Hold Vanderbilt Accountable for Racial Justice

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Vanderbilt University’s response in light of the recent events of police brutality has been a far cry from sufficient. The “Statement on Racial Injustice in Our Society” released by the Office of the Chancellor not only lacked an adequate action plan, but it also failed to grapple with the underlying ideas that perpetuate violence against minorities. From receiving donations from the Daughters of the Confederacy, to expelling civil rights activist Rev. James Lawson, to investing in private prisons, Vanderbilt consistently refuses to acknowledge how it has directly benefited from the systems that destroy the black community. 

We deserve a direct action approach to correcting the disparities enacted in Vanderbilt’s history that includes a revision to the current curriculum, resources, and allocation of our generous endowment. By signing this petition, you will join our diverse coalition of students and alumni to make this commitment a reality. This is YOUR chance to make institutional impact. The petition we are asking you to sign today does not accomplish all that needs to be done but it does provide the necessary guidance to return us to the starting line. 

We are petitioning that Vanderbilt University’s Office of the Chancellor execute the following initiatives:

Foundational

1. Provide a statement that acknowledges Vanderbilt’s shortcomings in promoting racial justice and an action plan with the below short and long term solutions 
2. Create an independent Oversight Committee (students, faculty, and alumni) to enact the short and long term solutions
3. Establish the Vanderbilt United EDI Fund for alumni/student donations to these short and long term solutions and match at least 100% of contributions 

Short Term

4. Provide immediate online mental health resources for Black faculty, students, and staff geared towards processing race-based trauma
5. Require diversity and unconscious bias training for all administration, faculty, staff, and students, leveraging resources from the Student Center for Social Justice and Identity
6. Create mandatory courses for first-year students on Vanderbilt’s history with racism, slavery and social activism 
7. Encourage staff, alumni, and students to donate to social justice organizations, especially within communications that reference alumni activists 
8. Create extra support in the Career Center for Black students and stronger partnerships with professional development organizations, such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and Seizing Every Opportunity (SEO)
9. Include a question regarding the racial climate of classrooms in professors’ end of semester evaluations
10. Increase transparency on demographic data reporting (i.e. first year retention rates, transfer rates, and graduation rates segmented by race)
11. Create an annual Open Forum that facilitates dialogue between students, faculty, and the Board of Trustees
12. Rename Calhoun Hall to Lawson Hall after Reverend James Lawson, Jr.
13. Revoke known white supremacist Virginia Abernethy’s title as professor emerita.
14. Increase the wages of our dining, plant ops and housekeeping staff and ensure appropriate and safe working conditions during the next contract negotiations.

Long Term 

15. Commit to allocating a greater portion of the Vanderbilt budget to EDI 
16. Commit to equal treatment and promotion of inclusivity across all forms of Greek Life through efforts including but not limited to: equitable financial resources, equal scrutiny in disciplinary proceedings, creation of a Universal Test Bank, support for POC in Panhellenic/IFC, mandatory routine inclusivity trainings to Panhellenic/IFC chapters etc.
17. Create reconciliation councils for race-based incidents using a restorative justice model that goes beyond the reporting structure of the Bias Incident Reporting Form while strengthening accountability procedures for incidents involving faculty and staff
18. Provide stipends to low-income or international students for food access to residential college kitchens during breaks and state of emergencies
19. Enact new policies that commit to recruiting, hiring, and promoting faculty of color 
20. Increase transparency of investments and commit to pulling any and all contracts that contribute to mass incarceration
21. Commit to donating to and strengthening our relationships with Nashville HBCUs through avenues of collaboration including, but not limited to: academic integration in the form of dual degree programs and cross-enrollments, social events, service projects etc.
22. Commit to strengthening relationship with historic Black Nashville including but not limited to: outreach, service programs, and community-driven investment

As Vanderbilt alumni and students, we pledge to withhold subsequent donations to the school until this formal commitment is made in the form of an official statement from the Office of the Chancellor and the establishment of an oversight committee for these initiatives. We encourage all those who sign to leave a comment with their school and graduation year to demonstrate broad based support. 

Resources

1. Full Letter to the Administration 

2. Join our Facebook Page to maintain the alumni/student body dialogue on these issues. Petition updates and action plans will be posted to the site.