Vanderbilt athletics enhances preventative measures for sexual assault

Following multiple accusations of sexual assault against current and former members of Vanderbilt football, Vanderbilt athletics announced the development of various preventative measures Friday.


Emily Gonçalves

Vanderbilt athletic offices and select team facilities are located in the McGugin Center. (Hustler Multimedia/Emily Goncalves)

Simon Gibbs, Sports Editor

Vanderbilt athletics announced on Oct. 9 that it will implement various measures to help address and prevent sexual assault, according to a university press release.

The initiatives include expanding partnerships with Project Safe, Title IX and the University Counseling Center (UCC) and creating a mentorship program to support student development. These developments come after multiple accusations of sexual misconduct were made against current and former members of Vanderbilt football in June. 

“As Provost Wente and I stated earlier this year, we have zero tolerance for any act that undermines the safety and well-being of any member of our community,” Lee said, citing a school-wide email sent on June 24. “This is not only our professional responsibility, but also our moral obligation as leaders of this university.”

Among the new programs are partnerships with the Title IX Office, the UCC and Project Safe. Project Safe and the UCC will both establish satellite offices in Vanderbilt athletics’ McGugin Center, with Project Safe focusing on education and training, specifically. Following the accusations of sexual misconduct, a petition circulated around the student body suggesting that Project Safe establishes a satellite office within the athletic department, among other requests.

“Candice and I have had frequent discussions as we have considered ways to expand our prevention efforts and explore new collaborations, including adding McGugin as a Project Safe satellite location,” Project Safe director Cara Tuttle Bell said. “We believe having a more regular presence at McGugin will help us further engage student athletes in prevention, bystander intervention and culture change.”

In addition, Vanderbilt athletics will coordinate further meetings and training with Vanderbilt’s Title IX Office, with deputy athletic director for internal affairs Kristine Kelly serving as a liaison. Kelly, hired in September, previously served as the deputy Title IX coordinator at Dartmouth, among other roles.

Vanderbilt athletics will also develop an advisory group to serve as resources to the athletics department, including Brenda Tracy, founder of Set the Expectation; Rachel Freeman, president of the Middle Tennessee-based Sexual Assault Center and Shan Foster, Vanderbilt basketball alumnus.

The university will also create a mentoring program with alumni to further educate student-athletes about sexual misconduct. The press release continues to note the establishment of a separate group, focused on developing programming with students, representatives of Title IX, Project Safe and others in the Vanderbilt community.

“Our entire department, including our coaches, staff and student-athletes, appreciates the opportunity to work with our campus and community partners to address sexual assault and sexual misconduct,” Lee said. “We take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to provide updates on our efforts.”