University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan announced Friday that she has formed a working group tasked with evaluating the school’s response last week to demonstrations by white supremacists and neo-Nazis that turned violent when they clashed with anti-racist counterprotesters.
Both campus and Charlottesville police have come under criticism for what many in attendance believed was a slow and tepid reaction to the violence that first unfolded Friday night at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus, where hundreds of white nationalists encircled a small group of student counterprotesters.
In a message to the school community, Sullivan wrote that she hoped the working group would yield recommendations to “help our community recover and heal.”
Risa Goluboff, dean of the university’s law school and chair of the new working group, wrote in a separate message to students and faculty that some changes are already afoot. The university has assigned additional staff and police to patrol the campus as the semester begins and is hiring an outside security firm to review safety protocols and recommend changes.
And in the wake of last week’s “attempts of white supremacists to instill fear and provoke violence in our community,” Goluboff wrote, the general counsel’s office is exploring what activities the university can constitutionally prohibit on campus.
“Going forward, we intend to use the energy unleashed by this moment to advance the University’s commitment to democracy, social justice, inclusion, and equity,” Goluboff wrote. “We have at our disposal the personnel, the will, and the resources to do not only what is needed but what is right.”
Here is Sullivan’s memo:
Dear Members of the University Community:
I write today to announce that I have charged a working group of deans and other University community members to lead our efforts in assessing the University’s response to the events of last weekend. I have asked Dean of the School of Law Risa Goluboff to chair the working group.
A message from Dean Goluboff is below. I believe the working group’s recommendations will help our community recover and heal. I am grateful for Dean Goluboff’s willingness to lead this effort, and to every member of the UVA community for standing together in unity and resolve in this critical time.
Teresa A. Sullivan
Here is Goluboff’s memo:
Dear Students, Colleagues, Friends,
On Tuesday, President Sullivan asked me to chair a working group of the deans and other constituent leaders to identify the next steps in the University’s response to last weekend’s events. I not only accepted her call to service; I welcomed it. As a member of this community, and also a civil rights historian and legal scholar, I can think of no more important task at this moment.
I am appalled by the attempts of white supremacists to instill fear and provoke violence in our community. Acts of racial, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, homophobic, anti-immigrant intimidation and violence are criminal. White supremacy is a doctrine of terror, meant to insult, frighten, injure, and kill. There could be no mistaking those messages last weekend, from Friday night’s march with torches on the Lawn to Saturday’s loss of life and beyond.
I write to you today to describe how I see our mission and to tell you what we have already put into motion. President Sullivan’s charge to our group was one of recovery and response. That is exactly right. We must recover from violence, from bigotry, from vulnerability. We must heal.
We must also act. Our tasks ahead are short-term and long-term; they are about physical safety and emotional well-being; they are as practical as revising policies and as lofty as advancing human progress; and they will require us to examine what we need to do within our own community and ask what we can do beyond it.
With that broad set of goals in mind, we began with the security of the University. Here is where we stand after our first meeting:
The General Counsel’s office is already exploring revisions to our policies regarding activities that can be constitutionally proscribed on our Grounds.
The University is assigning significant resources, additional staff members and police, both visible and not visible, to ensure safety and security across Grounds as the semester begins.
Given the weekend events and the concerns regarding community safety, the University is hiring an outside security firm to conduct a comprehensive review of our safety and security infrastructure and to propose recommendations for future improvement.
We are creating a website that will serve as a central information hub for our efforts.
Going forward, we intend to use the energy unleashed by this moment to advance the University’s commitment to democracy, social justice, inclusion, and equity. We have at our disposal the personnel, the will, and the resources to do not only what is needed but what is right.
I attended Wednesday night’s vigil on the Lawn, and I was heartened by what I saw: thousands of us peacefully recommitting ourselves, our public space, and our University to its fundamental values. Those values are hard fought and have always required concerted action to advance. My goal, and the goal of our working group, is to be a part of that concerted action, and to help shape the University’s future.
Dean, School of Law