U.Va. Statements Concerning the Death of Thomas W. Gilliam IV

• Media Statement from the University Police, March 28, 2011, 2:15 p.m.

As you are already aware, a University of Virginia student fell from the roof of the Physics Building late last night and later died from injuries suffered in the fall.

While this is still an active police investigation, and we are awaiting the arrival of the student's mother from abroad, I can share with you some some preliminary details and responses to some of your questions.

First, let me say that this was a tragic accident and the University is doing all it can to assist the student's family and friends during this extraordinarily difficult time. The Office of the Dean of Students is assisting the student's family members and many friends in every way possible and getting support to those who need it. In addition to contacting the student's friends, the dean of students is in the process of contacting the student's professors.

  • The student who died is Thomas (Tom) W. Gilliam IV. Date of death is March 28. He was a first-year student in the College of Arts & Sciences.
  • His death is a cause for great sadness in the University community.
  • At this time, we do not believe that either foul play or alcohol were involved. Nor do we believe that this was a suicide. Investigators believe it was a tragic accident.
  • We do not yet know how the student entered the Physics Building and reached the roof.
  • 911 was alerted of the accident and the student was transported to the University of Virginia Hospital emergency department.
  • University of Virginia Police began an immediate investigation and also contacted the Office of the Dean of Students so that deans could begin their work of contacting family and friends. All have worked throughout the late night and into the early morning and they continue to work on this investigation.
  • The student's body is undergoing an autopsy.

Again, as with any student death, our first priority is the student's family and closest friends. While the student's father is here, we are awaiting the mother's arrival in Charlottesville, which should be within
24 hours.

There is not yet any information regarding a memorial service or funeral.

• Statement from University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan, March 28, 2011, 5:59 p.m.

"Today is a day of great sadness for the family and friends of Tom Gilliam – and for the entire University community. By all accounts, Tom was a bright light. Those who knew him thought him destined to lead an interesting life that would include his deep faith, his interest in caring for those less fortunate, and world politics. As a member of First Year Council, he opened himself to a wide network of friends, and I am told he was hopeful of becoming a resident advisor next year. We mourn the loss of Tom, the promises unfilled, and offer prayers for his family and friends as they begin to deal with their unbearable loss." -- Teresa A. Sullivan, University president

• Media Statement from the University Police, March 28, 2011, 9 p.m.

The investigation of the death of Thomas Gilliam IV has proceeded throughout the day.  While the investigation is ongoing, evidence has thus far revealed some key facts. The Physics Building had been secured, but someone compromised the lock on the east door in order to gain entrance. Testimony from other students also confirmed that Mr. Gilliam entered through the east

We are aware that there is a group of University students who try to enter secured spaces on Grounds as part of a challenge. They do so illegally and at great risk to their personal safety.

Unfortunately, with the snow and rain on Saturday and Sunday, the roof of the Physics Building was especially wet and slippery. When Mr. Gilliam tried to walk along a part of the shingled roof he was unable to keep his footing and fell 40 feet to the concrete below.

This has been a hard day at the University of Virginia. The loss of any student for any reason is difficult to comprehend, and it is with much sadness that we issue this statement.

• Media Statement from Carol S. Wood, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs, March 29, 2011 4:05 p.m.

The University's response to yesterday's death is threefold. As previously noted, our immediate focus has been on supporting Tom's family and friends at the University. This loss has been felt strongly across many areas of our Grounds, particularly among members of Tom's first-year class. Supporting those students through their grief remains our top priority. Beyond this, we are also responding in two other significant areas: student behavior and enhanced building security measures.
• It was with great concern that University administrators listened to last night's broadcast interview with two University students who run a website that they acknowledge promotes a dangerous form of recreation — including gaining illegal access to locked University buildings and climbing onto building rooftops.
The University of Virginia is a community of trust and we expect students who matriculate here to conduct themselves in a manner compatible with our function as an educational institution. The Standards of Conduct are intended to be a guide for student behavior and violation of the standards is subject to referral to the student-managed University Judiciary Committee for appropriate sanction.  Any member of the University can initiate charges in that system. If a trial panel determines that an accused student is guilty of an alleged offense, the UJC may impose a variety of sanctions, up to and including expulsion from the University. 
Among the standards are the following:

Standard No. 2: Conduct that intentionally or recklessly threatens the health or safety of any person on University-owned or leased property, at a University-sanctioned function, at the permanent or temporary local residence of a University student, faculty member, employee, or visitor, or in the City of Charlottesville or Albemarle County.
Standard No. 3: Unauthorized entry into or occupation of University facilities that are locked, closed to student activities or otherwise restricted as to use. 
• The University takes all reasonable measures to assure the security of its buildings. Despite this fact, there are individuals who will try to circumvent these measures and find a way to enter secured buildings illegally.
Yesterday Facilities Management began an immediate and thorough review of security measures in the Physics Building, as well as in a number of other buildings that we learned might be targeted for unauthorized entry. We cannot, for security reasons, discuss the full extent of the changes that will be made.
That said, we do plan to implement numerous new measures, including additional locked gates and steel panels in steam tunnels. Among the enhancements in the Physics Building will be four sets of new exterior doors and locks, in addition to a new electronic access system.
University Police also will increase evening patrols.
The University has long had an open Grounds, one on which we give our students a great deal of independence, with the expectation that they will respect — and even protect —the Grounds and each other. Recent events have shown that some individuals may be promoting activity that puts members of our community in harm's way. The safety of our students has long been a top priority for the University. That has not changed.


Media Contact

Carol S. Wood

Associate Vice President President's Office