There is no way to sugarcoat it, Vanderbilt’s image has taken a hit over the past month. After several allegations of sexual assault against current and past football players (including one expulsion) came to light, the university announced it was officially eliminating the athletics communications department.
The move resulted in the layoffs of longtime employees and has drawn scrutiny both locally and nationally adding to the mounting accusations that Vanderbilt does not prioritize sports. With the exception of a generic press release or two, the response from the university has been
deafening silence. That is until AD Candice Lee finally penned an open letter to the fans which appeared on the Vanderbilt Athletics website Thursday.
In her letter, Lee addressed a variety of topics to confused Vandy fans seeking answers for weeks. Lee writes the football team will be allowed to participate up to 20 hours a week in activities starting July 24. Preseason practice is still scheduled to begin August 7.
As far as facilities, Lee wrote the pandemic had slowed upgrades to the football locker room but it should resume “soon.” She also wrote they have made “significant progress” to upgrades for the basketball practice facility.
Regarding sexual assault allegations, Lee did not mention any of the alleged cases specifically, but wrote “we are undertaking a review to evaluate what’s working, what’s not working, and what improvements we can make to advance a safer environment for our students. The review will inform an action plan to address process gaps and improvements and build on existing programs and strategies to combat sexual assault and misconduct.” She added details of the review would be shared “in the days and weeks
On the athletics communication department being absorbed by the university, Lee wrote “Our collaboration with university communications has grown significantly over the last several years. Formalizing this collaboration with an integrated team will provide a jolt of new resources, expertise, creativity and efficiency that will help us advance our goals and better tell our story.”
While addressing the fans in an open letter is a step in the right direction, frankly these responses are disappointing. They are purposefully vague and full of jargon while not really answering any of our questions. I’m pulling for Lee to be the successful AD Vanderbilt needs, but fans will need more transparency and honestly to truly embrace the spirit of “Growing Forward.”