University President Teresa Sullivan sat down for 50-minute interview with The Cavalier Daily Tuesday morning to address questions and criticisms related to the University’s response to events in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12.
Law School Dean Risa Goluboff, who is also chairing the working group formed to assess how the University handled recent events, later joined to provide insight on the purpose of the working group, their accomplishments so far and what they are planning to do in the future.
Throughout the course of the conversation at Sullivan’s office in Madison Hall, she acknowledged the areas in which the University could have responded better — such as the handling of the white nationalist march on Grounds both before and after it became violent — and mentioned some of the actions the University is taking to better respond in the future.
Sullivan and Goluboff also briefly addressed a few of the demands being championed by the Black Student Alliance and numerous other student groups, including the recontextualization of the historical landscape on Grounds.
University Spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn was also present at the interview.
Staff members from The Cavalier Daily who were present at the interview were Editor-In-Chief Mike Reingold, Managing Editor Tim Dodson, Senior Associate News Editor Alexis Gravely, Associate News Editor Thomas Roades and Associate News Editor Eliza Haverstock.
Tim Dodson: “So, obviously, thank you for meeting with us this morning. We really appreciate it. We know it’s been sort of a tumultuous time for everyone, but I guess these demands have been circulating around social media and in different student groups, so I guess we first sort of wanted to get your response to these generally and then we have more specific questions about the plaque on the Rotunda, Confederate plaques, and then the Jefferson statue as well. But maybe more generally, what has been your response at the administrative level to these ten demands that have been circulated?”
President Sullivan: So they also asked to meet with me, and we are trying to find a time when that meeting can happen, and that’s one of the reasons why I rather feel that it would be respectful to talk to them about it first before I talk to everybody else. But, Dean Goluboff and I have also discussed this, and I think that some of these issues I need to hand over to her committee to work on. So for example, curricular issues. I don’t control curriculum. You know, from your point of view, maybe I control everything in the university; that’s not really true.
Faculty control curriculum. So I can’t tell the faculty what to do. I can make suggestions, I am a faculty member myself, I can vote. I voted on the new curriculum in the College for example, but I can’t just order them what to do. So I do think that there will be, you know, a reference for faculty to talk about the curricular issues.
Let me talk around some of these for you. So, you know with respect to the Confederate plaque, for about a year and a half, a group of alumni and some people at the John Nau Center for Civil War History have been working on a parallel plaque which is about U.Va. students who fought and died for the Union. That part of our history has not been covered before. And, my approach in general has been, let’s add to the things we know. And so for example, the Memorial for Enslaved Laborers is a new way of commemorating. You know, we’ve also done other commemorations, including the renaming of Skipwith Hall, the renaming of Gibbons Hall.
When the Board of Visitors is here September 13th, we will rename Jordan Hall for Vivian Pin.
So, you know these are ways of adding to the pieces of our history that we recall and remember, and the President’s Commission on Slavery at the University has actually brought to light a lot of things we didn’t know about before. And this effort to find out who from the University fought for the Union, I don’t think anybody here knew there was anybody who fought for the Union.
I know this isn’t directly answering this question, but it is that we are thinking about the issues that are related to how we commemorate our history, and what it is that we commemorate. And of course students have been very actively involved in this. In the President’s Commission, there have been student interns. There have been students who have come to hearings and meetings. The whole Memorial for Enslaved Laborers began as a student movement, and is now in a fundraising period, so I think that’s moved very far. The Board of Visitors has approved it, they’ve approved the design, that’s moving along pretty quickly.
I told you something about that demand, so I know it doesn't answer directly the issue: do you remove it from the Rotunda?
Dodson: Are there elements on here that would require Board of Visitors approval? Would something like the Confederate plaques require the Board of Visitors to authorize?
Sullivan: I believe it would, and here’s why I think so. They approved its placement there to start with, and so I think they would have to approve anything further that happened with it. But I also think they would seek a recommendation from the administration. And I think that there are a few other things that would probably require approval of the Board. But anyway, if you don’t mind, I would like to go back to August 11th and talk little bit about that. You know, that event was in my experience, unprecedented here, or at any other university I have been at. In retrospect, there are things that I think we would have done differently and we will do better in the future, should this ever happen again. And I can talk about some of those things we are looking at specifically. Also, there have been several after-action meetings. There’s one later on today in which we’re bringing outside experts to look at what we did and give us suggestions on what we could’ve done better.
So let’s talk about the open flame one. So, I was aware of that policy to the extent that you could not have candles in dorm rooms. That’s the part of it I knew about, because there’s bunsen burners, the Lawnies burn fires in their fireplaces, they have hibachis, so the fact that we had a more general open flame policy, I cantily was not aware of. We will make our police aware of this in the future. There is a procedure for getting approval for the flame through Environmental Health and Safety, and we’ll be sure that the police can contact Environmental Health and Safety in the event of unapproved flames. So, let me give you another example. The candlelight rally that was held a few days afterwards was 7,000 people attending. Well, we got approval for those open flames, okay? But we have subsequently also discovered, and this was actually again through a student who alerted us to it, a statute that we weren’t aware of, which we will also instruct the police about. And this is 18.2-423.01 of the Virginia Code.
Dodson: This is what Dean Goluboff referenced in that email?
Sullivan: Yeah, that’s right. And specifically it says ‘any person who, with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons, burns an object — object, anything — on a highway or other public place in a manner having a direct tendency to place another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of death or bodily injury is guilty of a Class 6 felony.’ Now that’s pretty strong, and you know, I have to say I wasn’t aware of this. We are aware of it now. We’re going to make sure our police are aware of it too.
Dodson: If police had been aware of either the University policy regarding flames or the state statute, do you think things would have gone differently on August 11th?
Sullivan; Well, it’s hard for me to speculate about the counterfactual here. Let’s say that, just for the sake of argument, that the people were told they couldn’t carry their torches. Would they have still marched? My guess is the answer to that is yes. I think the torches were like an accessory. But then they eventually became a weapon, so that was also an issue. In Boston, a week later, they wouldn’t let people bring sticks of any kind with the fear that sticks could be weaponized. Perhaps we need to think that way. I think that, you know, what happened is going to be a wake-up call for law enforcement all over the country about what looks like a peaceful march and ends up not being peaceful, and what you do at that point, when it’s not peaceful. So anyway, those are some issues that I think we could have handled better and we will handle them better in the future.
Dodson: In terms of the timeline on August 11th, I’m sure you’re aware of The Chronicle of Higher Education articles that have come out, kind of looking at the University’s response to this. So one of the first articles that came out seemed to suggest that you first became aware of the fact that there was some sort of white nationalist gathering that was going to happen when I think you were visiting with Lawnies, and that was around I think 8:15 that evening. I think someone showed you a social media post or something, but then I know that in the email that came out August 15th, I think it noted that law enforcement became aware of this on some point on Friday afternoon. Was that information not communicated to you when they first became aware of it? I’m just sort of wondering what information was shared with you.
Sullivan: Well, that was not. But, you know, law enforcement doesn’t tell me everything they know. There’s no reason to, you know. I would say that there was a lot of conflicting information. So there’s also information that there would be a rally at a park in the county, and that rally apparently didn’t happen. There was a lot of chatter, and some of it was misleading. And this week, there has come to light, and I can’t verify the authenticity of this, but there’s come to light some documents allegedly posted by members of these groups saying that it was really important to keep this a secret from the University of Virginia. So, you know, it’s very hard for me to know in this situation what is true and what is not true. I can testify to what I myself knew, and I didn’t know. Malcolm Stewart was on the Lawn with me, and Malcolm showed me the social media post. Malcolm is the Head Resident on the Lawn. I had spoken with Larry Sabato in the past because we thought it might happen Saturday night. And so we had laid out some provisional plans for what we would do on Saturday. Our anticipation was this rally would go on downtown until 5 o’clock. They had a permit from 12:00-5:00. And that after 5:00, they might decide to come back to the University and we need to be ready then. The police were ready, if that had happened. But we were totally focused on August 12th. And you know, we should have been more aware that something could have happened either before or after. We did set up our emergency operation center at 7 o’clock August 12th, and it demobilized at 4 o’clock August 13th. So, that's what we had been focused on and ready for.
Anthony de Bruyn: That was a joint emergency operation center which I’m sure you're aware is University, city, and county.
Sullivan: Actually we had the state there too.
de Bruyn: State was there too, of course. Right.
Dodson: I think in talking about what the University knew, I think one line in the email that came out, I think it was the 15th, was about how the alt-right protesters didn't do what they said they were planning to do. And I think one critique that we’ve seen on social media is that that might have been a naive position, given that there are community members who were expressing fears and apprehensions that there was a potential for violence with these white nationalists who were coming to town. How do you respond to that reaction, that the alt-right misled U.Va. and that U.Va. was unprepared, or trusted what they were saying?
Sullivan: I think it’s fair to say that we were overly trusting in this case. I think that’s right. Our police are trained to work with peaceful demonstrations. Our typical peaceful demonstration is a group of students. They’re trained to basically be there if anything gets out of hand, but that’s essentially, I believe, the mindset that we had going into this. And in retrospect, that wasn’t the right mindset. That was a huge advantage to other cities and other police forces where this kind of thing was going to happen. But it would not be our mindset in the future. I think we would be differently prepared. It was very hard to know in advance what was going to happen, especially given competing sources of information that weren’t always clear or straightforward.
Let me talk about guns, because I think that’s another one of interest. How come these people were allowed to bring guns on our Grounds? So, Virginia is an open-carry state and also has concealed weapons. There has been a lot of back-and-forth about whether universities could be an exception to that general rule. Admittedly, this is contested terrain. If you talk to my counterparts in Georgia or Texas, they’ll tell you that.
Risa Goluboff enters the room.
Sullivan: We have an attorney general’s opinion, which says that, first of all, the University, it’s not enough to have a policy against guns, you must have a regulation. The Board of Visitors passed a regulation. And we’re allowed to regulate buildings, facilities, and events. But not just the Grounds. So somebody who, this is a state highway here going through the University [she’s talking about University Avenue] somebody on that state highway can possess a weapon, they can get out of their car, they can walk around with their gun, but they can’t go into a building or a facility or an event. I am talking with the University Architect, and then I would like to go to the Board with the possibility of having the Lawn declared a facility. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site, people are living in it, it’s an enclosed area with limited ingress and egress. We’re exploring this, and we’re also looking to see if there’d be any unforeseen consequences to doing that, things that we wouldn’t want to live with. But as of August 11th, I don’t believe our police had the ability to stop open or concealed carry in that march, up until the point that things got out of hand, and the first punch got thrown. Then they declared it to be an illegal assembly. And at that point, boom, the alt-right basically disappeared into the shadows. But up to that point, I think that they were legally permitted to do what they did.
I have spent a lot of time in the legislature talking with legislators about limits on weapons at universities. I don’t believe we should have weapons at the University. That’s just my position, and right now the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia does not agree with me on that point. That explains what happened with the weapons.”
Risa, do you want to talk about the working group a little bit?
Dean Risa Goluboff: Sure. Where to start? I don't know if you’ve read the emails I’ve sent and the website, so I don't really want to repeat, you know, all of that, but I would say that we see our task as looking at what happened so that we can make sure it never happens again. And I will say that, the first thing I would say is that it shouldn't have happened and I’m really sorry that it did, and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that it doesn’t happen again. And I think we see our charge as both about open carry, you know that kind of logistical, practical responses that we need to move forward to think about the policies and review them, and think about how to make sure that everyone is safe going forward. And then on the longer term, to think about who we are as a community. We’re not the only university or the only institution in the U.S. that has a complicated past. How do we think about that past, how do we think about our future? I think we’ve long done that. We’ve been doing that in so many ways. The Memorial for Enslaved Laborers, the new names of buildings, you know, this is not a new conversation for us to have, but I think it takes on new urgency now. And so thinking about what that new urgency leads to, and how to think institutionally about what we want to do going forward. I can say more, but I’ll stop there for now. You can ask more specific questions if you want.
Alexis Gravely: So, of course we’ve been reading your emails with the updates and things like that. So some students would argue that increasing the number of UPD officers on Grounds and their patrols isn't necessarily the way to make the University a better place, especially in light of the Latino Student Alliance’s statement on Sunday, alleging that students of color on the Lawn were unfairly treated by UPD officers. So what are some other ways that the working group is looking to make Grounds safer and ensure those with bad intent aren't just wandering around?
Sullivan: Well I can tell you one thing we’ve done is to expand the ambassadors because the ambassadors had previously patrolled mostly off Grounds or near Grounds, so we now have them patrolling the Lawn area 24/7. They are not police officers, they’re not armed. But they can be sure that there’s nobody sneaking in there with evil intent, as you say. They’re there to help students. Students need help, we want them to be able to get that help. We also hired the leading higher ed security consultant to come in, look at what we do, comprehensively top to bottom, and give us advice as to where we might have gaps. So it doesn't necessarily mean police, it could mean other things too. So we have layered security here, there are a lot of different things we’ve put in place for security, For example, the blue light system, much of which was paid for by the Parents’ Committee because the parents were concerned that students be able to get help when they need it. So we’re looking at other ways that we can do that. We do maintain a continuing program of training for our police officers, and that particular incident you mentioned is under investigation.
Goluboff: I would add, in thinking about the policies, I don't know if you already talked about this. Was the open carry the first policy you talked about?
Goluboff: When I think about what happened and how do we go forward from that, the kind of big picture that I think about it in, is this is a kind of threat that we were not attuned to because it had been a kind of threat that hadn’t been posed, at least in the last century that I know of, the kinds of violence that happened on the Lawn in the 19th century I’m not familiar with it…
Sullivan: It’s where the Honor code came from.
Goluboff: Right, that’s my understanding, but I don't know the details, but I think we had an image of what threats look like. And we had a whole set of policies that were around that image. And I think like other universities, like the rest of the country, I think part of why this became such an important story is because a lot of people were taken by surprise by this threat. Not everyone, and it’s not to say there haven’t been racial threats of various kinds, but the violence and the brazenness, the huge numbers, the unbelievable armory, like the whole picture. And I think we’re looking at the open carry as one piece of that. I think the second piece of that is the open flame, and thinking about the use of the torches and the meaning of the use of the torches. And, you know, we've had policies, but the police department has never been part of that process. Right, so the police...our policies didn’t routinely inform the police who had approval or not approval, and so going forward, they will be informed. So that if there’s open flame, they will know whether its approved or not. There’s also this law about open flame devices used for intimidation. It wasn’t on our radar screen because it hadn't been something that was on our radar screen. It’s a tragedy that it’s now on our radar screen. But, I think what we are thinking of is an attention to a kind of threat that we now have to respond to, and think anew about what the response looks like to these kinds of threats.
Mike Reingold: So, what would be your response to Latino Student Alliance’s statement alleging that students of color on the Lawn were unfairly treated by UPD officers?
Sullivan: I think that’s the same thing Alexis was saying.
Reingold: But I’m not sure if you guys directly responded to that.
Sullivan: Oh, well I said it was under investigation. Yeah. I corresponded almost immediately with the police department and Pat Lampkin’s office, so we could get that investigated and figure out what was going on.
Dodson: Was that brought to your attention on Sunday?
Sullivan: Yeah. The student involved wrote me.
Dodson: So going back to your reference to the security firm that the University has hired and retained to look into reviewing our safety and security and infrastructure. I’m curious to know, and this is more of a question for Anthony -
de Bruyn: It is.
Dodson: How much are they being paid?
de Bruyn: I will have all that information for you this morning.
Dodson: Okay, cool.
Sullivan: There is a contract, but I don’t know.
de Bruyn: I will have all those details to you. This is Spencer’s inquiry. We will get it to you today.
Reingold: So, a video was posted on U.Va. Students United Facebook page where they interviewed you -
Sullivan: They didn’t interview me.
Reingold: Well, they came up to you and started asking you questions. But one thing that you did say within that essentially, was students also have a responsibility as well to tell the administration what they know. So what level of responsibility should students have in notifying people within the administration of potential events, and what responsibility should administration hold?
Sullivan: Well, let me tell you, first of all, I did lose my temper there, and I usually don’t do that, and I wrote a letter of apology to the student involved there. I didn’t mean to imply students were in any way responsible for what happened to them. The people who were responsible were the people who were wielding torches and pepper spray, and that’s where the responsibility lies. But, it is frustrating later on to have people say, “Well, we knew what was going to happen” when it’s not the case that University leadership necessarily knows what you know. In fact, I’d say it’s probably not at all likely that we know what you know. And so, looking out for one another does mean elevating threats, if you’re aware of them. But I didn’t mean to imply those students were responsible for what happened to them because that’s simply not the case. Almost immediately, when the first tiki torch got thrown, which by the way, was thrown at Allen Groves, the police stepped in and declared it to be an illegal assembly. But not in time before other people got hurt.
Dodson: Do you see these events of August 11th and August 12th as impacting the image or the University moving forward, or impacting things like admissions or prospective students and their interest in coming to the University? And in what ways, if so?
Sullivan: Yeah, so it’s an interesting question. So there were 300 prospective students and parents who came to Grounds August 12th. I went to speak with them, and I was very candid about what was happening in Charlottesville and so on, and why their tour of the Grounds might get cut short. And it was because the governor declared a state of emergency at the point that they were touring. You know, we did get letters from some of those parents saying, “Wow. We really appreciated the candor, and it was still a good visit from our perspective.” We also heard from parents who said, “Well, I’m not going to come this morning because I don’t think I want my child exposed to this.” Different families are going to have different reactions to this, and it’s too hard right now to assess what the overall effect is going to be. It’s also not clear that we will be the only university this year that has, you know, some kind of, what shall I say, civil unrest going on.
I went to college myself in a time of terrific unrest on college campuses coast to coast. There’s no question that it makes parents worry about what kind of experience their children can have. My job is to make sure that U.Va. students continue to have the best possible experience while they’re here. That’s all I can do. What happens in other people’s interpretation of it is actually beyond my ability to control.
Goluboff: Let me add something. I actually think President Sullivan’s creation of the working group is a step toward renewing our commitment to making sure that we have a diverse community. And for me, it’s not a hypothetical question, whether it would make people question this because on Saturday, I had some first-year students arriving, and one first-year student arrived alone, by airplane, a student of color, and that parent called me and said, “I think my child should come home and not attend your law school.” And I said, “As a mother, I understand your concern and I can’t guarantee anything, but what I want you to know is that we are the same law school and the same University we were yesterday.”
We are committed to our values of diversity and inclusion and belonging and I think that at this moment, we are renewing our commitment to those things. And I think there may be an additional challenge, but we’re up to the challenge. And these are the values that we’ve always held — well not always — but that we have held in the modern era. And they are values that I think we are all deeply committed to. And I think one of the goals that we have as a working group is to not allow that to happen, to the extent that we can control it, and to say we’re re-committed to making sure that everyone feels a sense of belonging and ownership here, and that all different kinds of people want to come here.
Dodson: One sort of specific question about the working group. We briefly talked at the beginning of our conversation with President Sullivan about these 10 demands that have been circulating on social media and in different student groups that have signed on to it. One of the 10 points that they raised is trying to get more students onto the working group. So I’m curious to know if that’s something you think will happen or be pursued.
Goluboff: So, I think when President Sullivan created the working group, she created it so that it could move quickly and do work expeditiously. I think if you’ve read what we’ve done in the last 10 days, we’ve done a lot. And I’m proud of what we’ve done. And I think there are pros and cons to having a small group, and I think the pros are we can move. The potential con would be making sure you hear voices, and that’s something. We absolutely have to hear voices, but I don’t know that they have to be on the working group.
Bryanna Miller, the student member of the BOV, is on the group. She is an amazing advocate for students. She’s an incredibly effective speaker and important member of the group. And so, in my view and what I’ve been doing, I’ve already been talking to various students. I have more meetings set up. We’re thinking about the ways in which we can create other venues to hear voices in addition to the community input forum that we have on the website, which we’ve gotten many emails and ideas and suggestions from. So, I actually think the working group as set up is in a good form, and that the reason a student might want to be on the group is to have a voice. They already have a voice through Bryanna, but I also want to make sure they have even more of a voice through various means, but I’m not sure that it’s on the working group itself.
I want to say one other thing about the working group because I was talking to a student the other day, and I realized there might be some confusion about who the deans are on the working group. The deans on the working group are the deans of the academic units. So the deans of the 11 schools and the libraries. So, Dean Groves, for example, is not on the working group. The deans are not part of the central administration, we’re not in the President’s Cabinet.
We’re fairly separate. You know, obviously, we’re part of the leadership of the University, but this is a group of the school-related leaders who, the idea is, we all have students and faculty and staff, and we are there to represent them. And obviously, we don’t do that alone. I think the listening and figuring out other ways to bring in views is really important.
Dodson: One other critique that we’ve heard that I also want to ask about is one criticism about messaging coming out of the administration, at least immediately in response to the events of the 11th and 12th, is that the emails that were coming out didn’t necessarily name “white supremacy” right away. I think you referred to the “alt-right” in some of those initial messages. So I’d be curious to get your response to people who say that the University failed to name what was going on.
Sullivan: My first message, which came out about a week before, did not name the groups. And that was deliberate. Because if I had, that message would have been taken as a recruiting document by those groups to get more people to come to U.Va. or to come to Charlottesville. They would have said, “The University of Virginia is afraid of us, and so let’s all go.” We deliberately didn’t name groups in the beginning. We named behaviors that we thought would happen and was. Lots of hate, potentially violence.
Afterwards, we then did talk about white supremacy, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia. I mean it was all there. Every kind of hate speech you could imagine was out there in the wake of August 12th. So, you know, we don’t associate ourselves with any of those points of view, certainly not white supremacy, white nationalism, racism. I think that the anti-Semitism was really striking here on Grounds. That was horrifying. Just open and complete.
Goluboff: I would add, from the perspective of the working group, that I think what the events really heightened an awareness of was how groups around Grounds feel, and how lots of different groups around Grounds feel. And the threat - white supremacy, when you use that phrase, it can mean different things to different people, and it can sound like it’s really only a black-white racism, and it’s clearly about that. But it’s also about so much more. It’s a narrow, exclusionary, bigoted, hateful doctrine that demeans people along all the lines that President Sullivan said. So, I think we are aware that there are so many different kinds of people who felt demeaned by that, and that the work of the working group is to bring us all together as a community and to not allow them to divide us, and to sure up everybody’s feelings of belonging across the different lines that President Sullivan is talking about, and to look inward and say, “You know, are we as welcoming? Are we as inclusive, are we as full of belonging as we want to be and as our values state?” I think our values are right, and we’re always doing our best to live up to our values, and this is a moment to say, “We’ve got to do that even more.”
One of the things the working group, with President Sullivan’s blessing, has authorized was a pan-University climate survey so that we can figure out, “How do people feel?” And what do we need to do more specifically?
Sullivan: One other thing I’d like to talk about is the kind of peculiar charges levelled against us that you haven’t mentioned because you probably haven’t heard of them. We’ve heard them in this office. So, one is the charge we asked ESPN to change the announcer for the William & Mary game. We didn’t have anything to do with that. When the first phone calls came in blasting us for doing it, I didn’t even know what they were talking about. So, we didn’t do that.
The other thing was a surprising number of communications demanding that we expel the students who were involved in the events because the assumption made by some people on the outside was that it was our students who were marching on the Lawn with the guns and the torches. And it wasn’t. You know, I haven’t heard even a rumor that there was a single student of ours involved in that. But, that is part of the image on the outside - that this was the U.Va. students on the march. That’s definitely not the case. We’ve done what we can do to try and set the record straight on that, but you understand that there’s lot of room for conspiracy theories and rumors and people misunderstanding what they hear in the media and so on. But I really do think that’s a libel against our students.
Dodson: I know as we all returned to classes, and the first few days, a lot of classes, at least in my experiences, and I’m sure it happened with you all too, students and professors were sort of talking about where we were on August 11th and 12th and what we were experiencing. So I’d be curious to ask both of you - what were your experiences like on the 11th and 12th? Where were you? How were you monitoring the situation? What was that experience like for both of you?
Sullivan: Well, I guess you know my August 11th experience got pretty well chronicled by The Chronicle of Higher Education. I started off at 7:00 in the Emergency Op Center, and when I became aware that these 300 prospective students and their parents were going to be at Maury Hall, I hoofed it on over there, not very professionally dressed, because I expected to spend the whole day in the Emergency Op Center. But I spoke to those parents and talked to them. And then I walked up the Lawn. I talked to some Lawnies, I talked to Larry Sabato. I was on my way to the library for the alternative programming we had scheduled. And I was actually sitting in one of those programs - which was very good by the way; there was really good programming being set up for that. Actually, before I got there, I ran into the medical students who were setting up the lunch, so I helped them carry some of the stuff to set up the lunch they had prepared for people who were going to the alternate programming.
And while I was there in the session at the library, I got a buzz. I went out and took the phone call, and it was that the governor had declared an emergency, and we were closing the University. And so then we had to figure out how to do that. Normally, an emergency situation like this - it’s a weather event. And so we know how to do it. But we had classes going up at Darden, we had a wedding scheduled at 3 o’clock in the Chapel with a reception following over in the Colonnade Club. There were just a million things to think about. So I went back to the Emergency Op Center, and I stayed there until 4:30/5:00 when I got a call to go downtown because the governor was holding a press conference, and he wanted me to be present at that.
So I went to the press conference, I came back to the Emergency Op Center. I stayed there until, I think 8 o’clock. At that point, I think Anthony got rotated out. We started rotating people out because they’d spent so many hours there, they were just on the verge of burning out. So we began rotating, and had to hand over to people, “Here’s what I’ve been doing, you need to look at this and so on.”
There were some really bad times during that day. One was when the car hit a crowd of pedestrians. The hospital had been getting ready since Thursday. We declared a mass casualty incident. I think that the hospital handled it really well. I really regret that a life was lost, but I think the hospital was as prepared as they could be to take care of the people.
And then, the next really bad moment was when the helicopter fell. We were sitting, you know, at the table with Fire and Rescue and police, including state troopers, and all of us in that room knew that whoever was on that helicopter - the state troopers knew them. We just didn’t know who it was yet. And of course, Fire was mobilizing, and they had units there to help put out the fire. I went and called Pat Lampkin and asked to get a chancellor, to get a chaplain there, because I thought people were really going to need that. It was very hard, especially after everybody had been working hard all day.
Sunday morning, I was back there. Things on Sunday were a little more press-intensive because people were asking us to be on talk shows and so on. But I felt we had enough work to do there just to make sure what was happening at the University. And, so as I say, we finally stood down at 4 o’clock. So that’s where I was.
Goluboff: Unfortunately, I had to be out of town, so I wasn’t here. I was watching from afar, as maybe some of you were, as things unfolded. That was very difficult because it was difficult for anyone to watch and also because this is my home and my community, and it was difficult to see it violated that way and to see the violence. I was frustrated not to be here, and I was worried and concerned about the various students, faculty and staff that I knew who were directly involved. I was worried about the students. We were not in session, but we had some students here. We had our international students arriving that day and some of our first years, and I was really worried about our students, for the very first time, coming to Charlottesville, especially those coming from across the world, coming from anywhere and not having a support network and not having a sense of grounding here before seeing this happen.
I was really touched and gratified by the way I think so many people in our community came together. I know most about the Law school, so the parent and the child who I talked about before, after I hung up the phone, I made some calls, and one of our second-year students immediately went and picked that student up from her apartment and brought her into a group and did that with other students as well. So our students were looking out for each other. We had administrators offer up their homes to students who felt vulnerable and afraid, especially students of color. We had administrators taking students out for dinner, new students who had just come in who didn’t have a support network. I was proud of how our community came together. I wish none of it had been necessary.
I was thinking hard about, how do we protect people? How do we make people safe not only physically, but emotionally, and making sure those resources were there. I was anxious to get back here. I was nervous to get back here. I was nervous of how the place would feel differently. I think we’ve all lost some sense of innocence and security. Not that there weren’t bad things in the world before, and not that there wasn’t racism and anti-Semitism in the world before, but there’s something about people coming with guns and fire to your hometown and invading it, and that makes those problems so much more apparent and pressing and potentially overwhelming. When President Sullivan asked me to do this working group, it felt like an opportunity to try to make something meaningful out of something tragic. That’s what I see ourselves doing, and I think we can be a stronger university and a better university, and hopefully, while the world is watching, we can have these conversations and move forward in ways that provide models for others as well.
Thomas Roades: If we could, I’d love to get your response on one more of the demands. One of them mentioned that there was a $1,000 gift to the University’s centennial fund from the KKK in 1921, and they asked that that’s reinvested into minority groups on Grounds and in the community, and that part of our history is included in Bicentennial programming. Basically, do you acknowledge this gift? The amount adjusted for inflation is about $12,000 so are there any plans to reinvest that money or are there any plans to include that sort of thing in Bicentennial programming?
Sullivan: I did ask the advancement office if they have any record of that, and it’s not clear that there was a gift. There was a pledge, payable over four years, and in that fourth year, the Klan nationally largely fell apart, so I don’t know that the money ever got paid. But that’s certainly not a gift that today we would accept.
I can’t be embarrassed on behalf of Mr. Alderman. I didn’t know him obviously, He died before I was born. I don’t know what motivated him. I do know that he had been part of the dedication of the Robert E. Lee statue. But that is a part of our past. As to what we do in terms of that money that we might or might not have received, that’s something we still need to have a discussion on. As I said, I’m not ready to talk about everything involved in the demand.
Goluboff: I would add one thing, which is I’ve been thinking about how does a university respond to something like this as opposed to a corporation or some other entity? And we have incredible talent here, and experts on historical memory, and architecture, and how we tell narratives about ourselves. We have all these students and faculty who have thought already a lot, and part of the bicentennial is thinking about this, how do you you grapple with a mixed history, which many universities have, which the United States has.
I teach Constitutional Law and the Constitution embedded slavery right in there. So we talk about, how do you embrace that document and also think about its flaws? I always talk about Martin Luther King, Thurgood Marshall, Barack Obama. They were what we call “constitutional perfectionists.” It’s flawed. How do you perfect it? How do you live with it? How do you wrestle with it? And I think that’s true of our history, and this is one piece of that. When I think about where we’re looking for input, where we need to hear more voices of students, of faculty, of staff, of community members, thinking more about the historical questions and how do you live today with the different kinds of histories you have, some of which are positive and aspirational and part of the building of our nation, and some of which are really hard and complicated, and we’ve been struggling with and will continue to. I think that’s part of the answer to that question.