Vanderbilt statement on racial injustice in our society

To the Vanderbilt community,

Over the past days, as a university community and across the country, we are grieving for George Floyd and all the violent deaths our country has witnessed as evidence of racism and injustice. In Nashville yesterday, a large peaceful protest attended by thousands gave way by evening to a much smaller collection of violent protestors. From this smaller group, we saw the destruction of parts of Nashville, which was echoed in many cities across the nation.

As your interim chancellor and provost, I am deeply saddened by these tragedies and recognize the pain, angst and fear among members of our African American community. Our statement last week reflected Vanderbilt’s long-held position that we do not tolerate racism, prejudice, hatred or violence in any form.

In the spirit of many of those who have been a part of the Vanderbilt community, like the Rev. James Lawson Jr., we will not be silent, and we must address the root causes that have driven us to this point as a society. The open wounds of racial injustice and inequality and structural barriers to equity have festered in America for too long. These inequities have been further magnified in recent months by a pandemic and economic downturn that is creating heightened challenges and uncertainty for us all. Yet even here, hardships have fallen disproportionately on Black, Indigenous and Latinx communities.

For Vanderbilt, the path forward means going beyond just listening. We need to call out acts of hatred and racism. We need to draw on our strength as an institution of scholarship and discovery to uncover truth, to support individual and collective actions within our community, and to offer meaningful ways forward to help society heal. As a university, we have long served as a safe harbor for the vigorous exchange of ideas and viewpoints. However, we strongly condemn those who wish to stoke the fires of divisiveness and hatred.

As a collection of diverse educators, learners, scholars and researchers, we will be united by inclusion and diversity. Our leaders André L. Churchwell, vice chancellor for equity, diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, and William H. Robinson, interim vice provost for strategic initiatives, who directs the Office for Inclusive Excellence, will host several community engagement initiatives in the days ahead. In partnership with Incoming Chancellor Daniel Diermeier, I assure you that Vanderbilt’s leadership team is committed to taking further meaningful, productive action to continue our work for racial justice and equality in our local, regional and national communities. Your voices and contributions are essential as we push forward.

We also firmly believe in the transformative power of education. Yesterday’s events in Nashville and across the country during the week—and those leading up to them—once again serve as a tragic reminder that we need to strengthen our efforts to address the systemic issues that are having such deep and destructive impacts on so many people’s lives, issues such as the structural racism that exists in our criminal justice, housing and education systems.

Let us learn from this moment. I ask you to hear the cries for change, care for one another and acknowledge the pain and exhaustion, and I ask each of us to do our part to help our community, city and nation come together during this time. Let us rededicate ourselves and our talents to deepening understanding and addressing the complex challenges that permeate our society.

Like you, I long for brighter days ahead. Yet I know there is much painful, difficult work we must accomplish to achieve racial justice in this country. Vanderbilt is wholeheartedly committed to this most worthy goal.


Susan R. Wente
Interim Chancellor and Provost

Resources for the Vanderbilt Community

ResourceWebsiteContactCampus Location
Black Cultural Center, Bishop Joseph JohnsonWebsite615-322-2524Vanderbilt Place, Map
Center for Student WellbeingWebsite615-322-04801211 Stevenson Center Lane
Dean of StudentsWebsite615-322-6400
Sarratt Student Center, Suite 310
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)Website615-936-1327
Graduate Life CoachWebsite
International Student & Scholar ServicesWebsite615-322-2753Sarratt Student Center, Suite 100
2301 Vanderbilt Place
LGBTQI LifeWebsite615-322-3330
Office for Inclusive ExcellenceWebsite615-343-6979
Kirkland Hall, Suite 105
Office of Housing and Residential ExperienceWebsite615-322-2591
4100 Branscomb Quadrangle
Office of Religious LifeWebsite615-322-2457
Grief Net: 615-322-6172
401 24th Avenue South
Project Safe CenterWebsite615-322-7233 (24-Hour Hotline)Cumberland (304) West Side Row
Rohr Chabad House at VanderbiltWebsite615-686-3905113 23rd Avenue North
Student Accountability, Community Standards & Academic IntegrityWebsite615-322-7868Sarratt Student Center, Suite 301
2301 Vanderbilt Place
Student Care CoordinationWebsite615-343-9355Rand Hall, Suite 305
Student Center for Social Justice & IdentityWebsite615-322-5089Sarratt Student Center, Suite 335
Title IX and Student DiscriminationWebsite615-343-9004 (V/TDD)Baker Building, Suite 975
University Counseling CenterWebsite615-322-2571 (during and after business hours)2015 Terrace Place
Drop-In Consultations at Multiple Campus Locations
Vanderbilt HillelWebsite615-322-8376Schulman Center for Jewish Life, 2421 Vanderbilt Place
Women’s Center, Margaret CuninggimWebsite615-322-4843Franklin (316) West Side Row