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.

Chancellor Daniel Diermeier responds to Kirkland Hall sit-in, 27 students suspended

Four students who were arrested were later released from the Downtown Detention Center.
Josh Rehders
A broken window at Kirkland Hall, as photographed on March 26, 2024. (Hustler Multimedia/Josh Rehders)

The Kirkland Hall sit-in over students’ ability to vote on an amendment to the VSG constitution ended this morning when students exited the building escorted by VUPD officers. According to a statement sent from Chancellor Daniel Diermeier to the Vanderbilt community — which was previously shared with The Hustler — all protest participants who entered the building have been placed on interim suspension. 

The email details the arrests and release of the students as well as the arrest of Nashville Scene reporter Eli Motycka.

“Yesterday’s protest at Kirkland Hall was not a peaceful one. It began with the assault of a Vanderbilt Community Service Officer and continued with protesters physically pushing Vanderbilt staff members with the hope of entering and occupying the chancellor’s office,” a university representative said to The Hustler. 

The representative explained how the building remained on lockdown with VUPD officers on “high alert” during the sit-in. This information was not included in Diermeier’s email.

“It is in this context that the Nashville Scene reporter, after repeated attempts to enter the administration building through multiple locked doors with signs noting the building was closed and being told by officers it was off limits, was eventually detained, arrested and released without charges filed,” the representative said.

A university representative said it historically has been university practice to grant campus access to members of the media who request and receive appropriate “clearance.”

“In yesterday’s case, though the reporter made his presence known, he did not have permission to access locked administrative buildings, which are on private property,” the statement reads.

Jacob Mchangama, executive director of the Future of Free Speech, a nonpartisan think tank seated at Vanderbilt, issued a statement to The Hustler on behalf of the organization in response to the arrest of the reporter. The organization disapproved of this action.

“We do not condone the use of violence or trespassing as a protected form of protest and would encourage students to demonstrate peacefully in accordance with Vanderbilt’s policy,” Mchangama said. “However, arresting an independent local reporter covering the protest, regardless of his alleged attempts to enter a building without authorization, was a disproportionate response that failed to live up to Vanderbilt’s commitment to free expression and First Amendment ideals.”

Diermeier said the university will work with protestors outside Kirkland Hall to ensure their compliance with university policy on peaceful demonstrations.

“Free expression is a core value at Vanderbilt, as is civil discourse. Our policies allow for members of the Vanderbilt community to protest and demonstrate regarding issues they care deeply about,” the statement from Diermeier reads. “Dozens of peaceful demonstrations have occurred over the past several months. In consideration of safety and the university’s normal operations, we, as a matter of policy, define time, place and manner limitations. “

Diermeier’s statement said the safety and well-being of the Vanderbilt community is a “top priority.”

“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,” Diermeier said.

Diermeier ended his email by encouraging students to move forward despite differences.

“A university community, by definition, will rarely be in full agreement on any issue,” Diermeier said. “The challenge is to move forward together despite our differences, based on our shared values and common purpose. This is what we must do—and what we shall do in the days to come.”

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About the Contributors
Jacob Stoebner
Jacob Stoebner, News Editor
Jacob Stoebner ('26) is from Franklin, Tenn., and is majoring in biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering. When not writing for The Hustler, you can usually find him running, hiking in parks around Nashville or reading. He 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].
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Comments (4)

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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2 months ago

If “free expression” is “a core value at Vanderbilt”, why did the university remove students’ ability to vote either in favor of or against the BDS amendment? As an outside observer, I can definitely understand the university’s stated commitment to impartial free expression and civil discourse, but the clear (if only slight) disconnect between the University’s ideals and its actions unnerves me. And that’s before arresting local journalists.

2 months ago
Reply to  Jae

The administration cites legal complications. As an example is in contract with various parties, so divesting (if you define it broadly enough) could result in breach of contract. There’s not really anything to vote on if the proposal is infeasible. It’s hard to say whether they’re legally or morally right, but it seems pretty inaccurate to say that they have no defense.

Pretty sure the journalist was arrested for attempting to enter an obviously closed off building, which would obviously constitute trespassing. If some random person tried to get into Kirkland they’d be arrested, and no one would bat an eye. Does your job title place you above the law just because you work in news media?

2 months ago
Reply to  Frederick

The legal issues Vanderbilt cites, as far as I have seen, are unnecessarily vague. I think the legality of the issue is not at all settled and is left so unclear that even if students wanted to revise the proposal such that it *was* legal (i.e., to exclude ongoing contracts if such contracts cannot be forgone), no guidance as such has been provided.

With regards to the reporter, the case was dismissed immediately by a Nashville judge who found Vanderbilt had no basis for the arrest. Put another way, there is/was no evidence that the reporter was attempting to gain entrance to Kirkland.

Kenneth Thomas
2 months ago
Reply to  Jae

Would a student referendum have any binding impact?!!? I can’t think of anywhere except perhaps Deep Springs that a student vote would have any such power.

( To me, this would seem an educational exercise, one in which the Chancellor is blowing the teaching moments. )