I begin this message with a warm welcome to our new students. We look forward to introducing you to the UVA family and all the opportunities that await you as a member of this community. I've enjoyed meeting you and your parents over the summer, and I am anticipating the many ways in which you will be contributing to this special place.
This year begins, however, in a profoundly different way than most. I recognize the fear, anger, and uncertainty many of you must be feeling even as you are also excited about coming here for the first time or returning for a new year. We will move forward from the images and terror of this past weekend, but we will not forget what white supremacist groups, motivated by hatred, tried to inflict on our University and larger Charlottesville community last Friday and Saturday. We need to talk openly and honestly, both inside and outside the classroom, about our individual and collective responsibility to address hatred toward individuals because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political affiliation, or other personal attributes. To our great regret, bigotry is not a relic of the distant past in our own community. Working together, we must address these issues and ensure that every member of this community feels welcomed, included, and free from fear. Each of you earned your place here. No one should face the added burden of feeling threatened, marginalized, or unwelcome.
In terms of personal safety, new students will be receiving a good deal of information about resources. The newly updated Student Safety Guide is something you may want to review now. It summarizes all the resources you can access – UVA Ambassadors, Safe Ride, Green Dot, and others – as well as personal safety tips. In light of this past weekend, we will be re-assess our current programs; student input will be vital to that process.
I turn now to a different topic. These first few days before classes begin are busy, but they also offer a few moments for reflection about the upcoming year, the goals you have set for yourself, and how you would like the next few months to unfold. I recognize, too, the desire of many to celebrate being back with friends you haven't seen for several months.
As you know from President Sullivan's message sent to you yesterday, the Wertland Street block party creates significant safety concerns, given the size of the crowd and the demonstrated potential for negative (and highly serious) incidents to occur. Sexual assault, dangerously crowded balconies, underage and high-risk drinking, and other safety concerns inherent in large crowds of individuals you do not know present very real concerns. This unsanctioned event also poses legal risks and consequences, as described in this flier.
Instead of visiting Wertland Street on Saturday night, I hope you will look for other ways to gather safely with friends. As you probably have heard, many other activities will be taking place during Wahoo Welcome, including the Future and Lil Yachty concert on Saturday night as well as an array of other activities at the AFC and elsewhere. Your safety and well-being are a paramount concern to us.
I understand this is a challenging moment in our long history as a University, but I also have tremendous confidence in you, our students. This weekend and in coming weeks, I trust you to make responsible choices as citizen leaders within the UVA community as well as in the surrounding community where you may live. I have seen you do this time and time again.
This is a strong community and you are the heart of it. I am looking forward to a safe and fulfilling year for each of you, and I wish you the very best as you begin the new academic year.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students