicated to committing genocide, then they would be targeting all Arabs indiscriminately. But there is no evidence that they are doing that. however, there is strong evidence from multiple wars involving all of the Arab states surrounding Israel, conspiring in all-out offensives to wipe Israel off the map. They have lost time and time again, but for some stupid reason, Israel gives back that little piece of land, which the PMO established to bring permanent revolution to the Middle East. The silliness of waging a war and giving back the land which is necessary to defend yourself is insanity, but it speaks to Israel’s dedication of abiding by the rules-based intern order which allocated that land after WWI. Typically, the winner of a war gets the spoils of the war, which is why that lamb was divided up in the first place. But with that said, stop being silly and supporting those who are dedicated to bringing destruction and wickedness on a population.