U-Va. students directed to disclose arrests

By Daniel de Vise
Friday, August 6, 2010; 2:12 PM

Returning students to the University of Virginia will have a new question to answer at registration time: Have you ever been arrested?

The Yeardley Love slaying last spring prompted university officials to tighten their rules on students who are arrested or convicted. New President Teresa Sullivan discussed the changes Friday in a morning news conference.

Love, 22, of suburban Baltimore was found dead in her off-campus apartment May 3. George Huguely, her 22-year-old ex-boyfriend and fellow lacrosse player from Chevy Chase, is charged in the death.

Huguely had a previous arrest, in 2008, for a drunken encounter with a Lexington, Va., police officer.

University officials said Huguely likely would have been suspended or expelled had they known of the arrest. Huguely was required to report it to the university under a 2004 U-Va. rule, stated in the student handbook, which requires students to report any arrest or conviction. Huguely never did.

Sullivan said that requirement has been changed from a "passive" to an "active" notification system: students henceforth will have to state in writing whether they have been arrested before they may register for classes.

The change is significant: students who lie about an arrest on the form will be violating U-Va.'s strict honor code. Under the code, students who are confirmed to have lied, cheated or stolen face a single sanction -- dismissal.

The old rule was not universally known, and students who violated it did not necessarily commit an honor-code violation.

"This will be a hard stop before you can register," Sullivan said, speaking to reporters.

Students return to Charlottesville the weekend of Aug. 21.

A separate U-Va. rule requires athletes to inform their coaches of an arrest within 24 hours. Huguely's lacrosse coach said the player never told him of the 2008 arrest.

Sullivan, who is completing her first full week on the U-Va. campus, said she followed the Love case with sorrow from the campus of University of Michigan, where she was provost.

"I was deeply affected by it in Ann Arbor -- and, of course, not able to do anything, but very aware of the responsibility we have at universities, because the parents have trusted us with their greatest treasures, which are their sons and daughters," she said.

Sullivan said she would continue the strenuous efforts of her predecessor, John T. Casteen, to make the Charlottesville campus (known as the Grounds) a sanctuary for students.

"On the other hand," she said, "we cannot build a bubble around the Grounds . . . Things that happen, bad things that happen in everyday life, also happen on the Grounds."

Sullivan said all U-Va. students would attend mandatory sessions about safety this fall. She said four of the largest student organizations had volunteered to return to campus early for "bystander training, which is how to get involved and not stand passively [by] when you see something happening."

The ultimate goal of the Get Grounded initiative, Sullivan said, is "developing a caring community where we respect one another and take care of one another."

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