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Information for UVA Parents on Emergency Messaging

October 10, 2017
Parents of University Students
Patricia M. Lampkin, Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer

Dear Parents:

We have heard from several parents inquiring about the use of emergency notifications and the decision-making process around the use of UVA Alerts.

Specific questions arose this weekend as the result of a brief rally in a downtown Charlottesville park led by Richard Spencer, the self-proclaimed leader of the alt-right movement, whose proponents came to Charlottesville in large numbers in August. On Saturday evening, October 7, Mr. Spencer returned to Charlottesville, leading 30 to 40 followers in a torch-lit rally in Emancipation Park in downtown Charlottesville. From start to finish, Charlottesville Police monitored the group’s activities, which reportedly lasted 15 to 20 minutes. During this time, the Charlottesville Police remained in communication with the University Police Department. In turn, University Police kept University officials, including myself, apprised of the situation and used camera monitors, UVA Ambassadors, and UPD officers to look for any activity approaching the Grounds. I remained present in the area of the Rotunda, where a small group of students who were aware of the rally had gathered. UPD officers also joined us.

The University Police, who issue UVA Alerts, determined that this situation did not meet the threshold for issuing an emergency alert. The rally was located downtown away from the University and was closely monitored by Charlottesville Police. Situations in which alerts are issued, as described in the University policy, are reserved for critical incidents that pose an imminent threat to the health or safety of students, faculty, and staff, given their presence on University Grounds or in the surrounding area.

Since implementing the alert system, those managing the system have been careful to follow established protocols and guidance from security experts. Issuing alerts that do not fall within pre-defined parameters or issuing them too frequently for non-imminent threats poses a risk of desensitization. That’s why alerts remain reserved for situations that reach the “imminent threat” threshold.

With regard to criminal activity, separate from UVA Alerts, the University also issues Timely Warnings in accordance with the Clery Act. The list of Clery reportable crimes (i.e., the geography within which a crime will prompt a warning) is incorporated into the University’s Clery policy, which also describes circumstances under which a Timely Warning would be issued to the UVA community.

Student safety, and the safety of all members of the UVA community, remains of paramount importance. The University is committed to ensuring that we continue to offer the best systems, education, and messaging to our community to create a culture of safety and preparedness. In addition to emergency messaging, we work actively to help students understand how they can protect themselves in uncertain situations, ideally before they arise. Safety ultimately is both an individual and institutional responsibility.

Thank you for your continued support of safety initiatives at the University. If I or a member of my team can be of assistance to you or your student, please let me know.


Patricia M. Lampkin
Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer

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