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By Matt Kelly

Feb. 27, 2003 — More than 700 students packed the Newcomb Hall ballroom Wednesday evening for community reflection and discussion following a reported early-morning assault on a student.

The University community was stunned Wednesday following a report that Daisy Lundy, a candidate for Student Council president, was attacked in Poe Alley by an assailant who allegedly used a racial slur in reference to the hotly contested election. The election has been postponed until after spring break.

The University Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime, and the University is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Yesterday that amount was doubled by officials of the Walter N. Ridley Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to African-American students at U.Va.

University Police described the assailant as a heavy-set white male wearing a dark coat, light pants and a dark hat.

“This intolerable act insults and offends this community’s core values, including racial tolerance, civility and mutual respect,” University President John T. Casteen III said in a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “Our first obligation is to close ranks around our students to ensure their safety and to reassure them of the community’s protection and support.”

At Newcomb Hall, many community leaders addressed a 90-minute general session before the audience broke into smaller discussion groups.

Several speakers called for the University and the community to address racism more directly. M. Rick Turner, dean of the Office of African-American Affairs, predicted a decline in African-American enrollments without more black teachers and administrators.

“What happened last night shows a waning of commitment to the issues that affect African-American students,” Turner said. “Something has to happen to a culture that continues to preach racism.”

Turner said he still is optimistic and noted that U.Va. has the highest graduation rate of African Americans among public universities.

George Mentore, associate professor in the anthropology department, said he was offended that the attacker seemed to be a member of the University community.

“What really hurts and pains the soul so badly that it cries out, is that it looks like it was one of our own,” he said. “This is not a rapist from the outside, someone we cannot control. This is someone from the inside, who felt so threatened and weak that they turned to violence.”

The Rev. Alvin Edwards, pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist Church, linked the assault to a recent blackface incident, where two males attending a Halloween fraternity party dressed as black female athletes and painted their faces black; a third was dressed as Uncle Sam, also in blackface. Two fraternities were temporarily suspended following the incident, but an investigation by the Inter Fraternity Council determined that the offensive party-goers were within the bounds of constitutionally protected free speech. No action was taken against individuals.
Edwards asked community members to turn in the assailant.

“Please don’t give the perpetrators your support with silence,” he said. “Do not let people like this divide us.”

Tim Lovelace, a friend of Lundy’s and former student representative on the Board of Visitors, reminded the crowd of Christ’s admonition to be “wise as serpents, harmless as doves.” While saying he can’t “turn a hard heart toward another person,” Lovelace called for critical thinking about student government, the University’s racial history and the gender and racial makeup of the Board of Visitors.

Faculty Senate Chairman Michael J. Smith, speaking after the main session, expressed faculty outrage over the events.

“All the faculty is shocked and dismayed and heartsick at these events,” Smith said. “We like to think of the University as an enclave that is free of this.”

Smith said he believes the incident could accelerate opening dialogues in classes about the University’s racial history. Following last fall’s blackface incident, Casteen requested the faculty teach the “unvarnished” truth of race relations at the University.

Third-year student Jennifer Goldson said she wants to see more concrete actions. She said after the session that the University called the meeting “to give us a pat on the back and wipe away our tears. I don’t want to feel better. I want change.”
Goldson said the University should expel the students involved in blackface incidents, apprehend Lundy’s assailant and make an example of him.

“This should not be a place where this sort of thing happens,” she said.

Mentore said after the meeting that University leaders need to be courageous in facing racism and that they should seek solutions from the faculty. He was angry that during the blackface controversy the administration never consulted a faculty member who had written a book on minstrel shows, where actors dressed in blackface were a common form of entertainment.

Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia M. Lampkin, in a prepared statement, called for everyone in the University community to work together.

“We cannot freeze one another out or allow existing divisiveness to grow deeper,” Lampkin said. “We must channel the anger in constructive ways, toward the diversity work that now demands our attention in a new way. Each of us has a responsibility to extend a hand, to seek ways to bring our community together and bridge the divides that we know exist.”

The Rev. Lauren Cogswell, assistant pastor at Westminister Presbyterian Church, advocated a nonviolent response to racism.

“It's not about being nice or teaching tolerance, but it is owning the fact that there is something that allows racism and violence to grow,” she said. “The white community needs to take seriously the hidden wound of racism and deal with issues of power and wealth and privilege.”

   
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Last Modified: Thursday October 30, 2014
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