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Important Update on Bias-Motivated Incidents

November 2, 2016
To: 
All University Students
From: 
Marcus L. Martin, Allen W. Groves, and Catherine Spear

Dear Students:

As you are aware from prior emails from University leaders and coverage in the local media, bias-motivated incidents at the University have increased this fall. There are several theories for why this may be occurring, including the tone and tenor of the ongoing national election. In the past day, we have seen additional incidents of hateful acts, including a racial slur used against African-American students and a homophobic slur placed on another student's door, both occurring in on-Grounds residential communities.

The University administration condemns acts of bigotry and bias. An academic community should be a place of comfort and safety, where students come to focus on their studies and explore challenging topics and fields. We have been steadfast in expressing support for the foundational principles of freedom of expression and association, while also reminding the community that acts of vandalism as well as certain speech threatening or harassing an individual is not protected. Moreover, as a community, each of us has the right to speak out against speech we deem contrary to our values, for speech itself is often the best response to hateful rhetoric.

Moving forward, there are several initiatives we are developing in response to these recent acts. First, we are compiling data on bias reports received through the Just Report It system and plan to post it on the websites of the Office of the Dean of Students and Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights in the coming weeks. These statistics will be periodically updated to reflect new reports received by us. In this way, we can achieve transparency within our community while also moving away from the use of periodic emails that draw attention to only some, but not all, reports. Second, we are forming a Bias Review Team, composed of University officials across several offices, who will meet periodically to review reports of bias and consider trends or other information that may assist us in developing response strategies. Third, for some months we have been developing an online module on implicit bias, working closely with the experts at Project Implicit. This training module will be rolled out to all entering students in June 2017. The research around implicit bias is solid, and we believe this focused online training will be helpful to each of us in moving forward to a better understanding of both the presence of bias and ways to consciously combat it. Fourth, training for faculty and staff on issues of diversity and inclusiveness is also being developed in consultation with academic leadership.

The students, faculty, staff, and alumni who form the UVA family are committed to building a community in which all individuals are valued and respected. We must foster a climate in which students are challenged intellectually on difficult topics yet also free from hateful acts of bias that targets them for who they are. These objectives are not incompatible.

As we move forward, each of our individual voices remain the most powerful tool in combating hatred and bias. We hope you will speak out when you see something you know to be wrong. You may also use the Just Report It system to report an incident of concern.

University support resources available to you include:

Sincerely,

Marcus L. Martin
Vice President and Chief Officer for Diversity and Equity

Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students

Catherine Spear
Assistant Vice President, Office for Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights