Vanderbilt Athletics outlines progress made to address and prevent sexual assault and misconduct

Vice Chancellor for Athletics and University Affairs and Athletic Director Candice Storey 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,” Lee said.

“The steps we’re currently taking and those to come represent the importance we place on this issue,” Lee continued. “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 a previously announced external review, action items now in place in Athletics and those in development include the following:

  • Enhancing partnerships with Vanderbilt’s Title IX office, Project Safe and the University Counseling Center;
  • Continuing and augmenting standing meetings and trainings with Title IX, 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 & Middle Tennessee;
  • Creating a mentoring program that will include Vanderbilt alumni to further educate student-athletes about sexual misconduct and related issues; and
  • 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 Student’s 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. We believe having a more regular presence at McGugin will help us further engage student-athletes in prevention, bystander intervention and culture change,” Project Safe Director Cara Tuttle Bell said.

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 also may 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.”