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Sullivan, Vice Presidents Say ‘Abhorrent’ Speech on Beta Bridge ‘Will Not Be Tolerated’

UPDATED, May 6, 2013, to add mention of homophobic comments also painted on the bridge.

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan on Thursday emailed a statement condemning racist and homophobic comments painted on Beta Bridge, adding her voice and those of two vice presidents to student groups who condemned the graffiti.

The bridge, which carries Rugby Road over railroad tracks, is frequently painted with various messages ranging from the mundane (birthday wishes and party announcements) to the inspirational (a “Hoos for Hokies” message painted after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings remained undisturbed for weeks, a rare occurrence).

Derogatory slurs used to describe homosexuals and African-Americans appeared sometime Wednesday, alongside a crudely drawn pornographic image. Others soon painted over the offensive material, and two student organizations, the Black Student Alliance and the Student Council, swiftly issued statements condemning the original defacement.

On Thursday, Sullivan; Dr. Marcus L. Martin, vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity; and Patricia M. Lampkin, vice president and chief student affairs officer, released the following statement in an email to the University community:

On the morning of Wednesday, May 1, a display of hate and bias was discovered painted on Beta Bridge.

The individuals responsible for this derogatory message were trying to intimidate and isolate members of our University community. We reject this expression of hatred, and we stand by the University’s commitment to promote an inclusive and welcoming environment that embraces the full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives and disciplines.

There is no place for intolerance, bigotry or hatred in such an environment. We condemn this abhorrent act, which is disruptive to civility and community life, is not representative of our values and will not be tolerated.

The administration supports the statements issued by the Black Student Alliance and the Student Council condemning this incident.

As of Thursday, those responsible for the racist graffiti had not been identified, University spokesperson McGregor McCance said.

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