Dear UVA Parents:
Whether your student is already on Grounds or planning to travel to UVA this coming week, you are likely aware of disturbing incidents occurring this weekend related to the “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville.
Last night, alt-right protestors carrying torches marched on UVA’s Grounds, attempting to intimidate bystanders and spread their message of intolerance and hate. There were several violent altercations during and after the march, and minor injuries were reported, including one University police officer who was injured while making an arrest.
During today’s “Unite the Right” rally in the city, there were numerous outbreaks of violence between protestors and counter-protestors. Earlier we had encouraged UVA students and community members to avoid the rally and attend UVA-sponsored events instead. However, due to public safety concerns and after a State of Emergency was declared in Virginia, we cancelled previously scheduled events that included academic programming, community discussions in the University Libraries, and athletic events. We are continuing to monitor the developments in downtown Charlottesville and to coordinate with state and local law enforcement during this still-fluid situation. The UVA medical center remains open.
The University of Virginia is a public institution and follows state and federal law regarding the public’s right to access open spaces, including the rights of the marchers who assembled on our Grounds last night. We also support the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly, including the rights of the protestors and counter-protestors today. At the same time, we know that the ideologies and beliefs expressed by many of the groups that have converged on Charlottesville this weekend contradict our values of diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect. We strongly condemn intimidating and abhorrent behavior intended to strike fear and sow division in our community. Acts of violence are not protected by the First Amendment.
Above all, the safety and well-being of students—of your student—is my foremost concern as president. This is true today, and will continue to be true throughout the school year. We have a strong and well-trained University police force on Grounds, sophisticated security systems, and numerous resources available to ensure the physical health and mental well-being of our students. You will hear more about these resources in the days ahead, as the academic year begins.
This weekend’s protestors will disperse and return to their hometowns soon enough, and we will be glad to see them go. Until they do, at UVA we will remain intently focused on the safety of our students and other UVA family members, and we will continue to uphold our shared values as a community.
Teresa A. Sullivan