Vanderbilt Instructors Call for University Administration to Rethink Campus Reopening


July 13, 2020

Vanderbilt Instructors Call for University Administration to Rethink Campus Reopening

Contact: AAUP media liaison, 615-933-3669,

Nashville, Tennessee. More than 400 Vanderbilt faculty, graduate student instructors, and other community members have signed a petition ( ) calling for default online teaching for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Faculty are concerned that the university’s plan for campus reopening puts the health and safety of community members at risk. The plan also endangers the university’s commitment to offering a superior education. Petitioners demand equity in access to healthcare, testing, and accommodations for all university employees, as well as support for all instructors, with priority given to international graduate students threatened with deportation by ICE.

Vanderbilt faculty fear the administration’s decision to house up to 6,000 undergraduates on campus will adversely impact Nashville’s public health. Activity in downtown Nashville has led to the summer spike in COVID-19 cases with dangerous proximity to Vanderbilt’s campus. Dr. Peter F. Rebeiro, infectious disease epidemiologist with VUMC said, “Vanderbilt’s default position should be responsive to transmission in the community. Until a vaccine is available or the susceptible population is otherwise substantially depleted, remote contact and physical distancing are the best ways to minimize the risk of exposure. Vanderbilt should remain as flexible as possible on remote instruction. If faculty and students become vectors of transmission, they put the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities at risk.” 

Currently, instructors with caregiving responsibilities await authorization for university accommodations to teach online. Parents in particular are concerned about the uncertainty of primary and secondary school openings. The petition demands greater transparency from the administration, greater faculty participation in decision-making, and institutional policies attentive to non-discrimination and anti-racism. 

As U.S. colleges and universities bring student-athletes and others back to campus, new clusters of infection have emerged.. “We are very concerned that the Vanderbilt campus could become a source of infection for the university’s many local workers and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Celia Applegate, Professor of History and member of the Faculty Senate. 

The new Vanderbilt chapter of the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) organized the petition. Its members now insist that Vanderbilt do everything in its power to prevent the deportation of international students and protect public health and safety on campus. For more information on Vanderbilt AAUP’s position on the ICE announcement, see:

Follow us on Twitter @VanderbiltAAUP.


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