Update on assistant football coach Dan Jackson (Dec. 13, 2022)
As a university, we do not typically publicly share details related to personnel matters, but I felt it was important to follow up on the issue of a recent social media post by Vanderbilt assistant football coach Dan Jackson.
We referred the matter to our Equal Opportunity and Access office, which is the university’s standard process for handling reports of discrimination or harassment. This process thoroughly reviews the details and background of each complaint, and the investigations and results are usually confidential. In this case, Coach Jackson is supportive of us sharing the key details.
I think it is worth providing context, as this issue is significantly more nuanced than some accounts you may have seen. Coach Jackson’s comments were posted from his personal Facebook page in response to a friend’s post. Unaware of the recent racist and antisemitic remarks by rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, Coach Jackson used him as an example to show support for the original post’s demand for free expression and equality in the treatment of Black and white public figures. When learning about the nature and content of Ye’s remarks, Coach Jackson realized that his post had been misguided and uninformed and understood why his comment had caused harm. EOA determined that while Coach Jackson’s comments were hurtful and lacked critical context, they were not discriminatory nor intended to target any group and did not violate Vanderbilt’s anti-harassment policy. The comments did, however, violate the Electronic Communications and Information Technology Resources policy for staff, which prohibits “unprofessional communication that could negatively impact Vanderbilt’s reputation or interfere with Vanderbilt’s core mission.”
As EOA recommended, Coach Jackson remained away from his duties and the athletics department for the remainder of the 2022 football season and is in the process of completing relevant educational work, including unconscious bias, inclusion and anti-discrimination sessions offered by campus and community resources, including EOA and the Office for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. He is also receiving coaching on leadership and social media use. These sessions will continue throughout the spring semester at minimum.
This is a complex issue, and I understand how it can be difficult for some to accept this outcome. However, I want to be very clear and reiterate: On behalf of the athletics department, I do not tolerate antisemitism in any form, including among our coaches and staff.
Coach Jackson has expressed a desire to go beyond these recommendations to use this mistake as an opportunity to grow personally and help our community to be better. To that end, he will also be meeting with affected student groups and community members and complete antisemitism education to enhance his understanding of their concerns.
Although it was not his intent, there is no doubt that by offering support for a celebrity’s right to free expression on the heels of offensive remarks, Coach Jackson opened the door for his comments to be interpreted as supportive of the worst of those sentiments. He immediately conveyed his disgust and disappointment about Ye’s comments, and he has been deeply remorseful since, expressing an earnest and heartfelt desire to take responsibility for his actions and help to heal any wounds he caused.
This situation—as painful as it is—also presents an opportunity to learn from and support one another. As an institution we challenge ourselves daily to dare to grow. I believe that to do this, we must have both courage and understanding, and we look forward to using this moment to show that we are capable of just that.
With Coach Jackson’s permission, I am also including a message from him below.
Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director
Message from Coach Dan Jackson
A few weeks ago, I read a social media post made by a lifelong friend whom I’ve mentored for over 20 years. I interpreted his post as a statement asking for equality and fairness in media coverage of all individuals. Without knowledge of recent actions by the individuals mentioned in the original post, including Kanye West, I impulsively replied. My emotion surrounding mental health and athletes using their voice for positive change were at the forefront of my comment.
After being made aware of discriminatory statements made by West, I was sickened to know that my words could be interpreted as hurtful. For this I am saddened and apologetic. In no way do I support antisemitism or any form of discrimination, nor do I condone any forms of bias.
I have lived my life and focused my career on being a positive light for others to help them become the best versions of themselves. This is who I remain. I am determined to use this experience as a transformative one for myself and those I influence. In the weeks and months ahead, I am hoping to meet with those I have hurt to apologize to them and learn from them.
It is an honor to be a member of Vanderbilt University and this diverse community.