Lawn residents joined community members for a “dry” gathering before the final home football game of the season Saturday afternoon, hoping to bring the community together in response to the University’s difficult week and semester.
Residents opened their rooms to the broader University community, inviting them to enjoy free food, drinks and blankets, and play outdoor games on the Lawn.
The University community has faced significant strain following the Nov. 19 release of a Rolling Stone article detailing a violent gang rape at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in Sept. 2012, which was followed by news of the death of second-year student Peter D’Agostino Thursday night. The University was reeling from the death of second-year College student Hannah Graham, who was missing for almost six weeks before a search party found her remains in a rural area outside Charlottesville, as well as the death of second-year student Connor Cormier.
Fourth-year College student Sky Miller, the Lawn senior resident, said the idea for the gathering developed out of a conversation between Lawn residents earlier in the week.
“An important part of this was showing to the University that we feel strongly, and that the Lawn is a place for all students to come together,” Miller said.
Miller said Lawn residents recognized the visible nature of the space, and expressed their desire to do something which would make a statement. He said the gathering received unanimous support from Lawn residents.
“The fact that it’s not individual clubs having their own events as usual shows the gathering is for everyone and makes a statement in itself,” Miller said.
Organized within 24 hours, Miller said the event required a good deal of community cooperation. The doors to each room displayed signs simply stating, “Together,” which acknowledged the fact that the gathering’s intention was to unite people on the Lawn.
Fourth-year College student and Lawn resident Sandra Menendez said she was very pleased with the gathering, and always tries to keep her door open for friends whenever they may need a space.
“I was really appreciative of it — it was really nice for me to be able to provide a safe space for my friends,” Menendez said.
Menendez sent an email blast to more than 200 people about the gathering.
“I had people from all walks of my University career stop by, and it was nice to see people from my different friend groups mingle,” Menendez said. “[The Lawn community] has a couple of initiatives in place and is continuing to meet to determine action, but it’s all still in the works.”