Sullivan gives sermon about responsibility

President focuses on creating safer community at Convocation Sunday, violence prevention, Day of Dialogue

University President Teresa A. Sullivan delivered a sermon to a 500-member audience of Charlottesville community members at St. Paul's Memorial Church Sunday. As the guest speaker for the church's yearly "Convocation Sunday," she spoke primarily about the need for a safer, more interconnected University setting.

"Our goal is to create a caring community - one whose members recognize their shared responsibility for each other," Sullivan said, acknowledging the Yeardley Love tragedy as a catalyst for new University initiatives dedicated to improving community safety.

Among those initiatives is a "Day of Dialogue" scheduled for Sept. 24, which Sullivan described as an "open and vigorous discussion about violence, violence prevention and campus safety." In addition, Sullivan mentioned the Get Grounded Coalition, an alliance of student organizations promoting a community more conscientious of possible acts of abuse occurring to others.

"We want to challenge the so-called 'bystander behavior' that may cause students or others to stand aside and remain passive in potentially dangerous situations, either because they don't recognize the situation as problematic or because they don't believe its their responsibility to take action," Sullivan said. "We want each of us to take ownership of this community and to help take care of everyone in it."

Sullivan was invited to speak at the church's "Convocation Sunday," an event held each year to welcome University students to Grounds, said Rev. James Richardson, the rector at St. Paul's Memorial Church.

The church invites various speakers to the event, and this year Richard was appreciative of Sullivan's visit, stating he was "impressed and grateful" that Sullivan openly broached the issue of campus safety.

"The University needs to work hard on becoming more of a caring community with each other," he said, noting that about two-thirds of his congregation is connected with the University in some way. "All of us need to take responsibility for each other and not look the other way."

After the sermon, Sullivan hosted a question-and-answer session, which Richardson described as a positive dialogue.

"A lot of people got something off their chest and got to say what they think, and I think she was a good listener," Richardson said. "I can't help but think that it will have some lasting impact."

Sullivan closed her sermon by urging the audience to take her message to heart as well as to recognize the gravity of her message.

"Let's promise not to stand by when someone else needs help," Sullivan said. "Let's promise to take responsibility for each other. Let's promise to show hospitality and kindness to everyone around us"

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