On Wednesday morning, May 1, many of us awoke to find two slurs painted on Beta Bridge, a public space that has served for so many years as a place to promote this special, inclusive community. These slurs, targeting our African-American and LGBTQ students, are repugnant to our shared values at the University. We should rightly condemn them.
When I was first made aware of the slurs yesterday morning, I immediately directed my staff in Student Activities to do two things: repaint the bridge so that the slurs would have a very short time within which they were visible, and begin an investigation in an attempt to determine who might be responsible for painting them. Although we must remain mindful that some ugly or repugnant speech may be constitutionally protected and thus outside our ability to sanction, that does not preclude us from making a firm statement of condemnation in response.
We should also be mindful of several things regarding the timing and possible motivations of the person or persons who did this. We do not know if they were students, or if it was an individual acting alone or in concert with a few others. Given the timing of the act, coming as students face the pressure of final examinations, I suspect that it was designed to cause distress and anxiety in certain student communities at a critical juncture. I also suspect that it was intended to drive a wedge between members of our community, given the attempt to attribute it to a fraternal organization on Grounds. We must maintain a clear perspective and not let the acts of one or a few cowards painting two slurs in the cover of darkness create anxiety, mistrust or discord in what each of us knows is a welcoming, supportive and vibrantly diverse University community of 21,000 students and many thousands of faculty, staff and Charlottesville neighbors. Our message needs to remain that excellence is the sole standard for membership in the University community, and a diverse population that reflects the world in which our students will work and live after college is the best environment within which to learn while here.
Please know that the University’s commitment to these shared values remains unshaken and firm.
Allen W. Groves
University Dean of Students