Important University of Virginia Messages Regarding Sexual Assault

November 25, 2014

The publication of a Rolling Stone article that depicts a horrific sexual assault of a student at a fraternity house in 2012 has ignited deep concern, outrage and sadness in the University community and beyond. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and others have united in support of survivors of sexual assault and to demand immediate attention on the issue and action.

Below are communications distributed to the University community in recent days in connection with this continuing issue:

 

Dec. 19, 2014

Dec. 15, 2014

Dec. 9, 2014

Dec. 8, 2014

Dec. 5, 2014

Dec. 1, 2014

Nov. 26, 2014

Nov. 25, 2014

Nov. 22, 2014

​Nov. 21, 2014

Nov. 20, 2014

Nov. 19, 2014

 


 

Dec. 19, 2014

Rector George K. Martin's Prepared Remarks to the Board of Visitors

Good afternoon.

Let me say a few words at the outset about what has transpired this fall, and especially in recent weeks.

I began the last meeting by expressing our collective sorrow to survivors of sexual assault at the University of Virginia.

Let me begin today by expressing our collective sorrow also to the students, the student affairs professionals, the fraternities, and the countless others on Grounds who have been wrongly maligned and traumatized by the Rolling Stone article and the reaction to it. 

We are sorry.

And to Jackie, I know I speak for the entire board, when I say our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Most of our students now have completed their exams and are returning to their families and loved ones for a time of rest and renewal.  It is a season of peace and joy, and for counting our many blessings.  We pray that it will also be a season of healing.

Few student bodies in America or anywhere in the world have had to endure a semester like the one our students have endured this fall. 

The same is true of our dedicated faculty and administration. 

And though parents, alumni, and friends of the University have had to endure at a distance, they have felt the pain no less keenly.

We lost four students—Hannah Graham, Connor Cormier, Peter D’Agostino and Hunter Smith — each of them an extraordinary young person who was full of hope and dreams and promise.  And if that almost unbearable loss were not awful enough, at times it has seemed as if the University itself has lost its way.

Like a neighborhood thrown into chaos by drive-by violence, our tightly knit community has experienced the full fury of drive-by journalism in the 21st century—of callous indifference to the truth and callous indifference to the consequences. 

The whole story is still not clear, but it is not too soon to assess some of the damage.

  • Innocent people have been hurt; some of them devastated. 
  • Our great University’s reputation has been unfairly tarnished.
  • Our community—one characterized distinctively by honor and leadership and selfless service to others—has been cast into self-doubt.
  • And great and important causes have suffered mightily as a result: 
  • the cause of sexual assault prevention and prosecution, which requires the engagement and goodwill of our whole community;
  • and the cause of due process, which is our only sure refuge against the storms of passion and our only protection  against the rush to judgment.

We are tempted to respond to these injustices with anger.  But a great University does not respond in anger.  Its very mission is to teach the power of truth and reason over prejudice and passion.  And we need to practice what we preach.

We are here, after all, to teach our students … to set before them a positive and constructive example.  And sometimes, as at our last meeting—indeed, as on many occasions—we are here to learn from our students and to be inspired by them.

So what positive inspiration can this Board of Visitors, and the larger University community, take from the controversial events of recent days?

In what ways can and are we turning the anger and frustration that we all feel into positive action and improvements that will benefit today’s students and those who will follow them?

First, we have been inspired to make good on the promise that there will be no tolerance of sexual violence in this community.  This will require the engagement of everyone.  And so a special group comprised of administrators, faculty members, students, Board members, and others has begun work—building on an initiative that began many months before the Rolling Stone article—to find concrete and practical solutions to this nationwide dilemma. 

The truth is, we do not know how common sexual assault is on the campuses of this country, including our own. 

  • But we know that it exists. 
  • We know it is a reflection of deeply embedded social and cultural factors.
  • We know that too many incidents go unreported, either to law enforcement authorities or to University personnel. 
  • We know that in the search for a remedy to this entrenched problem due process can sometimes be a casualty.
  • And we know that inconsistent laws and enforcement practices have made it nearly impossible for America’s universities to address these matters intelligently without violating someone’s rights, or risking liability, or both.

We also know that we have much more work to do to get it right here on Grounds.  So we appreciate the efforts of the administration and the Ad Hoc Group—thank you Allison and Rusty for representing the Board in this work—and we look forward to your progress report this afternoon.

We also appreciate the work of the Governor and his sexual assault task force, the Attorney General, and members of the General Assembly, all of whom share a commitment to safety and justice for students and all members of the University community.

The second way that we will make something positive of this ordeal is by bringing the full truth into the light of day, so that we and everyone else can learn from our experience—from our mistakes as well as our successes—and thereby improve.

Here we need to revert once again to the wisdom of our Founder, and specifically to one of his other great achievements, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, where he wrote these words:  “Truth is great, and will prevail if left to herself, and is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and can have nothing to fear from the conflict.”

Let me say this for our Board and for our whole University community:  We have nothing to fear from the truth, and we are second to none in wanting it brought into full public view.

There are obstacles to this, but the University of Virginia will not be one of them.

  • The massive failure of journalistic ethics reflected in the Rolling Stone article has been an obstacle to truth.
  • A federal statute that appears to protect student privacy even after literally thousands of words attributed to students have been published by multiple media outlets is an obstacle to truth.
  • The widespread lack of clarity and understanding about what colleges and universities are required to do under the federal law known as Title IX is an obstacle to truth.
  • The rush to judgment by some who first faulted the University, as soon as the article was published, for doing too little, and others who faulted the University, as soon as the article was retracted, for doing too much—those excited and strident voices have been obstacles to truth. 

The record will show that we have acted in good faith, responding to new and shocking allegations of uncertain merit in the best way we could.

The truth, as Mr. Jefferson wrote, is a proper and sufficient antagonist to all of these errors, so we will do our very best to bring it to light, and quickly.

It may seem odd that we will begin this effort to lay bare the truth by going into closed session in a few moments, but it actually makes sense.  That’s because this Board needs to have guidance from its legal counsel—namely, the Attorney General of Virginia and those he has designated, including the independent counsel that I requested—regarding what the University’s legal obligations are under federal privacy laws. 

To date, we have understood that the facts of this case, including the University’s response to the limited information it received at various points before publication of the article, may not be publicly disclosed without violating the rights of one or more of our students who have chosen not to waive these protections.  This obligation, and, to a lesser extent, law enforcement considerations, have prevented the University from calling attention to the false portrayal of its actions in the Rolling Stone article.  And it has prevented us from answering the thoughtful and reasonable questions from various quarters about what University personnel knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it.

We intend to closely and critically examine this legal issue today, with the aid of counsel, and determine the precise demarcation between our legal obligations and our zone of discretion.  We will not act in a way that compounds the fallout from this tragic episode by subjecting the University and its personnel to legal liability.  But, at the same time, there is an urgent need to share what the University knows as fully and quickly as we may lawfully do so.  I know the Board is committed to doing exactly that.

Likewise, as you know, there in an investigation ongoing at the University’s request by both the Charlottesville Police Department and the review by the independent counsel designated by Attorney General Herring.  The University is cooperating fully and assisting with both efforts.

At the proper time, when those authorities have completed their work—and subject only to restrictions imposed on us by state and federal law as interpreted by the Attorney General and his designees—the University will support making the results available to the public. 

That will be my recommendation to the Board, and I know from conversations that Rusty, Allyson, and I have had with most if not all of the Board members that there is broad agreement on this point.

So, a second positive outcome is that we will do all we can to bring forward the truth of this matter quickly and completely, to learn from it, and to improve.

A final positive result of this controversy can be—if we will work together to make it so—a broader respect and appreciation for each other’s burdens:  showing a little more patience, and a little less judgment, and a little more kindness.

Frankly, like all the Board members, I have been inundated with hundreds, by now probably thousands, of emails and other communications.  And while I have endeavored to read them all, I feel guilty that it has not been humanly possible to respond to each of them individually.

These messages, heartfelt and passionate, reveal the full range of human emotions—from unbridled fury to deep sadness; from loud distress that things are hopelessly amiss in Charlottesville to a quiet confidence that this solid University will weather this controversy, too.

If you step back from these messages, which are so divergent in so many ways, the common denominator is a community of people who care deeply about this place and its mission—who care profoundly about the people here, and their legacy, and their future. 

And they are concerned about what they have seen.

They have seen this University make headlines this fall—not for exciting new discoveries, and talented new leaders who go from here to make their mark; not for top rankings for quality and value, or for the amazing generosity of the people here who give their time and treasure to help others.  Those are all true stories, but instead the headlines have told of vigils and investigations, of long searches and sad discoveries, of manhunts and arrests, and most recently, a tale of inhumanity and indifference that shocked our consciences to the point of disbelief—disbelief that now appears warranted to a significant extent.

My message to the University community, here on Grounds and beyond, is simply this:  Stay strong, positive, and united.   Let’s work together to learn and improve.  And among the things we should learn, let Rolling Stone’s catastrophic failure of professionalism and all that happened since teach us all to be a little less quick to judge each other, and a little more reluctant to assume the worst about each other when it is contrary to all we know and believe about our community.

Yes, there are wrongs we must right; mistakes we must not repeat; lessons we must learn—and we will be relentless in doing so.  But this indeed is a good and noble place, blessed by God (or, as Mr. Jefferson would say, by “divine Providence”) not only for the advancement of learning and the nurturing of young leaders, but for the preservation of timeless values.  Let us then live out these values in a spirit of mutual caring, patience, kindness, and forbearance. 

To put it simply, let us treat others as we would wish to be treated ourselves.  And if we just do that, the rest will take care of itself, and this still-young University, this powerful force for what is good and decent and true, will mend its wounds, renew its promise, and prosper for another 200 years.

Thank you.

 


 

Dec. 15, 2014

 

A Message to Students from University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan

Dear Students,
 
Tomorrow we close what can be described only as a heartbreaking semester. As you head home to surround yourselves with family and friends, I wanted to take a moment to tell you how much you have been in my thoughts.
 
Universities are places of great hope. Though they may age in years, they stay forever young - and forever optimistic - through the perpetual flow of students such as you who build on the accomplishments of those who came before them to create their own lasting legacies. It will be easy to say that this fall will be defined by the hardship and heartache we endured. It will be equally easy to say that it was the point in time when the honor upon which we base our daily work was threatened and began to falter. But your passion tells me otherwise. As challenging a time as it has been, I believe that this fall will be remembered not for how we dwelled in darkness, but for how we turned to light.
 
Over the past few months, I have seen you stand where few could. You have completed another semester of exceptional academic work while facing often overwhelming circumstances, and have done so selflessly. Our student leaders have fearlessly put themselves at the forefront of pressing national issues, showing the world that we are prepared to embrace our challenges in pursuit of overcoming them. You have continued to support each other in meaningful ways, reminding all of us just how powerful a true community can be. These are the things that inspire us all.
 
Early next semester we will take time to pause and gather - to remind ourselves that we have only to look to you for the inspiration to make a lasting difference at U.Va. and in the world.
 
My very best wishes for a joyful and restful break,
 
Teresa A. Sullivan
President
 


Dec. 15, 2014

A Message to Faculty and Staff from University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan

Dear Colleagues,
 
Fall semester 2014 is drawing to a close, and while there have been many positive moments, there is no question that it has also been a most difficult semester for all of us. In the midst of so much uncertainty and heartbreak, I want to thank you for supporting and encouraging our students and one another. You have inspired us and shown the very best of this university.  Please know how deeply appreciative I am of you and your selfless efforts to help our students learn, grow, and succeed, even in the face of adversity.
 
Universities are hardly immune to the violence of our world, including sexual violence.  Now we are responding as a university and as a community committed to the safety and wellbeing of all of our members.  We are committed to making the University as safe and as welcoming as possible for everyone here, and especially for the students entrusted to our care. I am committed to continuing, in the Spring 2015 semester and beyond, to find ways to improve the safety of our Grounds for all of us. The problems we face are complex and difficult, and we will continue to proceed prudently, not precipitately. Your ongoing help in these efforts will be essential.
 
 In a message to students this morning, I wrote how much I appreciate the hope, joy, and inspiration they bring to the University on a daily basis.   This University is a great place to work and study because of their optimism, energy, and accomplishments, and because of your knowledge, talent, and dedication.  That will never change.  You are the framework around which our principles are bolstered and preserved, and the University is sustained by your hard work and your commitment to do right and to persevere. I thank you for it.
 
When we reconvene as a full community next year, we will take the time to pause to thank our students, and to thank you, for the inspiration you bring to the University.  We have faced many challenges together; we may face more in the months ahead.  But I have no doubt that we will emerge a stronger, safer, better U.Va.
 
My very best wishes for a joyful and restful break,
 
Teresa A. Sullivan


Dec. 9, 2014

Statement Regarding Fraternal Suspension

University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan remains sensitive to concerns about broadly indicting the entire Greek system in the aftermath of the allegations described in the Rolling Stone article. As she said in her Dec. 1 address to the community, “In any crisis it can be far too easy to paint with a broad brush, and blindly attack entire groups of individuals. This is not a responsible reaction.” Sullivan went on to state fraternity men at U.Va. are “good and decent people” and were equally distressed at the allegations in the article.

The purpose of the suspension of fraternity and sorority social activities was to give the University and Greek leadership a pause to identify solutions that would best ensure the well-being and safety of students. This important collaborative work continues, and the reinstatement of Greek activities on Jan. 9 will be in conjunction with a new Fraternal Organization Agreement that will enhance the safety of members and their guests.

President Sullivan’s decision to suspend fraternity and sorority social activity for the remainder of the year came after U.Va.’s Inter-fraternity Council suspended its activities for the weekend of Nov. 21 and after the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter at U.Va. voluntarily surrendered its own Fraternal Organization Agreement with the University.

The IFC presented a number of ideas for reform at the Board of Visitors’ meeting on Nov. 25, and President Sullivan continues to meet with leadership of all four Greek councils – the IFC, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Multicultural Greek Council and the Inter-Sorority Council – to discuss additional ideas about how best to ensure the safety of their members and guests while also bringing about meaningful cultural change at the University.

President Sullivan has also called on all student organizations to review their contracts with the University to safeguard the safety of their respective members and participants.

 


Dec. 8, 2014

An Update for UVa Parents from U.Va. President Teresa A. Sullivan

Today is the first day of final exams, and in a few weeks we will end a tumultuous fall semester. Three members of the Class of 2017 have died this semester, and the sense of grief and loss is palpable. In addition, many members of our community are grieving over the deaths of young black men in Staten Island and Ferguson.

All of you are aware of the most recent incidents affecting the University and students as a result of the article in Rolling Stone and its subsequent retraction. I am writing today to provide some context for our response, and the changes you can expect when classes resume in January.

Since the article was published, Greek activities have been suspended until Jan. 9. My decision to suspend fraternity and sorority social activity for the remainder of the year came after UVa’s Inter-Fraternity Council suspended its activities for the weekend of Nov. 21 and after the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity chapter at UVa voluntarily surrendered its own Fraternal Organization Agreement with the University. I remain sensitive to concerns about broadly indicting the entire Greek system. As I said in an address earlier this month, in any crisis it can be far too easy to paint with a broad brush, and to blindly attack entire groups of individuals. This is not a responsible reaction. Our fraternities were terribly distressed by the allegations in the article, and they are working with us toward solutions.

Until Jan. 9, chapter meetings and philanthropic activities are permitted, but I have encouraged all of the Greek-letter organizations, including the National Pan-Hellenic Council, the Multicultural Greek Council, and the Inter-Sorority Council to use this time to strengthen the student safety provisions of their agreements with the University. I met with the leaders of each of these groups, and in typical UVa fashion, our students have already come up with a number of sound ideas for improvement. Student Council will work with us and all of the CIOs (student organizations) to do the same thing. The reinstatement of Greek activities on Jan. 9 will be in conjunction with a new Fraternal Organization Agreement that will enhance the safety of members and their guests.

Even though the facts in the Rolling Stone story are in dispute, sexual misconduct does occur and it has no place at our University. We will continue our efforts to improve our policies and practices, to support survivors with counseling and in other ways, and to rigorously examine our culture and climate. Survivors will continue to have support through our student life and counseling professionals. I have named an Ad Hoc Group on Campus Climate and Culture; this group consists of two Board of Visitors members, one dean, four students, two faculty members, two alumni, and two parents. We will be working with our Board to examine what changes might be beneficial.

The Rolling Stone article, in my opinion, unfairly maligned a number of dedicated professionals who work for the University. I have noted in particular that our students immediately reached out to our Student Affairs staff with expressions of support. I can vouch for the fact that this staff has worked tirelessly to provide for the welfare of all of our students.

Some changes you can expect in the next semester include a police substation on the Corner and more frequent joint patrols by the University and Charlottesville police. We plan to introduce a new group of unarmed security personnel, called “Ambassadors,” who will wear distinctive uniforms. On weekend evenings, they will be prominently deployed near the libraries and the Corner to assist students, provide escorts as needed, and provide additional eyes and ears for the police patrols. We have recently completed nighttime tours of the Grounds that have led to tree-trimming and light replacement, and we will be upgrading the lighting, especially around laboratory buildings and other buildings where people may work late at night.

We have a new proposed policy on sexual misconduct that takes into account new federal mandates. It is posted here for public comment until December 20. We will be promulgating the revised new policy in the spring, and we will also be providing training in the new policy for everyone at the University.

I have also committed myself to visiting with faculty and student groups to encourage the conversation about how we foster healthy relationships, discourage sexual misconduct, and make the University community safer for all of us.

As we pause at the end of the year to reflect on our values and traditions, I reflect on how fortunate I am to interact with your students and with our caring faculty and staff. We all agree that we want a safe University where all students can develop their potential to its fullest. That is our top priority.

With best wishes for your students and for our new year,

Teresa A. Sullivan
President


Dec. 5, 2014

Statement of University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan

The University of Virginia is aware of today’s reports from the Washington Post and the statement from Rolling Stone magazine.

The University remains first and foremost concerned with the care and support of our students and, especially, any survivor of sexual assault. Our students, their safety, and their wellbeing, remain our top priority.

Over the past two weeks, our community has been more focused than ever on one of the most difficult and critical issues facing higher education today: sexual violence on college campuses. Today’s news must not alter this focus.   

We will continue to take a hard look at our practices, policies and procedures, and continue to dedicate ourselves to becoming a model institution in our educational programming, in the character of our student culture, and in our care for those who are victims.

We are a learning community, and we will continue our community-wide discussions and actions on these important issues in the weeks and months ahead. We remain committed to taking action as necessary to bring about meaningful cultural change in our University community.

 


 

Dec. 1, 2014

President Teresa A. Sullivan's Address to Students

The publication of the Rolling Stone article, and the passionate reaction of our students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and community members, have caused many sleepless nights for those of us who care about UVA.  The passionate reaction tells me this:  the behavior depicted is not something we will accept as normal, and the actions by seven men as described in the story have betrayed us.  We have a problem, and we are going to get after it. 

The story has raised a number of questions in my mind, and I will make it my highest priority in the coming months to learn the answers.  My team will spare no effort between now and the opening of the Spring semester to address these questions.  And let me say emphatically that how we answer these questions is not about protecting the University’s reputation – it is about doing the right thing, and the reputation I care about the most is not being afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead.  We will not be doing business as usual in Spring 2015.  We will fearlessly examine ourselves and our culture, while we will also cooperate fully with the independent investigation underway.

First, do we do everything possible to protect every student at UVA?  Let  me say this: I have been so greatly heartened by the passionate, overwhelming response by this community to condemn the evil acts that have been reported.  UVA students and alumni are speaking up, loudly, and saying this will never be tolerated on our Grounds.  Yet, at the same time, it has also been tough to hear from alumni, many from decades ago, who have shared their negative experiences, and then sadly wondered if nothing has changed.    If there is a subculture that hurts any UVA students or exploits any of our fellow Wahoos, then we must find out where it hides and root it out.  Examining this question will be my major priority over the next few months.  UVA is too good a place to allow this evil to reside. We must make this school a safe and welcoming place for all.

Second, have we provided the proper emphasis on  both supporting survivors and encouraging reporting?  We have tried to be responsive to advocacy groups who emphasize that a traumatized survivor has already had her autonomy taken from her.  In the victim-centered approach, the emphasis is on giving choices to the survivors and letting them understand and choose their course of action.  And empirically, we find that many survivors do not want to take action, or they want an outcome other than expulsion, or they want to think through their options before making a decision.  The very experience of the trauma can interfere with decision-making.  On the other side, as Chief Timothy Longo has emphasized to our Board of Visitors, timely reporting is critical to law enforcement. Forensic evidence disappears. Witnesses forget or move away. If we have chosen the wrong balance, this is time to change the balance.  If our enforcement mechanism is broken, we will fix it. We will also better engage with law enforcement, and this weekend Chief Longo and I had a conversation about proceeding with that. 

One thing we know for sure is that survivors need support, and we need to provide it to them.   But we also a need a culture in which reporting is valued and supported by everyone who has contact with a survivor.   Every faculty member and every staff member is going to learn how to do this.  One faculty member, Joe Allen from the Psychology Department, has drafted a “Victim’s bill of rights” that summarizes in clear, comprehensible language what choices are available.  I’m very attracted to the idea of making the information easily available to all. 

Third, what is the role of alcohol?   Alcohol does not cause rape, but alcohol is often a tool of the predator.  We know that many students consume alcohol.   From our alcohol education program, we know that about half of our entering class already drinks when they arrive in Charlottesville.   There is an unacknowledged problem with alcohol in high school. 

Binge drinking is a problem for us.  About one-sixth of our students abuse alcohol, in the sense that they are binge drinking at least occasionally.  Bingeing is a serious problem for their health.  The student body generally understands now that passing out from drink is a medical emergency.   In the interest of student safety, we have chosen to err on the side of medical treatment rather than punishment because we do not want to discourage students from seeking help for themselves or a friend.   And although there is a welcome long-term decline in binge drinking among students,  there is still too much. 

I said that alcohol is often a tool of the predator.   Women and men should know what they are drinking and who is serving it to them.   Young women should also understand that their lesser body weight and not eating with their drinks raise the probability that a smaller amount of alcohol will have a bigger effect on them.   The predators certainly know this.   Serving sweet-tasting but high-proof punches to women, while the guys sip a few beers, is often described as the prelude for taking advantage of the women.  Even an alert and careful student who tries the sweet-tasting cocktail containing many types of liquor cannot know how much alcohol it contains. 

Yet another problem with alcohol is that it can be the vehicle for some other drug to be ingested, unknown to the drinker.  Let’s call this by its name:  this is poisoning.  And it should be legally prosecuted as such.  We have all heard about the date-rape drugs, but they are very hard to detect because their metabolites in the body are so short-lived.  A targeted victim may be seemingly conscious but in fact unaware of her surroundings – and later, she has no idea what happened to her.  It’s alleged that this happens in Charlottesville; as I said, the evidence is hard to find, but a determined effort to find the sellers would be welcome.  If the predators can find the sellers of these drugs, law enforcement should also be able to find them.

We need to take further steps to educate about alcohol and to encourage enforcement.  I will look to the Gordie Center, to ADAPT, and to similar groups on the Grounds to offer me their best advice.  I want Friday and Saturday nights in the Spring to look different from the way they have looked this fall.

The fourth question is,  What is the role of Greek life?  Let me be clear about this:  in any crisis it can be far too easy to paint with a broad brush, and blindly attack entire groups of individuals.  This is not a responsible reaction.  It is not fair to fraternity men here who are good and decent people and are just as horrified as we all are about these disgusting allegations and revelations.  In fact many of the leaders of our campus anti-rape group One In Four are also members of fraternities.  Moreover, rapes and other sexual assaults occur in apartments, in public venues, and more rarely, in residence halls.  Nevertheless, there is great concern that a sexual predator can hide out in a fraternity, and therefore that fraternal social activities pose literal dangers to their guests. 

I have suspended all social activities at fraternities until next semester, and two fraternal organizations that do not have recognition agreements with the University have notified me that they voluntarily suspended their social activities as well. The University does not own the fraternity houses, and therefore it does not directly control them. What we have is a Fraternal Organization Agreement. When we say we have “kicked a fraternity out,” it means that we have suspended the fraternal agreement. I am working with the leaders of Greek life to craft new contracts that provide greater safety for all of their guests during their activities.

Our fraternal agreements currently include requirements for training and other behavioral guidelines, but they don’t go far enough, and the fraternities now agree.  Last week they presented me with a dozen ideas for reform, which I like; and I have some additional ideas for them.   Last night I met with the President of the Interfraternity Council so that we could share our concerns.   I have asked for a proposal for the terms of new contract no later than December 31.  Underage drinking will be an important part of that discussion.  I meet tomorrow with the president of the Intersorority Council  to initiate a related discussion, and I will also meet with the multicultural Greek societies.  

I am calling on all of our contracted student organizations to devote some of the spring semester to reconsidering  their agreement  with the University and the ways in which they support a culture that values friendship over exploitation and service over social status. 

Both students and faculty have raised with me the issue that there is too much emphasis on the fraternity houses as the locus for social life.   Other opportunities for students are limited, especially on Saturdays.   These are also issues we must consider.

And the final issue is, what do we do about this?  This is a time for us to draw upon the wisdom and research of our faculty members, the creativity and imaginations of our students, and the passion and concern of our alumni to find real solutions.  A number of faculty groups will be meeting this week and next; I intend to join the Darden faculty today and the Arts & Sciences faculty at their meeting tomorrow afternoon.  My holiday reception on Thursday before Lighting of the Lawn has been repurposed to a discussion of sexual assault. 

This week I am authorizing the funding and hiring of an additional trauma counselor for the Women’s Center.   This action has been specifically requested by the Women’s Center and by One Less, a student organization that seeks to prevent sexual assault. 

We have extended the period of comment on our new sexual conduct policy.  We started working on this policy long before the Rolling Stone article, and some of its provisions are mandated by federal guidelines.  Our previous policy was developed in 2011, in response to guidance from the federal   government, and as we did in 2011 we are asking for public comment on this policy. 

In January, we have already planned intensive additional bystander training for both faculty and students from nationally-recognized Green Dot.   Many sexual assaults could be prevented by active bystander intervention, and this training emphasizes how, not whether, to intervene.  Bystander training reinforces what I believe is the majority view that values every student and his or her safety.   In January we will be rolling out online training for faculty, staff, and students.  This training was developed at UVA and is specific to UVA, not purchased off the shelf. 

Later in the spring, we will be conducting a climate survey for all students.  The purpose of this anonymous survey is to provide us with information on two things:  are students aware of our policies, and what negative experiences have students had with respect to any sort of sexual misconduct, from verbal aggression to actual assaults.  We know that sexual offenses are among the most underreported offenses everywhere in the country; we hope that through this anonymous survey we can gain access to more accurate baseline information about how commonly students experience these things.  As we repeat this survey in coming years, we hope to find that we have moved the needle toward eliminating sexual violence, assault, and lesser forms of misconduct. 

Through the spring we will be providing additional opportunities for input and discussion, looking at everything from the questions we ask in our admissions process to how we direct flow in CAPS.  We have had success in limiting high-risk behaviors at Foxfield; we need to extend that success to other high-risk events. 

We will also fund and open a police substation on the Corner, and provide more joint patrols between the Charlottesville police and the University police, especially on the weekends.  We also plan to provide a new type of unarmed security personnel whose job will be to assist students and others on weekend nights in the Corner and Wertland areas.  We also intend to implement another phase of our campus lighting plan to increase nighttime visibility on the Grounds.

In the spring, I encourage the Sexual Misconduct Board to find ways to allow students to learn more about their processes.  It is time for an open discussion about what we will and will not tolerate among members of our community.  We include students in the adjudication process because we believe student self-governance to be an important part of student life here.  This practice has become controversial, and it is important that students consider carefully whether this is still the correct approach. 

On my wrist today I am wearing a bracelet that was given to me last week by a rape survivor.  We talked for nearly two hours about a brutal assault inflicted on her at another university.  I have three takeaways from that conversation.  First, rape can destroy lives.  She is strong and resilient and rebuilding her life, but it has taken her full-time effort, the constant effort of her family, and the support of therapists to put her life back together.  Second, rape is not about sex.  Her rape was about domination, anger, isolating your victim, and then making her believe that if she ever talks, something even worse will befall her.   Third, rape is a national problem –  it happened at this young woman’s college, but it also happens in the military, the workplace, and our high schools.  Now our university has been placed at the center of this crisis.  We will not shrink from it.  We will lead.  I will make periodic reports to the community on what we are doing, and you can hold me accountable for our efforts.

This is a community of good people who commit themselves to high ideals.   This is a community of wise and intelligent people who are able to solve hard problems and create novel solutions.  This is also a community of determination and resolve, and we embrace change when change is needed.    There is a piece of our culture that is broken, and I ask your help in coming together, as a strong and resilient community, to fix it.   

Our founder Thomas Jefferson reminds us: “It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.”  We will repair this wrong.  In this dark hour we will find light.  And we will not stop until every student feels safe and secure and free to learn and live and grow.  We must do this because our mission is to deliver a great educational experience, and we cannot succeed in our mission if our students are not safe.  

 


 

Dec. 1, 2014

A Message From Dean James H. Aylor to the U.Va. Engineering School Community

Dear Alumni, Parents and Friends,

I am appalled and saddened by the recent published accounts of sexual violence at the University of Virginia. Such behavior is completely unacceptable here at the Engineering School, on Grounds or elsewhere in society.

As a fellow alumnus, a parent of a U.Va. alumnus, professor and dean, I am committed to addressing this situation and to working with the University to create a safe and healthy learning and work environment for every individual in our community. I know this commitment is shared throughout the engineering school. We intend to be at the forefront of affecting change to the culture associated with intimate partner violence and sexual assault at the University of Virginia.

As engineering student and student council president Jalen Ross said at a press conference held last week, “United, we will have the strength for decisive action; divided we will flounder. We must be one community committed to this. One student body. One University. This is our problem to solve.”

Here are some of the steps that we have taken and intend to take here at the Engineering School:

  • I have sent a message to engineering faculty, staff and students expressing my concern, outlining actions underway, providing information on University-wide resources and encouraging an open dialogue.
  • I plan to meet with engineering faculty and students to discuss ideas for next steps and initiatives for change within the school and to explore how we can take leadership in University efforts. It is essential that our students and the leadership of our engineering student organizations become full partners in taking on these challenges.
  • I will fully encourage and support a more forceful action on the part of the University administration and students to develop a specific set of clearly defined policies, practices, and procedures for responding to reports of sexual assault.
  • Department chairs, associate deans and I are scheduled to participate in sensitivity training on interpersonal violence and sexual assault through the U.Va. Women’s Center; many plan to participate in further trainings offered by the University.
  • I will be making these training opportunities available to all faculty and staff of the Engineering School and will be encouraging them to take advantage of these opportunities.

I invite you to join us in this critical effort to create a safer environment for our students, faculty and staff. Please send me your thoughts, concerns and suggestions for change using the online form available here. We value your thoughts and we need your guidance addressing the problems and changing the University culture. Sexual violence must be brought into the light and banished from our community.

Sincerely, Jim Aylor

James H. Aylor, Dean
Louis T. Rader Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering

 


 

Nov. 26, 2014

Board of Visitors Statement on Sexual Assault

RESOLVED, on behalf of all who comprise the University of Virginia community, the Board of Visitors adopts the following statement:

We affirm that our first priority, of all of our responsibilities, is to ensure the safety of all in our community, especially the students entrusted to our care;

We condemn with all our being the alleged violations in our community of the most basic rights of any civil society;

We feel, as do all, the conflicting emotions, particularly anger, generated by the alleged conduct, but we will not allow the innocent to be victimized in the absence of complete facts;

We will pursue with all due urgency the complete truth relating to those and other possible violations of our most basic rights;

We will repair on a sustainable basis those aspects of our culture that have enabled the abhorrent conduct we all condemn;

We will implement all measures to address these violations and instill a culture of reporting with an understanding that our community is committed to the fundamental principles of zero tolerance for sexual assault and the right to due process;

We will ensure that the support of the community is provided to those whose rights were violated and that the rule of law is applied to those who violated those rights;

We know the moral imperative of our work is unassailable.   We commit ourselves to illuminating and nourishing the extraordinary and enduring strengths of the University even as we honestly confront and work to change uncomfortable truths that threaten to erode an environment of safety and trust.  We act for our own students.  We also act so that the University may serve as an example for, and a thought leader with, other institutions of higher learning facing similar and intolerable impediments to a culture of humane and civilized respect, open-mindedness, and learning.  We undertake to help the University evolve into a place where each person can without fear or mistrust achieve his or her potential, academically and personally;

We will not permit any tradition to be preserved if it jeopardizes a student’s safety;      

We will not end our work until we restore the trust in this great institution.

 


 

Nov. 25, 2014

Message to the U.Va. Board of Visitors from President Teresa A. Sullivan
 

Good afternoon. Thank you for assembling on such short notice.

This afternoon I want to address you from the heart. 

The story in Rolling Stone is shocking.  My initial reaction was numbness. That numbness quickly turned to anger.  I want to make it perfectly clear to you, and to the watching world: Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our students. Not our reputation, not our success, and not our history or traditions.

We must create and maintain a safe and healthy environment in which all of our students can follow their academic pursuits free from sexual violence. If we can’t deliver on this fundamental duty than we – all of us – will have failed.

We need to support any survivor of violence with caring and sensitivity. It is equally urgent that we prevent any further violence.  If there are systemic problems, they must be rooted out.

Foremost in my mind is fully investigating these allegations as well as thoroughly reviewing our current practices. That is why I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the gang rape as described in Rolling Stone. That is why I fully endorse the forthcoming investigation by an independent counsel who will advise us on how we can better respond to sexual assault on Grounds, as well as propose necessary changes to state law. And that is why we are here today to address these issues head on. We will spend the coming days, weeks, months – however long it takes – to ensure that the honor we preach about is lived every single day and every single night.

We have made significant progress in implementing new programs and policies, and you have heard me talk about that. But the article in Rolling Stone points to an entrenched cultural problem in student life. Alumni have written to me to say that the problem is an old one. And now is the time, and this is the generation of students, when it must stop.

My role as President is to find answers to difficult questions and to develop solutions. In the past few days, I have opened conversations with the Honor Committee, and with students, faculty, and staff.  The conversations are uniform in their content and tone: “Let’s be a catalyst for change, and let’s do it here and now.”  These conversations will continue, because the students understand the parts of the culture that foster violence.

The most important change is a fundamental mind shift, which can only come after deep introspection, to preserve what’s outstanding in our classrooms and across Grounds, and to repair and strengthen what isn’t.

First, we must deal with the complexity of sexual assault, which is often emotionally too difficult for some survivors – mostly women – to come forward and report. We must work to ensure that our students know that if they have experienced a sexual assault, they will have a caring advocate to go with them to the police or hospital – and be with them to help secure justice and healing.  There is also an important role for students themselves in creating a culture of reporting, and of equipping students to better assist and support their friends in times of need.  To that end, beginning in January, Green Dot, a nationally respected violence prevention organization, will begin offering bystander training for our students and our faculty.

As you are aware, we have suspended all fraternal organizations and their social activities until January 9, just prior to the beginning of the spring semester. This suspension is not an indication of wrongdoing for every part of the Greek system, or for every individual who chooses to participate in it.

But the actions of even a single individual within a larger community do reflect on the community as a whole.  I am going to work with our staff and the Greek community to make their environment safer for residents and visitors.  This is a defining moment for us to improve our oversight of the Greek system.

We must do more to deal with the problems of alcohol, underage drinking, and binge drinking, because they are harmful in themselves and because they are often at play in sexual assaults. We need to wipe out the notion that the college experience is incomplete without heavy drinking.

U.Va. has a good alcohol education program, but it’s not enough. We have to do more to inform and guide the decisions that students make outside of the classroom. Law enforcement, state government officials, local businesses, and everyone in our community needs to be a part of that mind shift.

My concern for the safety of our students and visitors must extend beyond the technical boundaries of our Grounds.  For a number of weeks, and at my direction, our COO Pat Hogan and his team have been upgrading lighting and expanding the capacity of our 24/7 surveillance cameras across Grounds.  With the cooperation of the Charlottesville Police Department, we are moving forward quickly with the opening of a police substation on The Corner, staffed jointly by the Charlottesville and UVa Police Departments. 

We are also working cooperatively with the City, County and local apartment owners to improve lighting and security measures in neighborhoods near our Grounds where many of our students live. 

By the beginning of the Spring semester, we will have the police substation opened, and will have significantly increased security personnel in the vicinity of the Corner and surrounding neighborhoods, including Rugby Road.

Closing

In the past week, I have seen dismay, anger, and sadness. But I’ve also seen energy and a passion to make things better. We are not as good as we should be. Our job now is to channel the energy and passion into action.

Changing a culture takes the whole community working together, but in particular we need leadership from our students; faculty; staff; and alumni.

Our UVa community strongly rejects a culture of sexual violence. Together we need to work to isolate, and to exclude, any sub-culture of deviance.

You can expect regular reports on our progress.  I look forward to our discussion today.
 

Teresa A. Sullivan

President
 


Nov. 25, 2014
(Updated Dec. 2 to reflect the final draft) 

Rector George K. Martin's Prepared Remarks to the Board of Visitors

To Jackie, and her parents, I say I am sorry.  To the survivors of sexual assault and their families, I am also sorry.

As we said last week, this type of conduct will not be tolerated at the University of Virginia.  The status quo is no longer acceptable.  Like you I am appalled by the information that has come forward.  Again, we will not tolerate this type of behavior.

As rector, I assure you that addressing this crisis, and changing this environment will be my top priority.  And I know I speak for this entire Board when I say we will find solutions.

I want to thank the Board for gathering on such short notice but given the severity of the issues we deemed it appropriate to meet.  As you know, I initiated the suggestion with the Attorney General that he appoint independent legal counsel to assist us with several issues:  to advise and assist the Board of Visitors and University administration in determining how the University can better deal with the issue of campus sexual assaults, including how best to maximize opportunities for successful criminal prosecution of sexual misconduct cases; and  to examine the relevant legal issues as well as the University's policies and processes, giving particular attention to the question of how to respond in situations where there is serious and credible information about sexual misconduct even where for whatever reason the survivor chooses not to make a complaint.

Further we will ask our independent counsel to advise us on potential changes to state and federal law to maximize the opportunities for criminal prosecution.

I thank the Attorney General for his support and he has appointed a team from O’Melveny & Myers LLP as independent counsel. 

Today we, as a Board, will begin a process designed to help the administration tackle the complex issues presented.  We start with our independent counsel, but we will also hire other consultants. We have identified some experts and we will explore other options as well.  Just to give you a sampling, we will address, with assistance of outside experts along with internal experts, how we go about changing the environment, how to better train the Greek organizations about sexual misconduct and I might add mandatory training.  And how to deal with alcohol issues including under-age drinking.

But also let’s be careful not to judge all fraternities or their members.  We have a problem with some fraternities and hopefully it is limited to a few, but let’s not prejudge people just because they are affiliated with a fraternity because that is not right and further the overwhelming majority are law abiding.

Like most of you, I have felt a full range of emotions over the past several days.  Anger, sorrow, deep care and concern for the survivors being the predominant feelings.  But we all need to turn that negative energy into positive energy that will help us move forward and prove that we can affect change.

The Board and the Administration can’t do it alone.  This has to be a top down and bottom up effort.  We need all members of the University community to support our efforts to solve the problem.

In September we devoted a substantial part of our full board meeting to the topic of sexual misconduct.  We heard Dean Groves say that over 90 percent of the sexual misconduct issues involved alcohol.  The Richmond Times Dispatch editorial in yesterday’s paper likewise highlights the issues of alcohol.  And as Bobbie Kilberg pointed out in our September meeting 3/4ths of our students are not old enough to drink.  Ladies and gentlemen, we also have to address alcohol consumption at the University of Virginia.  There is a correlation between alcohol consumption, and at times the abuse of alcohol, and sexual conduct.  We cannot ignore that.

Further we must examine our Greek culture and possibly overhaul that system.  Clearly the Greek organizations will be a part of the conversation and so far the Greek organizations have been very supportive and I know that that will continue.

To be successful this effort will require a team effort.  We intend to work with the faculty, student alumni, Greek organizations and parents.

And to that end, I have reached out to:

Faculty – Senate leadership and you will hear from some of them shortly.

Students – Several are here this afternoon and likewise you will hear from them.

Alumni – I have also reached out to the Alumni Association leadership and they will be a part of the solution.

Parents – Further I have contacted the Parents Committee leadership and they will be a part of the solution as well.

We also have members of the Charlottesville community and you will hear from one very important individual this afternoon.

Again I want to stress the importance of working together to not only address this problem but to turn it around.

We will hear from President Sullivan and several students, faculty-senate leaders, a key individual from the Charlottesville community and individual Board members who have comments as well.

At a later date when we have concrete recommendations from some of our consultants we will hold a Town Hall meeting to have an open conversation and allow for public input.

Further, we have received many thoughtful letters with suggestions and recommendations.  On the recommendation of Kevin Fay I will ask the chairs of the Student Affairs Committee to review those and solicit other suggestions.  Once our independent counsel is fully engaged, I anticipate another special meeting of the Board.

This clearly is a tragedy, but we want to turn this tragedy into opportunity and lead the country in finding solutions to this awful challenge.

 


 

Nov. 25, 2014

A Message from Dean Beth Meyer Regarding Sexual Violence at U.Va.

Dear Alumni and Friends of the School of Architecture:

Last week, Rolling Stone published an article about the rape of a first-year U.Va.student by several Phi Psi fraternity members in 2012. The broader issue the article raised is the culture of colleges and universities nation-wide, especially large ones, and how this can foster sexual violence against women. 

Needless to say, I found the assault detailed in the article disgusting. Rape is a violent crime with permanent effects on both the victim and those close to the victim. Victims of rape who are members of our community – our classmates, students, colleagues, and neighbors – deserve a more caring and supportive culture within which to process, emotionally, medically and legally, their possible responses to this crime. The broader culture that allows sexual violence to occur so close to the University, within a block of Carr’s Hill and the Lawn, unreported but known to many, must change. 

I was out of town for six days following the article’s publication, and I found myself walking through airports and hotel lobbies where photographs of Rugby Road fraternities flashed across flat screen televisions while overhearing snippets of strangers’ conversations about this tragic news. At an alumni gathering and professional conference in Denver, alums working around the country said the same thing, across generations – that the students and faculty of the School of Architecture know the Rugby Road culture better than most. As we walk in and out of Campbell Hall in the evenings or early morning, we see and hear its effects. We discern the traces of its aftermath. We know it is not healthy, on so many levels. And yet, we like many others have observed but not acted. All of us in Campbell Hall, and the faculty, students, and staff of the University across Grounds must not be bystanders. 

Like some of you who are alums or current students, I belonged to a Greek organization when I was an undergraduate. In fact, I was in the founding class of a UVA sorority, eager to create a women’s group, to create new traditions in the early years of the University’s coeducation. My sorority sisters are now mothers and grandmothers, successful attorneys and physicians, entrepreneurs and conservationists; most of all, they are among my closest friends. They are outstanding human beings. Several of my best friends in the School of Architecture, a few former boyfriends, and one of my brothers were in fraternities. I know the good and the bad of Greek life. 

We must remember, as well, that sexual assaults occur in dorm rooms and apartments; that they involve strangers, acquaintances, and those who have already been intimate. To say this is just a Greek problem is too simple. This is a University problem. This is a national problem, and we have an opportunity and a responsibility to take the lead in addressing it.

We speak with pride about being a small school in a big university and the strength this lends to our close-knit community. However, a strong community – large or small – is predicated on its members holding to high standards of personal responsibility. Right now, I ask you to help as we take responsibility for our collective well-being. Betsy Roettger, our Assistant Dean of Students (and A-School alumna) has been a tremendous support for our students. She told me of our women graduate students who are forming a mentoring network for our undergraduates to assist them as they deal with the tragic events of this fall semester – the murder of second year student Hannah Graham, the suicides of two other second year students, and the heart-breaking story told in Rolling Stone. Several A-School faculty and staff have participated in the recent U.Va. Amphitheater and Beta Bridge rallies supporting our women students and standing against violence towards women. In emails, alumni and parents of our current students have expressed concern, bewilderment and outrage, coupled with a desire to help. I ask each of you to consider how we as a small community of caring individuals, alumni, students, faculty and staff can be agents of change.

The Rolling Stone article referred to the University as a place of traditions, some of which have been unexamined too long. Traditions at U.Va. are not fixed in stone. If they were, I would not be an alumna, a tenured Professor, and the Dean of this School of Architecture. If they were, the fifty percent of our tenured faculty who are women would not be teaching in the School of Architecture. If they were, Marion Weiss would not be our 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. If they were, alumna Mabel O. Wilson, author of Negro Building, would not be a Professor at Columbia. I am proud of being a member of the U.Va. community, but not because of its enduring image, brand, or traditions. I am proud when we act in the face of injustice and wrong; when we recognize the gaps between our ideals and the reality of our lived experiences. We have practice doing this. We need to act, now, for lasting change.

I ask for your wisdom and advice. You may know of programs and policies at other universities that we should emulate. Perhaps you have insights into the residential culture at U.Va.. You may have suggestions about something unique that the School of Architecture can and should do given our proximity to Rugby Road. Please send your suggestions and concerns to me, through Tammy Wilkins, the Assistant to the Dean (tws2r@virginia.edu ). And I will keep you apprised of developments here, as they unfold.

In the meantime, you will find below a link to the Rolling Stone article and one to the responses by U.Va. administrative and student leadership. I have also included a link to the draft of the University’s new Student Sexual Misconduct policy. This was first written in 2011 and was revised in response to recommendations from the US Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. I encourage you to read all of them so that you are informed about these issues. 

Thank you to all who have written or spoken with me about your concerns. Know that your communications are always welcome; they afford me insight, solace and strength. I wish you a holiday gathered with those you love.

Kind regards,

Elizabeth K. Meyer
Dean and Edward E. Elson Professor
Merrill D. Peterson Professor of Landscape Architecture

 

Dear members of the University Community,

Over the past week many of you have reached out to me directly to offer your opinions, reactions, and suggestions related to combatting sexual violence on Grounds. I want you to know that I have heard you, and that your words have enkindled this message.

At UVa we speak in idealistic terms: honor and tradition inform our thinking, and balance our daily actions. And it is easy here, where success is demanded as much as it is sought, to let our idealism outweigh our reality.

Jefferson, as he always does, provides a compelling backdrop:

It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.

The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community. Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation’s colleges and universities. We know, and have felt very powerfully this week, that we are better than we have been described, and that we have a responsibility to live our tradition of honor every day, and as importantly every night.

As you are aware, I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the 2012 assault that is described in Rolling Stone. There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts. Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so. Alongside this investigation, we as a community must also do a systematic evaluation of our culture to ensure that one of our founding principles– the pursuit of truth – remains a pillar on which we can stand. There is no greater threat to honor than secrecy and indifference.

I write you today in solidarity. I write you in great sorrow, great rage, but most importantly, with great determination. Meaningful change is necessary, and we can lead that change for all universities. We can demand that incidents like those described in Rolling Stone never happen and that if they do, the responsible are held accountable to the law. This will require institutional change, cultural change, and legislative change, and it will not be easy. We are making those changes.

This morning the Inter-Fraternity Council announced that all University fraternities have voluntarily suspended social activities this weekend. This is an important first step, but our challenges will extend beyond this weekend. Beginning immediately, I am suspending all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until January 9th, ahead of the beginning of our spring semester. In the intervening period we will assemble groups of students, faculty, alumni, and other concerned parties to discuss our next steps in preventing sexual assault and sexual violence on Grounds. On Tuesday, the Board of Visitors will meet to discuss the University’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault as well as the specific, recent allegations.

In the words of one student who wrote to me this week, “Policy is needed, but people make change.” We need the collective strength of the members of our community to ensure that we have the best policies. So as you prepare for what I hope is a restful Thanksgiving holiday, I hope that you will take time to review and respond to the recently posted Student Sexual Misconduct Policy, which is currently open for public comment. You may find that policy at this link. Providing candid feedback to this policy is a practical step that you can take to help and I hope that you will.

To our fourth-year students: as you prepare to celebrate your last home football game today, I hope that you will embrace your role as leaders and demonstrate a renewed sense of responsibility to our community, and a renewed commitment to make that community better. It starts today.

Finally, I want to express my grief at hearing the news of the death of second-year student Peter D'Agostino, whose passing adds overwhelming emotion to what has been a difficult semester for all of us.

We are united in our compassion, resolve, and determination: Compassion for survivors of assault; resolve to make our community better; determination to begin to solve this problem here and now.

I hope that you will join me.

 

Teresa A. Sullivan

President

 


 

Nov. 22, 2014

Message to the U.Va. College Community from Dean Baucom

Dear Members of the College Community,

Like all of you, I have been appalled by the rape allegations reported in the recent issue of Rolling Stone magazine. It has been a grievous time. Above all, our thoughts, prayers, compassion and commitments are focused on the young women whose precious and unique lives this story has brought before us.

They are part of our family. We must be part of theirs. As in the days, weeks and years ahead we must also be committed, ever more fully, to the lives of all the students on Grounds—women and men—who are outraged by the behaviors the article describes and who are resolute in their promise to build a university where those actions are intolerable, to everyone.

As we commit ourselves to supporting all those students, we are also all reminded of the need and urgency of saying fundamental things: rape is evil, and it is a crime. All sexual violence is so, and it is unacceptable at the University of Virginia or in any arena of society.  We cannot tolerate it. We are, and must continue to be, committed to ensuring student safety, a culture devoted to preventing the exposure of all people to violation, complete support of victims of sexual violence, and the dignity of personhood in every area of life.

All victims of sexual violence must be supported in being comfortable in coming forward and all institutions—most crucially, our university—must be willing to change wherever or whenever it becomes clear that vulnerability to sexual violence becomes endemic. These students—these astonishing, singular, beloved young women and men—are entrusted to our care, and we must care fully for them. That is our bond. We must honor it.

Over the past four months, as I have had the honor of beginning to serve as your Dean, one thing more than any other has become clear: U.Va.—in its history, in its inspiration, in its highest aspiration for itself—is a community of trust. To be so, and to become more fully so, particularly at this time, we cannot simply take that promise of trust on faith. We must learn from what is good and confront what is broken in our community; what is good and what is broken in our history; what is good and what is broken in our present.  

Our future and the life, flourishing and well-being of our students and of this great university depend on it. To that end, I am writing you today to seek your counsel and wisdom as I act with the President and other university leaders and with the faculty and staff of the College to recommit ourselves to the values of human dignity, honor, and respect that are fundamental to U.Va., to our mission of education and to our common life. I’ve asked that a site be set up specifically on this matter to invite members of our College community to share their thoughts and concerns. The address is: http://as.virginia.edu/contact-arts-sciences.

Please write me, advising me on what is best in our tradition and our current life that we must reconfirm as we turn ourselves to the challenge and the difficulty of this moment—and advising me, also and crucially, on what is most broken that we must identify and refuse. I will learn from what you convey and will do everything in my power to respond. There is no more important thing I can ask of you at this moment, nothing more vital as I commit to building with you, our faculty, staff and my fellow University leaders the College and the community that each one of our students deserves and that we hold in trust for them.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Baucom


Buckner W. Clay Dean of Arts & Sciences


University of Virginia

 


 

Nov. 21, 2014

Message to parents from President Teresa A. Sullivan and Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia M. Lampkin

Dear Parents:

It has been a very difficult week at the University as our community reacts both to the article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week and news of the death of a second-year student yesterday. We wrote to your daughters and sons earlier today with a message that responded to the challenges with which we are all grappling. You can find the full text of the earlier note online, but we do want to reiterate one critical message: We do not tolerate sexual violence in any form. Sexual assault is a crime that can destroy lives and create profound suffering. It has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility.

As always, our first priority in this immediate situation is to keep our students safe. We are in close communication with our students, both via email and through individual outreach. As is customary, all messages to students are also posted on the Parents website. A message about safety went out late this afternoon from Chief of University Police Mike Gibson that mentioned threats the University has received in response to the article. We have reached out to the FBI, Albemarle and Charlottesville Police Departments and will continue to collaborate and call upon the resources of those agencies as appropriate. We have taken specific measures to ensure student safety this weekend, including increasing police patrols on the Grounds and in areas where students congregate and increasing staffing levels for our standing safety resources summarized in our Staying Safe Tip Sheet. For students who may need counseling support, we are making additional CAPS counselors available all weekend via our on-call system (434-972-7004). Please encourage your daughter or son to call CAPS if they need assistance.

Longer term, we pledge to work with you and the entire community to make this University as safe as possible. We care deeply about our students and their well-being, and about creating a culture in which students not only feel safe but are safe. Both of us are horrified by the story depicted in the article, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to get to the bottom of the incidents reported and then effect change.

When your daughters and sons return home for Thanksgiving break, they will likely need to talk about the Rolling Stone article and the loss of three of their fellow students this semester. We hope you will encourage them to share their reactions with you. It has been an intense semester, and they will need a supportive space at home to decompress. As parents ourselves, we know we would appreciate guidance on how to support our children during such a difficult time, so we reached out to Dr. Tim Davis, the director of the University’s counseling center, for some advice. Here are some thoughts that you may find helpful as you prepare for your daughters and sons to return home.

Your daughters and sons may be dealing with a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, and disappointment. (You may be experiencing many of these feelings yourself.) Do your best to listen and to validate. Each of your daughters and sons has a right to her or his own particular thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the article and the complex surrounding circumstances. It will be most helpful if you can provide an objective framework for them to talk about their reactions. It is fine for you to share your responses with them, too. However, agreeing too much may intensify the emotion they are already feeling. Disagreeing too much will shut down the communication. Focus on your primary objective, which should be to help your daughter or son work through her or his own response.

Keep in mind that Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) will remain a resource for your daughters and sons when they return to Grounds. CAPS is located in Student Health at the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Brandon Avenue, and we will remind students of hours and services upon their return to Grounds. Lastly, CAPS is here for you as well. If you would like to consult with one of the CAPS counselors about how to support your daughter or son, call 434-243-5150 to speak with one of our counselors.

We hope that this Thanksgiving break will offer our students and our community a time to rest and reflect before returning for the end of the semester. As always, thank you for your support and guidance.



Sincerely,

Teresa A. Sullivan, President

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

 


 

Nov. 21, 2014

Letter to students from Jalen Ross, Student Council; Ashley Brown, One Less; Brian Head, One in Four

Fellow Students,

This week, the core of who we are has been challenged. We are now questioning if we truly stand for honor and mutual trust. We wonder if we are truly the caring, supportive community that we purport to be. And we are hurting.

This week threatens to drive us apart. But this is not the time to splinter. Amid the shaking reality of a trying semester, made all the more tragic as we lost another classmate yesterday, this is the time to redouble our commitment to our principles. We must not only speak them - we must live them. And we've already begun. The outpouring of support from family and friends - even strangers - proves this community is strong. The swift, passionate calls for action prove that we care about our community of trust and that we're more dedicated than ever to shaping our own University.

But strong, honorable, loving, engaged communities recognize that even they have problems. This week, we've been startlingly reminded that sexual assault is a problem of ours. It's our moral obligation as friends, classmates, and people to end it. Now.

Today, we call on one another to make this University the safe haven it ought to be. Take a minute to learn more, to become an advocate, or to voice your opinions. Take a moment to tell your story, or to support a survivor with loving strength. Take a second to step in when something looks wrong, to start a discussion, or to attend a prevention event. Doing nothing is to be part of the problem. And we need to be part of the solution.

So we've put everything you need to learn, speak, or get involved in one place.

We can fix this with action rooted in our principles. It is easy to hate, to cast whole communities in doubt, to deny, or to hide. But if we respond to hard times with hard work, if we respond to division with unity, if we respond to efforts to tear us down by building each other up, then we'll look back on this moment as the time we stood up to answer the call.

Let's stand together.

Jalen Ross, Student Council
Ashley Brown, One Less
Brian Head, One in Four

 


 

Nov. 21, 2014

Message to Students from Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia M. Lampkin

Dear Students:

Over the past two days, our community has been deeply affected by the article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week.  I know that many of you are feeling shocked, dismayed, saddened and, perhaps, betrayed.  Our community is hurting.  We are concerned about Jackie and we are worried about other survivors who have lived through the horror of sexual assault.  Many of us are confused by the contradictions between the U.Va. portrayed in the article and the U.Va. that we know.  Many of you are questioning your trust in our University.

President Sullivan and I want to be absolutely clear: we do not tolerate sexual violence in any form.  Sexual assault is a crime that can destroy lives and create profound suffering.  It has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility. 

To add to these overwhelming emotions, we learned late yesterday of the death of a second-year student, the details of which we will share according to his family's wishes as soon as we are able.

This painful set of circumstances comes on the heels of other recent tragedies on Grounds.  The constellation of these events would be enough to put the strongest of communities into crisis.  But know that we will cope, and together we will heal.

We acknowledge how difficult it is for survivors of sexual assault to talk about their experiences and to feel confident in reporting them, whether to the police or to the University.  We will continue, as we always have, to encourage survivors to go to the police, to pursue the University's disciplinary process, and most of all, to take advantage of the many support services available at UVA and in the community.  (Please see the end of this message for a list of resources.) 

This is a time for us to come together, not to be pulled apart. I hope that we as a community can address this issue in a spirit of deep compassion, concern, trust and resolution.

Sincerely,

Patricia M. Lampkin

Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer

 

How to Report Instances of Sexual Assault or if You Need Personal Support

Sexual Misconduct Reporting Website: http://www.virginia.edu/justreportit/sexualmisconduct/

Counseling and Psychological Services: http://www.virginia.edu/studenthealth/caps.html
Daytime Phone: 434.243.5150; After Hours Phone: 434.972.7004

Office of Dean of Students: 434.924.7133

 


 

Nov. 21, 2014

Open letter to U.Va. alumni from Alumni Association President Tom Faulders

Dear Fellow Alumni,

By now, most of you have been made aware of an article in the Rolling Stone titled, "A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA." The article tells the story of a current student and her horrendous experiences at a fraternity party.

We are, as are all alumni, extremely concerned and distressed about the information presented in this article. The behavior described in this article is abhorrent and not to be tolerated anywhere, and particularly not on the Grounds.

We have heard from many of you through direct email, posts, phone calls and tweets. You have expressed shock, anger, extreme disappointment and disbelief. While the article was sickening to read, it has highlighted this issue and has ignited a critical and much-needed conversation about the dangerous behavior occurring here and elsewhere in the country.

President Sullivan has asked the Charlottesville Police to fully investigate the allegations in the article. Last night, the Rector of the Board of Visitors George Martin, issued a statement announcing that the University, in coordination with Virginia's Attorney General, will appoint an independent counsel to review all aspects of the University's policies with regard to sexual misconduct. Both the President's and the Rector's statements can be found here, along with other related information.

The Alumni Association would like to provide you a means to express your concerns, thoughts and recommendations. We have set up an online portal for you to communicate with the University. We will take your comments and ensure that they are delivered to the right people here at the University. You may register your comments here. You may also participate in an online conversation using the Alumni Forum.

We realize that this is a difficult and painful subject, but we also know that through your ideas and debate, a stronger University will emerge.

Tom Faulders, College '71
President & CEO
University of Virginia Alumni Association

 


 

Statement from the Faculty Senate Executive Council

To the Members of the University Community:

From the moment the Rolling Stone article appeared, faculty members from across the Grounds have been expressing shock and outrage. The Executive Council of the Faculty Senate strongly condemns the violent criminal behavior depicted. We urge everyone to approach this situation with sensitivity and sound judgment as the law enforcement investigation process is carried out.

Sexual violence is a national epidemic. Faculty members everywhere must play a role in changing the culture that allows violence to occur. We call on our faculty to learn more and to actively participate with the ongoing prevention efforts. We pledge to engage with the administration, staff, students, and alumni to foster a safe community, grounded in dignity and integrity, free of violence. 

On behalf of the Faculty Senate Executive Council,

Joe Garofalo, Chair

Nina Solenski, Chair-Elect

Chris Holstege, Immediate Past Chair

 

This statement has also been endorsed by the General Faculty Council. 

Greg Saathoff

Chair, General Faculty Council

 


 

Nov. 21, 2014

Police alert regarding unspecified threats from Michael Gibson, Chief of University Police

The Rolling Stone magazine article released earlier this week has sparked an emotional response within the University community and beyond.  A number of University offices have received threats.  These threats have not been specific or directed at any particular person or organization.  We have reached out to the FBI, Albemarle and Charlottesville Police Departments and will continue to collaborate and call upon the resources of those agencies as appropriate.  Anyone who receives a threat is encouraged to preserve it and report it immediately to police by calling 911.

There are a number of events occurring within the community over the next several days.  While Charlottesville remains a relatively safe environment, crimes do occur in our community.   The best defense is to be prepared and to take responsibility for your own safety and that of your fellow students.

We encourage members of the public to promptly report any criminal and suspicious activity immediately by calling 911.  Remain alert and aware of potential dangers.  As you are out and about, take notice of your surroundings.  Avoid cell phone conversations, listening to music or engaging in other activities that distract your attention from your surroundings.

In the event of an incident, the information you provide and the timeliness of the information you provide to police will potentially help them identify suspect(s).

Michael A. Gibson
Chief of University Police

 


 

Nov. 20, 2014

Statement from University Rector George Martin regarding sexual assault

Editor’s note:
Attorney General Mark Herring on Nov. 21 announced the University had requested him to appoint an independent counsel to review U.Va.’s policies and processes regarding sexual assault and to assist the University’s review of how it addresses sexual misconduct.

Former federal Judge Mark Filip was named Nov. 20 to serve in that capacity, but the University and the Attorney General agreed to select another candidate, as Filip has a prior affiliation – though not at U.Va. – with the fraternity described in a Rolling Stone article regarding sexual assault at the University.

In a statement, Attorney General Herring said the selection of a new independent counsel was a necessary step “and the independence and objectivity of the review must be unimpeachable.”

“This situation is too serious to allow anything to undermine confidence in the objectivity and independence of this review,” Herring said.

Original message:

Dear Members of the University Community:

We are deeply saddened and disturbed by the events reported in the recent Rolling Stone magazine article.  Conduct of the sort described in the article is utterly unacceptable and will not be condoned at the University of Virginia.

Our focus continues to be, first and foremost, the safety and well-being of our students and of the University community as a whole.  Sexual assault is an abhorrent violent crime, and it should be punished as a crime under applicable law.

On Wednesday, the President referred the specific allegations of criminal conduct contained in the Rolling Stone article to the Charlottesville Police Department.  Many of the details contained in the article had not previously been disclosed to University officials.  Fairness to all potentially affected persons, as well as privacy obligations and the rights of sexual assault survivors, necessitates that we refrain from comment on those specific allegations while law enforcement authorities carry out their work.  We need not wait, however, to seek independent advice on some of the difficult issues raised by this case, and by sexual assault cases nationwide, in order to better protect our students and the University community.

As President Sullivan described yesterday, the University and University community have taken the initiative to address sexual misconduct in various ways.  Earlier this year, before much of the current media attention was focused on the issue, President Sullivan convened a national conference that brought together experts and professionals from approximately 60 colleges and universities to discuss best practices and strategies for prevention and response.  A number of other initiatives, including the HoosGotYourBack program and Not On Our Grounds awareness campaign, are underway or soon will commence.

In addition to these measures, we must do everything possible to ensure that the opportunity for a timely and appropriate law enforcement response is maximized, and that the University community is fully protected from future violence, even in situations where a sexual assault survivor chooses not to lodge a criminal or administrative complaint.

The issue of how to respond - lawfully, appropriately, and effectively - to credible information regarding alleged sexual assault in circumstances where the survivor declines to file a criminal or administrative complaint is a pressing and difficult national topic.  Even if, as the Rolling Stone article asserts, the problem of sexual misconduct at other colleges and universities is comparable to that at the University of Virginia, the status quo is unacceptable, and the University of Virginia should be a leader in finding solutions.

Accordingly, and with the full support of President Sullivan, I contacted Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring and requested that, in addition to receiving the continued able assistance by his Office, the University be authorized to engage independent counsel to advise and assist the Board of Visitors and University administration in determining how the University can better deal with the issue of campus sexual assaults, including how best to maximize opportunities for successful criminal prosecution of sexual misconduct cases.  The counsel will examine the relevant legal issues as well as the University's policies and processes, giving particular attention to the question of how to respond in situations where there is serious and credible information about sexual misconduct but no willing complainant.  The counsel will share his findings and recommendations with the Board of Visitors, President Sullivan and the Attorney General.

General Herring and I have agreed that Mark Filip, a senior partner with the distinguished firm of Kirkland and Ellis, should lead this review.  Mr. Filip is a former prosecutor, federal judge and deputy attorney general of the United States. 

Again, this is a critical issue and we are committed to finding solutions.

Sincerely, 

George Keith Martin
Rector

 


 

Nov. 20, 2014

Message to Law Students from Law School Dean Paul Mahoney

Dear students,

The rape allegations in the Rolling Stone article are sickening and abhorrent.  Rape is a serious crime as well as a violation of the values and culture of the Law School and our University.  We are committed to preventing it and to supporting survivors. 

You may have questions about the resources available to students at the Law School and the procedures for bringing a complaint.  I encourage each of you to read the information about sexual assault on our web page.  I am also grateful to the SBA for arranging a town hall meeting on sexual assault tomorrow afternoon that will be led by Professor Anne Coughlin and Dean Sarah Davies.

To help ensure we provide the very best support to our students, I have requested the advice and assistance of Linda Fairstein ’72, the former head of the Manhattan Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit and one of the foremost experts on sexual assault investigation and adjudication.  We look forward to working with her and with our students.

Paul G. Mahoney
Dean, University of Virginia School of Law

 


 

Nov. 19, 2014

An Important Message to the University Community from President Sullivan

To the University community:

I am writing in response to a Rolling Stone magazine article that negatively depicts the University of Virginia and its handling of sexual misconduct cases.  Because of federal and state privacy laws, and out of respect for sexual assault survivors, we are very limited in what we can say about any of the cases mentioned in this article.

The article describes an alleged sexual assault of a female student at a fraternity house in September 2012, including many details that were previously not disclosed to University officials.  I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to formally investigate this incident, and the University will cooperate fully with the investigation.

The University takes seriously the issue of sexual misconduct, a significant problem that colleges and universities are grappling with across the nation. Our goal is to provide an environment that is as safe as possible for our students and the entire University community.

We have recently adopted several new initiatives and policies aimed at fostering a culture of reporting and raising awareness of the issues.

We want our students to feel comfortable coming forward with information when there are problems in the community and cooperating with local law enforcement and the student disciplinary process. We also want them to feel empowered to take action and to lead efforts to make our Grounds and our community a better place to live and learn.

We have been taking a leadership role on issues regarding sexual misconduct and violence. U.Va. hosted a national conference on this topic in February 2014.  "Dialogue at U.Va.: Sexual Misconduct Among College Students" brought together national experts and professionals from approximately 60 colleges and universities to discuss best practices and strategies for prevention and response.

The HoosGotYourBack initiative, part of the Not On Our Grounds awareness campaign, was developed and launched in collaboration with students and with local Corner Merchants to increase active bystander behavior. 

A number of other initiatives are also planned for the spring. Among them are the implementation of a new student sexual misconduct policy and a related training program, a campus climate survey, and an in-depth bystander intervention program that will include students, faculty, and staff.

More information about sexual violence education and resources is available on the University's website at http://www.virginia.edu/sexualviolence/

Finally, I want to underscore our commitment to marshaling all available resources to assist our students who confront issues related to sexual misconduct.  Our dedicated Student Affairs staff devote countless hours to educating and counseling our students on issues regarding their health and safety, and they stand ready to assist whenever students need help. 

Teresa A. Sullivan
President

 

Media Contact

Anthony P. de Bruyn

University Spokesperson Office of University Communications