NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vice chancellor for athletics and university affairs and athletic director Candice Lee today announced several new measures to support efforts to address and prevent sexual assault and sexual misconduct, including expanding its partnerships with Project Safe, Title IX and the University Counseling Center and creating a mentorship program that will include alumni and support student development.
“With the fall athletics season now underway, we want to update the Vanderbilt community on a number of constructive actions we have taken to help provide an environment that is as safe and healthy as possible for every member of our community,” Lee said. “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. This is not only our professional responsibility, but also our moral obligation as leaders of this university.
“The steps we’re currently taking and those to come represent the importance we place on this issue. The athletics department will always follow the university’s Title IX policy for sexual misconduct incidents, reports, and investigations to provide a fair process for all involved. We also work cooperatively with the Title IX office on any other issues they raise with us, and we emphasize compliance with the university’s Title IX policy in department training. That’s the baseline, that’s a given. These efforts are about going beyond and doing more.”
In addition to the launch of the previously announced external review, action items now in place in athletics and those in development include the following:
- Enhancing partnerships with Title IX, Project Safe and the University Counseling Center.
- Continuing and augmenting standing meetings and trainings with Vanderbilt’s Title IX Office, with deputy athletic director for internal affairs Kristene Kelly (who served as a deputy Title IX coordinator at Dartmouth) serving as primary liaison.
- Establishing a satellite Project Safe office at the McGugin Center with a focus on education and training, and a satellite UCC office with rotating staff on-site.
- Creating an advisory group of experts from the larger community to educate and serve as resources to the athletics department, including, among others, Brenda Tracy, founder of the national nonprofit Set the Expectation; Rachel Freeman, president of the Middle Tennessee-based Sexual Assault Center; and Commodore basketball alumnus Shan Foster, vice president of external affairs and AMEND Together at YWCA Nashville and Middle Tennessee.
- Creating a mentoring program that will include Vanderbilt alumni to further educate student-athletes about sexual misconduct and related issues.
- Establishing a working group focused on programming ideas that includes students as well as representatives of Title IX, Project Safe and other members of the university community.
Lee said she is very concerned about student-athlete well-being generally, and athletics has implemented an anonymous reporting portal for student-athletes to share concerns that includes an option to report sexual misconduct as well as other issues. Reports of sexual misconduct or harassment will be routed to the Title IX office; other types of concerns will be reviewed and addressed directly by athletics administrators or routed to other appropriate campus and Dean of Students’ offices like the UCC and Project Safe.
“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 the summer, public allegations were made regarding sexual assault involving current and former Vanderbilt student-athletes. This information was immediately referred, under Vanderbilt’s Title IX policy, to the University’s Title IX office for follow-up and further investigation consistent with the policy. The University Title IX policy is designed to be thorough and fair to all students.
Vanderbilt Athletics continues to clearly communicate the University’s values and expectations under Title IX throughout the department and provide education and resources. If the University determines that conduct is inconsistent with University requirements, the University process will implement appropriate sanctions. Subsequent to that the athletics department may also take decisive action, Lee said.
“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,” she said. “We take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to provide updates on our efforts.”
Staff and Student-Athletes
- Project Safe office hours in the athletics facility weekly – open to all as an opportunity for questions or support.
- Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, in-person trainings by the Title IX coordinator were virtual and encompassed our entire staff.
- All staff completed a comprehensive online training developed by the Title IX Office related to prevention, intervention, response, resources and reporting information. There were two trainings — one on Aug. 25, 2022, and the second one on May 3, 2022.
- All recruited student-athletes are responsible for completing a due diligence form stating they have not been convicted, pled guilty, or pled no contest to any crime involving acts of violent or sexual nature in the past.
- All student-athletes completed a comprehensive online training developed by the Title IX Office related to prevention, intervention, response, resources and reporting information. We added a session during the January Orientation to capture mid-year enrollees as well.
- All freshmen completed the online Haven module: The Haven Understanding Sexual Assault module is designed to inform students about the critical issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, and stalking, which impact countless college students across the country. The research-based course provides students with accurate information in a non-judgmental tone and provides information regarding, key definitions and statistics, reflective and personalized content and bystander skill and confidence-building strategies.
- Project Safe Prevention Playbook Workshops
- Sessions were offered regarding Prevention Playbook training facilitated by Project Safe: A Sexual Violence Prevention Program for Student Athletes. Programming includes a 90-minute interactive workshop designed to help student athletes better understand warning signs for sexual assault and intimate partner violence, learn how to obtain effective consent, in accordance with Tennessee state law and Vanderbilt University policy, engage in safe and appropriate forms of bystander intervention, and learn how to support a friend or teammate who has been impacted by sexual violence and/or an investigation. Participants develop strategies for obtaining and clarifying consent in intimate encounters, building and maintaining healthy relationships, and developing support networks through peers, teammates, and University resources.
- Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors
- Each class were offered a 30-minute in-person workshop (different for each class and developmentally appropriate) with Project Safe facilitators that built upon the Prevention Playbook Training and topics discussed the previous year (Sophomores: Engaging Your Voice; Juniors: Changing the Culture; Seniors: Life After Vanderbilt)
- External Review
- The University engaged an external law firm to conduct a review of processes, policies, programs and support systems related to sexual assault and sexual misconduct, and their application within university athletics, to evaluate what is working, what is not working, and what improvements we can make to advance a safer environment for our students to thrive.
- Sexual Assault Awareness Month
- The athletics department participated in #DenimDay. Staff members wore jeans with a purpose to support survivors and educate others about all forms of sexual violence.
- The Student-Athlete Development staff also tabled on campus for Project Safe during Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
- The Sexual Assault Prevention External Advisory Team met several times throughout the year and are currently revamping its meeting frequency.
- Shan Foster, Executive Director of AMEND Together and Otis McGresham, Assistant Director of Project Safe spoke to a couple teams about professional boundaries, respect, etc.
- Kristene Kelly was appointed to the Board of Directors for the Sexual Assault Center