Approximately 25 students marched into a Board of Visitors meeting Friday with a list of verbal demands which centered on asking the University to do more to create a safe space for victims of hate crimes. Student protesters took turns going around the room and shared their concerns before Rector William H. Goodwin asked them to leave.
“We demand the [end] of idolizing slave owners, [to] acknowledge perpetrators of racism, and we demand making this University a safe space for all victims of hate crimes,” one protester said.
In addition to demanding the University become safer, protesters also requested the University Police Department look into the investigation of the alleged actions of officers post-election and increase resources devoted to helping survivors of sexual assault.
“We demand that they be fired, and we demand a re-evaluation of our tuition dollars going to the University Police Department,” one protester said. “We demand the guarantee and expansion of resources already existing to support survivors of sexual assault, including but not limited to the Women’s Center [and] reproductive health services at Student Health.”
Goodwin said he asked student protesters to leave because of safety concerns regarding the number of individuals who are allowed to be in the room at any one time.
“I’ll ask y’all to leave only because we have a fire code here and we don’t want to get in trouble with the police,” Goodwin said. “But thank you.”
One of the student protesters briefly fired back demanding to be taken seriously.
“We hope that the BOV and Teresa Sullivan are listening to our demands because we’re serious. These are concerns that students have right now, and no one’s listening,” one student said. “This isn’t a safe environment, the University is not safe for people of color, Muslim people, LGBTQ+, there’s no safe place for us. We want an environment that fosters safety. There is no community of trust.”
Protesters then left the boardroom chanting, “Protect students, protect workers, protect us,” some holding hands as they went out the door. The protest moved outside and gathered in a circle on the Rotunda’s porch. One by one they introduced themselves and shared their reasoning for choosing to participate.
“I’m here because workers face deportation, harassment and unsafe working environments at this institution which claims to stand for everybody,” a protester, who identified himself as Bryan, said.
Others said they were there because they didn’t feel safe. The group of students marched across the Lawn holding white banners with the words “Protect workers” and “Protect students” written on them before coming back to the steps of the Rotunda. Once on the steps they began to chant anti-Donald Trump protests.
“No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.Va.,” they yelled. “F—k Donald Trump.”
Triston Smith, a second-year in the College, said the protest was organized last night by word of mouth. There was no accompanying Facebook event. Protesters were speaking partially on behalf of DREAMers on Grounds, Smith said.
“I’m tired of feeling scared walking home, and I’m scared for my friends being scared walking home,” Smith said.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Goodwin said the protesters were exercising their rights.
“They have a right to speak their voice, and they did, and that’s their right,” Goodwin said.
The Board of Visitors only meets four times per year. Although the meetings are open to the public, they do not provide an opportunity for public comment.