Vanderbilt University did not alert its students and staff after a female student was allegedly sexually assaulted in an on campus dormitory late last month, but in a statement released late Thursday afternoon university officials said under the circumstances they weren't required to do so.
Four football players were said to have been involved in the incident. They have been dismissed from the team and suspended from the school, but no names have been released and no arrests have been made.
Nashville's News 2 first broke the story June 28. Police were notified two days earlier on the 26th. The police department's sex crimes unit is now investigating.
Vanderbilt officials have refused to comment on the case.
When asked why the university didn't send out a campus wide alert to students, faculty and staff, which is mandated by the Clery Act of 1987, Vanderbilt's Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Beth Fortune said it wasn't required.
“The university takes student safety and its Clery Act obligations very seriously,” Fortune said in a statement. “Neither student safety nor the Clery Act required a campus-wide alert following this incident. In light of the ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further on the incident at this time.”
According to the Clery Act, all universities, both public and private, must publish and disseminate timely warnings of criminal activity.
Alison Kiss, executive director of the Clery Center for Security on Campus, wouldn't comment directly on the Vanderbilt case, but did discuss why the act is so important to campus safety.
She explained, “If there is a threat, they may be required to issue an emergency notification or a timely warning to warn the campus. There may be times that warnings are withheld, if it will either compromise the identity of a victim or impede upon the investigation.”
When asked specifically if Vanderbilt should have disclosed something to the campus, she added, “Again that is to the discretion of the institution. My first concern as a victim advocate is that any type of warning or alert that could possibly give away the identity of the victim then 100% I believe the university should withhold that information.”
Violations of the Clery Act can cost $35,000 for each offense.
Under a mutual agreement of understanding, the Vanderbilt University Police Department is required to immediately notify Metro police about serious crimes that occur on campus.
What Vanderbilt police knew and when is unclear. The alleged sexual assault occurred on June 23. Metro police were notified and launched their investigation.