Vanderbilt University responds to investigation into reporter's arrest

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Vanderbilt University issued a statement nearly two months after Nashville Scene reporter Eli Motycka was arrested on its campus.

Following Motycka's arrest on March 26, the university asked Nashville attorney Aubrey B. Harwell Jr. to conduct an independent investigation into the university's response to the arrest and release of a media representative during a protest.

Vanderbilt University issued the following statement:

“The review concluded that the arrest of a Nashville Scene reporter on March 26 'was not done to prevent or hinder a reporter from covering the protests and thus did not conflict with Vanderbilt's values ​​of supporting and promoting the freedoms of speech, assembly and the press enshrined in the First Amendment.' As expected, the report also recommended areas where Vanderbilt can improve its operations, and in the spirit of continuous improvement, we are promptly acting on these important and helpful recommendations.”

On March 26, students protested the university's decision to prohibit a student vote on a proposed amendment to Vanderbilt's student union charter. The proposed amendment would prohibit the use of student union funds for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to, the BDS movement works to end international support for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians and to pressure Israel to comply with “international law.”

That morning, shortly after 9 a.m., several students entered Kirkland Hall and began a sit-in in front of Chancellor Daniel Diermeier's office.

University police were notified of the student break-in into Kirkland Hall and officers were called to the building. Officers were stationed at each entrance to the building with instructions not to allow anyone from outside into the building unless they had proper authorization.

A few hours after the student demonstration began, Motycka texted a Vanderbilt communications officer that he was “on campus at the sit-in.”

Motycka texted the officer again, saying, “I'm in Kirkland. I'm wondering who my contact is at the university for this sit-in. Please call me.”

After this text message, Vanderbilt University police became concerned and believed Motycka was in the locked building with the students.

The university stated that it only wanted to check whether Motycka was with the students and, if necessary, to ask him to leave; there was no intention to arrest him.

The university said Motycka was loitering outside Kirkland Hall and attempted to get in by approaching at least four entrances. Although he was not asked to leave campus, he was asked to back away from the doors and stop his attempts to get in, according to the university.

At around 1:30 p.m., Motycka was arrested outside Kirkland Hall for trespassing, the university said.

The university said he was not arrested because he was a reporter, but because he allegedly continued to try to get into Kirkland Hall.

Read the full report below: