Musical staff

Vanderbilt must protect the students inside and outside the “Vanderbubble”. – The Vanderbilt Hustler

With no clear direction from the university, students are being left in the dark after falling victim to off-campus attacks just blocks from campus.

Editor’s note: This article contains mentions of harassment and discrimination.

On the Vanderbilt campus, students have access to resources like the Student Support Network, University Guidance Center, blue light phones and more when they feel their safety is at risk. However, a few blocks from campus, that changes. Duaa Faquih, a sophomore from Saudi Arabia and a Hustler staff member for the News section experienced it firsthand.

In December, Faquih, who wears a hijab, was verbally harassed at Hopdoddy Burger Bar in Hillsboro Village. It was a Sunday evening and Faquih just wanted to have dinner with his friends. Out of nowhere, a woman started shouting nasty insults at Faquih, calling her a “pig”.

“I [was] frozen in shock,” Faquih said.

Hopdoddy’s manager later apologized to Faquih, informing him that the attacker was a frequent and unwelcoming presence at the restaurant, often spewing hateful comments at other patrons. Although his apology sounded sincere, Faquih said the manager apparently had no idea how to handle the incident. Faquih received a QR code which led her to a Hopdoddy investigation and the manager assured her that he would report the attack to his superiors, so that there was a chance of banning the woman from the restaurant.

Faquih never reported the incident. Days passed before she could fully process the attack. At that time, the memory had seemed too hazy to him.

“I had a hard time expressing myself,” Faquih said. “It was too much. Every time we leave campus, something happens. It’s like we can’t get off campus.

Hopdoddy and 44 other local restaurants participate in Vanderbilt’s Taste of Nashville Program. Through academic programs like this, as well as clubs, research, and athletic events, Vanderbilt students often venture off campus for their involvements.

Are students safe off campus? Faquih’s experience is proof of an uneasy “no”. Vanderbilt is often referred to as the “Vanderbubble” – a telling sentiment of the separation between student life at Vanderbilt and Nashville.

The reality off campus can be particularly harsh when the “Vanderbubble” appears. Vanderbilt needs to do a better job of educating students about the reality of the community outside of the Vanderbubble. Students, especially those who are more likely to experience discrimination off campus, need to be better informed about existing resources to help them deal with discriminatory attacks they may face off campus.

“As one of Tennessee’s largest law enforcement agencies, Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) provides comprehensive law enforcement and security to all components of Vanderbilt University, including Vanderbilt Campus, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks and a variety other Vanderbilt-owned facilities throughout Davidson County,” Capt. Leshaun Oliver of VUPD Public Safety told The Hustler.

Additionally, Captain Oliver noted that the VUPD had established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Mutual Assistance Agreement allowing for the sharing of resources between the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department (MNPD) and the VUPD, and that the two departments maintain a close partnership. However, there are no firm requirements in place dictating that the MNPD must notify the VUPD of off-campus incidents involving Vanderbilt students.

“Our primary focus of existence is the Vanderbilt campus. Our operation is restricted and we impose our patrol on ourselves a block or two away [beyond] campus,” Captain Oliver said. “Meet off campus [incidents] is an exception; this is not our norm.

Vanderbilt does not have a simple reporting system for off-campus incidents. Although all students have access to VandySafe, a mobile application that offers services such as “Contact VUPD”, “Safety Toolbox” and “VU Emergency Guides”, it is unclear whether students can effectively access these resources while off campus. Vanderbilt. A quick Google search for off-campus safety resources yielded a confusing tangle of links to VUPD forms and the Project Vault website.

Although Project Safe offers RAD self-defense coaching, this is not a requirement for all students and only outlines what to do once a situation has already escalated into a physical threat. What Vanderbilt doesn’t prepare students for is how to react when called downtown, or even blocks from campus. While the Women’s Center has hosted Catcalling-focused events, the lack of widespread publicity about these everyday experiences of misogyny is yet another way Vanderbilt fails to adequately give students the tools they deserve to be safe in the city.

Students come from across the country and around the world with varying levels of familiarity with the hazards that come with an urban environment. While first-year orientation aims to get students comfortable with their new campus environment, little emphasis is placed on getting students acclimatized to Nashville itself. As Vanderbilt students, it can be easy to forget the real world around us, and we’re only awakened to these harsh realities when something has already happened. For example, in 2021, students received emails regarding two abduction reports on March 30 and April 4, which sparked conversations about how to keep us safe when walking alone at night. Aside from emails notifying us of serious cases like this, students only learn about the harsh realities of campus when they experience them.

On the Vanderbilt campus, VandyRide operates daily from 6:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. CST, but off-campus students do not receive the same services. Once the vans pull up at 1 a.m., the students have no choice but to walk home in the dark. As long as there is a VandyRide application, it is not always up to date with schedules.

Vanderbilt advertises the taste of Nashville, its proximity to Broadway, and the city’s rich musical history on its website and tours. As students, we are fortunate to be close to the Frist Art Museum, Bridgestone Arena, and historic music venues like the Ryman Auditorium.

On the other hand, Nashville also claims one of the highest crime rates from any capital in the country, but there is no established university agency that directly investigates off-campus reports. How many Vanderbilt students know and regularly use VandySafe? How many off-campus incidents go unreported? These questions remain unanswered. At the very least, it should be easier to find ways to get help from college.

Without clear university guidelines, the onus of reporting falls on students, forcing them to repeat their trauma over and over again. Vanderbilt must do more to support its off-campus students by providing more resources for Vanderbilt students who experience crime, trauma, and more off-campus. Do a better job of publicizing the VandySafe app and other existing resources available to students. Establish an agency to screen off-campus reports. Make VUPD’s off-campus duties more transparent to the student body. Do better to deliver on your student safety promise.