An Open Letter to Students From U.Va. President John T. Casteen III

An Open Letter to Students:

Early Thursday morning, April 15, two women students walking on the Corner were victims of verbal abuse by one of three male students who were walking behind them. In the course of this abuse, one of the male students used the term “nigger” to insult and abuse one of the female students. A merchant’s protective surveillance camera recorded this incident.

One victim posted a report to Just Report It, the University’s bias-incident reporting system. Other students promptly reported this incident to Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer Patricia Lampkin, to me, and to other administrators. Ms. Lampkin, the appropriate deans, and others are taking appropriate steps to address this event.

We at the University do not tolerate abuse of this or any other kind within our community. The concepts of a community of trust, of a forum in which we commonly cherish truth and practice civility, and of a University in which diversity and equity are valued for what they add to human freedom are seriously challenged when one student chooses to abuse another in this manner.
Several years ago, when different victims were abused in very similar ways, the University community stood firmly with the victims. Working together we found ways to heal the divisions caused by abuse, at that time most probably carried out by non-students against students. In this recent instance, procedures created in the past proved useful in the present, but it is only natural that remedies are formulated after incidents occur.

While one incident does not imply a copy-cat campaign of abuse of the kind we saw several years ago, this incident reminds all of us that we own obligations of civility and mutual respect to one another, and that abuse that has the capacity to force one student out of the University’s mainstream threatens all students. We embrace and protect victims of abuse here. We will not see any student deprived of the freedom to learn by the type of behavior that occurred last Thursday.

If you are abused or see abuse occur or hear reports of it, use Just Report It. If you want or need help, dial 911, call the Office of the Dean of Students (434-924-7133), or pick up any blue emergency telephone and speak to a police officer.

And if you care about the integrity of our community, speak out against abuse.

John T. Casteen III