VUPS publishes Annual Security and Fire Safety Report for 2020-21 academic year

The report’s typical Oct. 1 release was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and new Title IX regulations.

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Emery Little

Student walks outside of Wilson Hall. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Jonathan Liu, Staff Writer

CORRECTION: This piece originally stated its responses were from VUPS Captain Steven Engstrom, however, the responses were from VUPS Compliance Coordinator Cherri Harris. This piece also originally mentioned a decline in fondling from 2018 to 2019; however it stayed the same. In addition, the Clery Act requires statistics for crimes and fire to be included for the three most recently completed calendar years, not school years. For clarification, student housing statistics are a subset of on-campus statistics.

On Dec. 14, Vanderbilt University Public Safety (VUPS) published its Annual Security and Fire Safety Report. From 2018 to 2019, the report outlines a decline in rape and aggravated assault, a rise in robbery and changes to the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and the number of fondling cases stayed the same.

Of the three years of crime statistics outlined in the report, there was nothing unexpected to be found in the data, according to VUPS Compliance Coordinator Cherri Harris in an email to The Hustler. VUPS is responsible for recording such information on a daily basis throughout the year, in line with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which requires statistics for crimes and fires to be included for the three most recently completed calendar years.

According to the report, the most-reported crime is rape with 26 reports in 2017, 31 reports in 2018 and 26 reports in 2019. While it outlines an increase from one to four robbery reports from 2018-19, the report also shows a steady decline in reports of aggravated assault, with seven reports in 2017, three reports in 2018 and one report in 2019. (Vanderbilt Hustler/Emery Little) (Emery Little)

Regarding incidents involving fire, there were three reports in 2017, two reports in 2018, and five reports in 2019. Seven of the 10 cases were caused by kitchen appliances. In 2020, The Hustler reported three cases of fire caused by dryer units.

Harris stated that the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy underwent the greatest change in 2019, when the US Department of Education implemented new regulations to Title IX. The update serves in compliance with the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

Regarding COVID-19, the report addresses the VUPS Public Health AmbassaDore Program, which serves to aid and educate the community on new health and safety protocols. In addition, it includes information about the assessment and disclosure of temporary housing that the university utilized during the pandemic.

VUPS typically begins drafting the report each May, outlining the policies that will be in place at the beginning of the upcoming academic year, Harris said. She added that staff members from more than 15 departments across the university—including the Office of the Dean of Students, Project Safe and the Office of Student Accountability, Community Standards and Academic Integrity—provided the text for the report.

The report is typically released by Oct. 1 of each year, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and new Title IX regulations, the US Department of Education extended the publication deadline to Dec. 31, according to Harris. 

The report additionally serves in compliance with Tennessee’s College and University Security Information Act and the Fire Safety Right-to-Know provisions of the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act.

“The mission of VUPS is to provide professional, service-oriented law enforcement and security services dedicated to the protection and security of Vanderbilt University and its diverse community,” the report said.