Jessica M. Barker
Incoming Chancellor Daniel Diermeier held a seventeen-minute long Zoom call addressing the Vanderbilt community at 12 p.m. CDT today.
The call was hosted by Board of Trust Chairman Bruce Evans and mediated with questions by current Student Body President Veer Shah. Shah asked Diermeier about his past, the challenges that Vanderbilt students face and what drew him to Vanderbilt.
Before addressing the future of Vanderbilt, Diermeier expressed his gratitude about the ability for the Vanderbilt community to come together and discuss contemporary issues, including COVID-19 response, civil unrest and the George Floyd incident.
“I think we’re all still in shock from the horrendous images of the killing of George Floyd. Then, of course, we saw the protests. We saw the riots. Nashville itself has been hit as many of you know,” Diermeier said. “It’s a very difficult time. The suffering that I think many of us are going through, of course, most importantly members of the African American community, is something that we are dealing with and that we need to connect with. I think that is an example where universities can really play a very important role. This has got to be true with respect to how we think about racism, how we think about social issues, how we think about injustice and all the challenges that our societies face.”
Diermeier said that he believes Vanderbilt education enables students to meet current challenges rather than be afraid of them or depressed by them. He continued by saying that Vanderbilt students learn leadership skills which can help students deal with specific challenges present in today’s society.
He then celebrated the efforts of Vanderbilt University Medical Center staff, professors and students in their continued efforts to find treatments, diagnostics and other solutions in the treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a serious challenge because it affects deeply how we think about our model of education, such as residential experiences and academics,” he said.
In a later question about the university’s future, Diermeier stated that the Vanderbilt community would receive further information on the fall semester within the coming weeks and believes that Vanderbilt’s plan will be as good as those released by peer institutions.
“As interim chancellor and provost announced a few weeks ago, we will be making an announcement in June [about COVID-19]. We decided we will discuss a detailed plan in about a week or so,” Diermeier said. “The team has worked diligently. I have been extremely impressed with how they have handled the complexities in the past two and a half months. I think we have as good a plan as any of our peer universities as we move forward into the fall.”
Evans concluded the call by saying that the Vanderbilt community could expect more virtual talks with Diermeier in the days leading up to the beginning of his term as Vanderbilt’s ninth Chancellor on July 1.