Safety Notice from Dean Groves

November 18th, 2009

Dear students:

Over the last few days, students have forwarded me an e-mail circulating on various list serves that describes alleged incidents of a criminal nature occurring on or near Grounds. I understand how a student receiving such an e-mail might be concerned about safety and perhaps wonder why nothing had been said by the University administration in response.

The University Police (UPD) and the Office of the Dean of Students take your safety very seriously. Many of you have heard me state publicly that I consider your safety the most significant part of my job as Dean. When a verified incident occurs that raises an issue of broader community impact, UPD Chief Mike Gibson will send out a police alert to the University community outlining the facts of the incident and the recommended steps you can take to protect yourself. Vice President Pat Lampkin will also periodically send e-mails to students detailing general safety precautions and tips to help maintain the safest possible experience at UVA. However, we do not communicate to all students regarding unsubstantiated incidents or matters that do not present a broader risk of criminal action on or near Grounds. We understand that too many e-mails lessen the impact of our communication with you in those times when we really do need to get your attention regarding a potentially serious matter.

Given the volume of e-mails circulating on list serves over the past several days, I feel it is necessary to communicate to the entire student community so that you have accurate information rather than rumor. Here is what we currently know:

  • The UPD has confirmed that a male who uses a wheelchair approached a female student near Alderman Library on October 15, 2009, at approximately 8:50 am. He asked to use her cell phone and when she declined his request, he reportedly made what the UPD deemed to be inappropriate (but non-threatening) statements to the student. As a result of this interaction, UPD subsequently issued a trespass warning to this individual, barring him from the University Grounds. Thereafter, on November 10, 2009, the UPD was notified that this same individual had entered Madison House (which is not University property) through an unlocked door on November 9, was asked by Madison House staff to leave the premises, and complied. Neither the UPD nor the Charlottesville Police are aware of any criminal acts having been committed by this individual. I am also advised that area police have investigated this man’s background and have discovered no evidence of any prior violent acts or propensity to act in a violent manner. If you are aware of other incidents that warrant police intervention, please dial 911 and make a report.
  • One of the e-mails forwarded to me makes reference to a male who has been seen in the stacks in Alderman Library loitering for long periods, and who has allegedly attempted to look up the dress of one or more female students. The UPD has contacted Alderman Library staff and neither they nor the UPD have a record of anyone making a report of such activity. The UPD is continuing to investigate this in light of the e-mail forwarded to me by students yesterday.
  • This same e-mail also makes reference to an alleged rape occurring within the past week in the area of 15th Street and Wertland Avenue. The UPD has not received a report of a rape or sexual assault occurring in that area during the past few weeks, nor has the Charlottesville Police received such a report to our knowledge. If someone was the victim of such an assault or knows facts relevant to this allegation, I hope that they will contact the police or my office immediately.

It is critical that all students understand that the UPD and the Charlottesville Police want you to dial 911 to immediately report any activity that appears threatening or makes you uncomfortable for your safety. Time is a critical factor in such situations. You should also notify my office as soon as possible so that we may consider whether further action or communication to the wider student community is warranted. Also, before circulating an e-mail you receive regarding allegations of criminal conduct on or near Grounds, contact the UPD or my office to verify that what you have received is, in fact, accurate. Misinformation can often be as dangerous as no information, and the UPD and my office want to partner with you to make our community as safe as possible.

Since I have your attention, I want to reinforce some general safety tips. Yes, you have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. That means taking off the earphones when walking at night. Walk with friends, take a late-night weekend UTS bus, or call SafeRide (242-1122) rather than walking alone. Do not allow a stranger to “tailgate” you into a residence hall after you swipe your access card, no matter how “normal” that person may appear to you. If you are studying in one of the libraries and notice a suspicious person or activities, remove yourself from the situation and call 911 or report your concerns to the person staffing the library’s front desk (who is trained to assist students). If you see suspicious activity, immediately dial 911 (or use a blue light phone on Grounds to immediately connect to the UPD) and provide all pertinent details to police. If you live off Grounds, get to know your neighbors and look out for one another. Talk with your landlord about replacing burned out exterior lights or lowering overgrown hedges that create opportunities for criminal activity around your living area. Contact the Off-Grounds Housing Manager located in my Peabody Hall office if you need help in this regard.

Your safety is our highest priority. I hope you will contact me should you have any questions regarding the issues covered in this e-mail or your safety generally.

Allen W. Groves
Dean of Students

Safety Reminders from Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer, Patricia M. Lampkin

November 4th, 2009

Dear Students:

More than two weeks ago, you received an alert from University Police about the disappearance of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington on Oct. 17. Unfortunately, Ms. Harrington, who disappeared during the Metallica concert at John Paul Jones Arena, still has not been found. Our hearts go out to her family and friends at this very difficult time. Ms. Harrington’s parents and brother are UVA alumni.
New information about the search for Ms. Harrington is posted on the University’s home page as soon as it is received. The latest information from law enforcement consists of an Oct. 28 press release from the Virginia State Police detailing a timeline of events connected with Ms. Harrington’s disappearance. Law enforcement officials are continuing to pursue any leads they receive.

As requested by the University Police and the Virginia State Police, anyone with any piece of information, however small, is encouraged to contact them. Web sites, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses are posted on the University’s Emergency Web page.

The site also includes downloadable flyers, in both English and Spanish, that the public is encouraged to post wherever possible.

The University Police will continue to issue alerts, if warranted, to the University community. At this time, they have no reason to suspect that Ms. Harrington’s disappearance was anything other than an isolated incident or that community members need to take steps beyond those they already should be taking to protect themselves.

Please recognize that safety is both a personal and community goal. You are encouraged to take a moment to review general safety guidelines, which are useful at any time and in any situation. The University Police offer these reminders:

Summoning Help

  • Call 911 from any phone, including your cell phone. You will be connected to a regional dispatcher who will send help based on your location.
  • If on Grounds, just pick up one of the blue light telephones. You automatically will be connected to University Police.

Contact Information

Validate or update your local and emergency contact information in the Student Information System (SIS). You will be prompted to update this information in the SIS when you register for spring courses. The University relies on this information to contact you in the event of an emergency, and to communicate with you regarding official University business.

Personal Safety

  • Trust your instincts about a person or situation. If you feel uncomfortable, immediately report your concerns to police by calling 911.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Remember that talking on a cell phone or listening to music can be distracting, especially if you are crossing the street or not paying attention to your surroundings.
  • Avoid isolated areas.
  • Avoid walking alone at night. Use SafeRide, walk with friends, or take a late-night weekend bus.

    • SafeRide provides service between midnight and 6:00 am from Sunday night through Friday morning. On Saturdays and Sundays, SafeRide operates from 3:00 am to 6:00 am The telephone number is 434-242-1122.
    • Late-night buses: Service for University buses is extended every weekend until 2:30 a.m. when school is in session. Routes and schedules.
  • Use the lighted pathway system.
  • Tell a friend where you are going and when you will return.
  • Remember that alcohol use can dull judgment and lead to a false sense of security. When going out to a party, create a plan ahead of time with friends so you watch out for one another and get home safely.

Residence Hall Safety

  • Never allow strangers to follow you into the building.
  • Call 911 if you see someone in the building who seems suspicious.
  • Never prop open card reader doors or leave room doors open.
  • Secure doors and windows prior to leaving.

Home/Apartment Safety

  • Keep doors and windows locked.
  • Use outdoor lighting.
  • Trim shrubs and trees to prevent the possibility of prowlers hiding in dense, darkened areas.
  • Do not hesitate to contact police, by calling 911, about a person or situation that does not seem right. You will not have to give your name to police.
  • If you see any of the following, immediately call the police at 911:

    • a prowler
    • someone peeping into a residence
    • an individual who appears to be unauthorized and watching, photographing or filming an area
    • or any other suspicious behavior.

  • Work with your neighbors and fellow community members to ensure a safe environment.

Reporting a Bias Incident

If you or someone you know witnesses a bias incident, help is available. The Bias Incident Web site provides complete details on how to report the incident, what constitutes bias, and what you can expect in response from the University.

Sign Up for UVA Alerts

If you have not already signed up, please register for the University’s emergency messaging system. The University will send both text alerts and e-mail messages in the event of an imminent safety threat on or near Grounds. Your information will be used only in rare instances for emergency communication.

Finally, if you are concerned about your personal safety, you are encouraged, as always, to speak with a Resident Assistant (if living in UVA housing), a member of the Office of the Dean of Students staff, or a counselor in the Center for Counseling and Psychological Services.


Patricia M. Lampkin

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer