UVA Leaders Offer Update on Response to Middle East Conflict

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November 6, 2023
Fall Rotunda

Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications

Editor’s note: On Monday, University of Virginia President Jim Ryan, Executive Vice President and Provost Ian Baucom, and Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis released the following statement:

To the University community: 

In the several weeks since the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel and the onset of the war in Gaza, our community, like many others, has seen an increase in activity related to the conflict. We have also received emails, phone calls, and social media comments expressing concern for the safety and well-being of members of our community, particularly those who are Jewish or Muslim. Providing the best possible environment to live, learn, and work is among our highest callings as an institution and people throughout our community are working hard to meet that standard in a complex moment. 

We write today to share information about resources we offer to care for physical and mental well-being on Grounds, as well as current University policies and practices intended to discourage and respond to Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of bias, harassment, threats, or violence. This message also includes an update on academic programming and other steps we are taking to promote thoughtful engagement with these difficult issues. Finally, we share initial thoughts on a new effort to better understand the UVA experience for Muslim and Jewish people and other religious minorities and to look for ways to improve it. 

Keeping Our Community Safe

Over the past few weeks, we have heard from many students, parents, and other community members inquiring what the University is doing to keep people safe as tensions rise on our Grounds and around the country. It is important to note that, as of this writing, the University has not received any reports of violence, or credible threats to physical safety, or other criminal activity in connection with the Oct. 7 attacks or the ensuing war. We recognize, however that the turmoil in the Middle East and the increase in demonstrations on our Grounds have inspired real concerns for members of our community about Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other potential threats to their safety and well-being. 

To be perfectly clear, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, or any other discrimination or harassment have no place at UVA. The University’s Preventing and Addressing Discrimination and Harassment (PADH) policy prohibits discrimination and harassment on the basis of religion, race, and national or ethnic origin, as well as many other characteristics. Community members who feel they have been subjected to discrimination or harassment can file a report through UVA’s Just Report It system, which will be reviewed by University staff for additional follow-up. We take concerns of bias, discrimination, and harassment very seriously and we are prepared to intervene to de-escalate situations and pursue disciplinary actions, as needed.

More information, including FAQs and additional confidential resources like the University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) for students and the Faculty Employee Assistance Program (FEAP), are available on the Just Report It website

As an additional reminder, the University Police Department works closely with other UVA safety professionals and our regional and commonwealth partners during demonstrations and other public events. In the case of recent events organized by students, University Police, Student Affairs and other public safety officials conducted safety assessments in advance, activated a command post to monitor events, assigned staff to strategic locations, and prepared plans to be ready to respond to any disorder or violence. Student Affairs representatives reach out to student groups organizing demonstrations to learn about plans and advise them of relevant University policies and will pursue disciplinary action if policies are violated.

If you or someone you know is in an emergency or danger, please call 911 immediately. For less urgent concerns about physical safety, the UVA Department of Safety and Security offers a number of tips and resources to help students, faculty, staff, and visitors stay safe here on Grounds. 

Academic Programming 

We have worked with schools, centers, and experts around the University to ensure that we are offering opportunities for members of our community to engage critically with the many facets of this conflict and the broader history of the region, through lectures, panel discussions, interviews, and other programming. The University is home to significant expertise and knowledge and our mission calls us to disseminate that knowledge for the benefit of our community and the people around us. Upcoming events include: 

For more information on this academic programming, please visit this website, which will be updated continuously as more events and educational resources are added. 

In addition to these events, the UVA Center for Teaching Excellence will be offering “Teaching in Turbulent Times,” a workshop for faculty and graduate teaching assistants working to navigate their roles as educators during a time when global conflicts and domestic tensions affect our educational community inside and outside the classroom. This informal session will be offered twice this week: on Nov. 9, noon-1:30 p.m., in the Rotunda Multipurpose Room (lunch provided), and again on Nov. 10, 2-3:30 p.m., in Monroe Hall Room 110. Registration is required.

The Center for Global Inquiry and Innovation will be hosting small, informal discussion meetings among faculty who are interested in consulting on best practices for teaching in this fraught moment. Any faculty member interested in participating can contact GlobalAffairs@virginia.edu for further information.

Moving Forward

Finally, a word on what’s next. All evidence suggests that the conflict in Israel and Gaza is far from over and that the University will have an ongoing responsibility to teach through the crisis and to care for members of this community, particularly those who are Jewish or Muslim. This conflict has shed new light on global Antisemitism and Islamophobia. It has also offered an important, though troubling, reminder that religious minorities often experience unique challenges in communities around the world, including our own. 

We have decided to undertake a new effort to gain a deeper understanding of the experience the University offers these community members and to identify ways we can improve it. Offering a welcoming and supportive environment for all our students, faculty, and staff, and working to build bridges across differences, have long been top priorities for the University, reflecting our core values. We recall that Thomas Jefferson included his authorship of the “Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” as one of the three great accomplishments of his life, alongside the writing of the Declaration of Independence and founding of the University. We again reaffirm those values and recommit to looking for ways to improve the climate we offer people from every walk of life, and particularly those who have historically been subjected to discrimination and exclusion. We will be sharing more details on this initiative shortly.

As we move forward, we continue to encourage every member of our community to extend each other grace and to proceed in the knowledge that many people in our community are experiencing added grief and anxiety, particularly those with close ties to the conflict through family, faith, or other connections.

We are grateful to the many concerned members of this community who have offered suggestions for how we can best respond to the attack on Israel and the terrible toll the ensuing war has taken on both the Palestinian and Israeli people. We take seriously our responsibility to care for the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff in a challenging moment for us all and greatly value those renewed expressions of our shared commitment.


James E. Ryan

Ian Baucom
Executive Vice President and Provost

Jennifer “J.J.” Wagner Davis
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer

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