University of Virginia Rector George Keith Martin delivered the following remarks Tuesday at the beginning of a meeting of the Educational Policy Committee of the Board of Visitors.
"Good morning. Like all of you, I was distressed to see the media coverage about one of our students, Martese Johnson, bleeding from a head injury sustained at the hands of ABC agents.
First and foremost, we are deeply concerned about the safety and security of our students — all of our students, regardless of the circumstances. Threats to student safety must be addressed, whether the source of the danger is external or internal.
Our immediate concerns are for Martese and his family. This is a young man who experienced a traumatic event and sustained a head injury requiring ten stitches. I have spoken with him and shared with him our deep concern for his well-being.
Reflecting on this episode, I cannot ignore the fact that Martese is an African-American. I cannot ignore the fact that I have been contacted by African-American alumni who are concerned. But I also have been contacted by alums who are not African Americans and they, too, are concerned about Martese.
I know I speak for the Board when I say this matter is important to us because it involves one of our students, and we do not want to see something like this happen ever again to any of our students. Indeed, less than two years ago another one of our students, Elizabeth Daly, had a traumatic encounter with ABC agents. We will obviously wait to see what the State investigation yields, but we do not want to pick up a newspaper ever again to see a picture of one of our students with a bloody face. That should not happen.
I have spoken with the Governor and I thanked him for acting on President Sullivan’s request for an independent investigation. I assured him that UVa would cooperate with the investigation, and that we all want the truth. The Governor indicated that this matter will receive the highest priority. Of course, an investigation alone will not be enough. The State of Virginia must take affirmative steps to prevent that this type of event in the future.
The issues involving underage drinking are very complex, and people with good intentions have differing views of how best to address them. Good solutions require goodwill and good behavior from all parties—students, University officials, proprietors, police officers, all of us. Regarding the ABC agents in particular, even before last week’s incident, many people, including members of the General Assembly, had expressed concern about that agency’s enforcement activities and training practices. I have personally received complaints about them from parents and alums. We know what good law enforcement training and policies can produce because we see it daily in the dedicated work of our own University police department and in our close working relationship with Chief Longo and his dedicated officers. Where the safety and security of students are concerned, we can accept no less from everyone.
Again, I regret that this incident occurred and I am deeply concerned about Martese and his family."