The University responds to reports of racial harassment
Photos by Dan Addison
|In a show of solidarity with their victimized peers, dozens of students wore black T-shirts to the Sept. 3 home football game.
By Dan Heuchert
The opening of the fall semester was marred by at least seven incidents of harassment aimed at African-American students. The events prompted a wave of expressions of concern and support for the students and condemnation of the harassers from U.Va. students, faculty, staff and administrators.
According to a University Police summary, dated Aug. 30:
In the late afternoon of Aug. 20, eight students at the corner of Rugby Road and University Avenue reported that a car occupied by four white males drove by. One of the passengers yelled a racial epithet out of the window.
- On Aug. 23, a student reported that on two different occasions, groups of white males yelled racial slurs at him as he walked near the Corner.
- On Aug. 25, a student reported that racial epithets were yelled at her from a pick-up truck on Alderman Road.
- That same day, a student reported that a racial slur had been written on a birthday card attached to the door of her off-Grounds apartment at Eagle’s Landing.
- On Aug. 27, a student of color reported being denied entry into a fraternity party until other black members of the fraternity arrived. Later at the event, she charged that a white female poured a cupful of beer down her back and then mock-apologized while pretending to be drunk. The same student reported that earlier in the week, a eer had been thrown at her as she walked along McCormick Road.
- At some time between 11 p.m. on Aug. 27 and 1 a.m. on Aug. 28, a racial slur and anti-Christian message were written on a dry-erase board outside of a student’s Lawn room.
- On Sept. 3, University Police arrested student Darren Thomas Tully, 19, and charged him with underage possession of alcohol after a fellow student observed him removing pro-racial-tolerance flyers rom the doors of Lawn rooms. Police did not immediately link him to any of the other incidents.
The initial spate of incidents quickly captured the focus of University students and administrators.
Approximately 250 members of the University community gathered Aug. 27 on the steps of the Rotunda to call attention to the incidents and seek change.
University President John T. Casteen III and Thomas F. Farrell II, rector of the Board of Visitors, both issued statements on Aug. 29 condemning the attacks.
Casteen termed them “vicious, deliberate and secretive efforts to insult and abuse members of this community.”
He added, “The writer of the spiteful words and the passing motorist who shouts an insult have no place in a community built on mutual trust and respect.”
Speaking on behalf of the board, Farrell said, “We are deeply committed to diversity and are united with you as a community that values learning, mutual respect and the worth of each and every individual.”
He predicted that “the strength and values of the community will ultimately outweigh the base actions of those who seek to spread hatred, fear and intolerance.”
The Black Student Alliance devoted its regular meeting on the evening of Aug. 30 to a discussion of the University’s racial climate — a meeting that was well attended by students and University administrators.
Students from the School of Architecture sponsored a second public demonstration on Sept. 2. Approximately 100 students marched from Campbell Hall to the Rotunda, then tied cards bearing inspirational pro-tolerance messages to columns along the Lawn with ribbons of different colors. After some speakers addressed the group, follow-up discussions were held at the Architecture School.
In a show of solidarity with their victimized peers, dozens of students wore black T-shirts to the Sept. 3 home football game against Western Michigan University and sat together in the student section, creating a black hole in Scott Stadium’s so-called “Sea of Orange.”
Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer said, “We believe that the individuals responsible for these incidents represent a small group of perpetrators who somehow find satisfaction in instilling fear and spreading hatred.” She vowed that if the perpetrators are identified, “the University is ready to deal with them swiftly and within the confines of prevailing law and the University’s own systems of adjudication.”
She cautioned that in some cases the constitutional right to free speech leaves little recourse for sanctioning the use of offensive language. She noted, however, that several of the incidents may be governed by the University’s Standards of Conduct, which are administered by the student-run University Judiciary Committee.
The U.Va. Alumni Association announced that it would offer a $5,000 reward for “information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person or persons who have engaged in racial acts of vandalism, threats or other criminal misconduct on or adjacent to University property during the fall 2005 semester directed against any minority student of the University because of his or her race.”
The Cavalier Daily informed its readers that it intends to publish each week a list of “confirmed incidents of prejudice.” The list would appear in a box similar to the paper’s “Honor box” that reports the results of Honor Committee trials.
|President John T. Casteen III
Statement on Racial Incidents
Aug. 29, 2005 —Late last week and continuing into the weekend, the Division of Student Affairs and the University and local police received and investigated a remarkable series of complaints about racial insults directed toward University students.
On Saturday afternoon, a public meeting called by University students to protest these abuses was held at the Rotunda.
These troubling incidents — which thus far have been affirmed by investigations — share common characteristics: all have been vicious, deliberate and secretive efforts to insult and abuse members of this community for the color of their skin.
The perpetrators — whether students or nonstudents, on Grounds or off — who lurk outside a student’s room to write the words “Nigger/I hate Jesus” on a note board or who shout racial abuses from a passing vehicle do nothing to advance truth or knowledge and communicate nothing other than her or his desperate lack of fit in our community. In fact, she/he threatens the very freedom — to seek truth freely and without interference — that makes universities thrive. And abuse of this kind goes further: it attempts in unsubtle ways to take away the freedom to belong that every member of the University by right owns.
The writer of the spiteful words and the passing motorist who shouts an insult have no place in a community built on mutual trust and respect.
I encourage all students, staff and faculty to join me in expressing outrage at these events. And I ask each of you to report immediately any bias incident to University Police and to Student Affairs, and to offer quick and strong support for those who have been victimized.
Student leaders merit commendation for taking a public stand against these racial abuses. Their actions and their words of support and comfort for the victims is a reflection of how our community should work to counter such senseless attacks. All of us belong here, all deserve to live in circumstances that sustain academic and personal success, and no one deserves to be abused and insulted as many of our sisters and brothers were this weekend.
Rector’s Statement: Thomas F. Farrell II
Aug. 29, 2005 — The University’s Board of Visitors joins other members of the University community in condemning the recent spate of racial insults directed toward our students. As President Casteen has stated, these incidents are vicious and the perpetrators — whoever they may be — do not represent the values of mutual trust and respect that our community is built upon.
We commend the ways in which the community has come together to voice its outrage and to support the students who were affected.
As the police and other officials work on these cases, I encourage the student body, faculty and staff to find renewed purpose in what we stand for. The strength and values of the community will ultimately outweigh the base actions of those who seek to spread hatred, fear and intolerance.
The Board will continue to support President Casteen and every member of the University. We are deeply committed to diversity and are united with you as a community that values learning, mutual respect and the worth of each and every individual.
Casteen on Diversity
A video of U.Va. President John T. Casteen III’s remarks, below, can be seen at www.virginia.edu/uvadiversity.
Our University is at a kind of watershed with regard to matters having to do with diversity and equity within our community. We value diversity here because it has to do with the human richness, the variety of experiences and backgrounds and perspectives and reasons for learning that distinguish us as people based on our own backgrounds, our own expectations, our own prior experience.
Diversity, in a way, is the key to the American Dream in our time. It’s the way to build a culture, a civilization, a nation, in our case a university in which all are free to learn and to contribute. There is no place for intolerance, for bigotry, for hatred and the reason is that each of those behaviors or attitudes deprives others of the capacity to learn, to teach, to exercise the freedoms that universities are committed to.
This community has a powerful moral system. It’s distinctive in part because of its honor system, but it has a fundamental commitment to a system of ethics, to modes of belief that have to do with what the University’s founder described as our natural rights, the rights that we have because we’re human. And those rights belong commonly to all of us.
We believe that in this place the right to learn can’t be abridged because of any person’s age or color or disability or national or ethnic origin or political affiliation or race or religion or sex or sexual orientation or veteran status. Those words which all of us know from policies published in many different contexts have special meaning here.
This community has high standards. It believes in human performance and it believes in enhancing the conditions under which human performance occurs. So the policies have special value in this place. They define the conditions of work.
To sustain a community over time in which diversity is valued involves mutual respect. It involves understanding the importance of the work done by other people and recognizing the values of other people’s backgrounds and contributions.
The decades-long effort to make this university a genuine cross-section of what we are as a nation has begun now to show its first fruits. The varieties of humankind represented here cut across essentially everything we know about our globe.
We do have a diverse student body. Some 30 percent of the women and men who walk these Grounds are persons of color. We have found the values of their experiences, their contributions in every class we teach. We’ve discovered the ways in which all of us enrich our community in common ways.
To take something as old and as venerable as the University of Virginia and to build in it a platform for a republic in which all of us have an equitable share, in which the values of diversity are in fact the values of the republic is a wonderful thing. Let me invite you to join us in doing your part.
REPORT RACIAL HARASSMENT & OTHER BIAS INCIDENTS
• Call 911 • Call the Office of the Dean of Students at 924-7133 • Call the University Police at 924-7166 • Also use your cell phone to take photos, if possible
“The School of Architecture community is appalled by the recent racially motivated events that have marred the beginning of a new academic year. I encourage all of the members of the School of Architecture and greater University community to continue to build our community on values of respect and consideration for others, knowing that diversity of race, of gender, of nationality and of opinions is one of the greatest assets of our contemporary university life. The opportunity to share different cultural traditions, different languages, different ethnic backgrounds is a privilege of our democratic nation.”
Karen Van Lengen
Dean of the School of Architecture
“The University of Virginia’s ‘community of trust’ is more than an ideal. It is the foundation of our institutional identity. In such a community, racial intolerance does not merely cause great pain to individuals; it is an outrage that hurts all of us and strikes at the heart of this identity. I speak for everyone at the Commerce School in deploring the racial slurs that recently occurred on or near Grounds. We are all fully committed to ensuring that every member of the University community is treated with dignity, decency and respect.”
Dean of the McIntire School of Commerce
“I believe that the majority of individuals here believe in diversity and recognize the power of embracing and learning from differences. The people committing these cowardly acts want the University community to be uncomfortable and to feel a lesser sense of ownership over this school. I’m pleased to see that the University community has rather responded with proactive steps clearly showing that we will not stand for discriminatory, threatening acts of hatred. This University belongs to all students irrespective of what makes them different. In fact, that is what makes this institution great — diversity.”
“I don’t know if those who instigated the recent racial incidents are students, but we must accept the possibility that some of our students have never been exposed to role models who promote acceptance of all people, regardless of race, color or religion. I strongly feel it is the responsibility of faculty and administrators to teach morally correct behavior in these cases. We must clearly and forcefully speak out against racism wherever we see it.”
Houston G. Wood
Chairman of the Faculty Senate
“As future educators, concerned citizens and members of the University community, we find racial intolerance abhorrent. We will not sit idly by as our community is torn apart by acts of hatred on our fellow students. We urge the community to address these issues in a timely manner and move forward in a climate where these events no longer occur.”
B.A., Psychology/M.T. 2007
on behalf of more than 100 teacher education students in the Curry School of Education