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Sullivan's inaccurate communication

With students and Charlottesville residents taking greater initiatives to advance our community, it is important to address every issue thoroughly

<p>President Teresa Sullivan</p>

President Teresa Sullivan

University President Teresa Sullivan sent an email on Sept. 13 to University alumni regarding the protests which resulted in the enshroudment of the Thomas Jefferson statue north of the Rotunda. In the email, Sullivan voiced her disapproval of the covering of the statue, described Jefferson’s legacy as both a founding father and a slave owner and outlined the steps that the University has taken to acknowledge its history. While perhaps a well-intentioned means of communicating her thoughts on the protest, Sullivan’s email is riddled with false statements. In this time of controversy, it is important to be accurate, particularly while one is leading the University.

In her email to the alumni, Sullivan begins with a brief description of the protests of Sept. 12 and concludes by saying that “one person was arrested for public intoxication.” With that line alone, she made it sound as if a student had been drunk. In fact, it had been Brian Lambert — a Charlottesville resident with no University affiliation — who was arrested for public intoxication. In addition to being intoxicated, Lambert was carrying a firearm, posing the greatest threat at this demonstration. Not acknowledging his presence among students of the University, while simultaneously scolding the protesters, is a failure by Sullivan to accurately convey the events of that evening.

Sullivan also claimed “[protesters] shrouded the Jefferson statue, desecrating ground that many of us consider sacred.” Suffice it to say there is something problematic about this statement. It is unfair to condemn student protesters to this degree, especially at a time when many students are still fighting for their rights as both U.S. citizens and members of the University community. Regardless of how each student feels about the University’s founder, to shroud the statue is not in any way comparable to the white nationalist declarations made during the rallies of August, events for which Sullivan did not use such incriminating language.

Another detail that Sullivan contributes to the email is that “University personnel removed the shroud.” This is simply incorrect. While the University may have intended to send people to attend to the tarp, it was removed before they had the chance to do it. Evidenced by a video posted on Facebook, community members were responsible for uncovering the Jefferson statue. In a time where every fact matters, every statement has a response and a counter-response, it is Sullivan’s responsibility to convey accurate information. The University seems to be in a perpetual state of controversy, and with both students and Charlottesville residents taking greater initiatives to advance our community, it is important to address every issue thoroughly.