Over the past two months, Police Chief Tommye S. Sutton and Gloria Graham, the Associate Vice President for Safety and Security, both resigned from their positions here at the University. Sutton was placed on paid-leave in mid-September and formally resigned about a week later. The University subsequently announced his resignation, providing no further information and instead highlighted the new interim police chief in a press release. In late October, the University issued a similar press release regarding Graham’s resignation. They announced that her resignation would go into effect in November and continued to focus on her interim replacement.
In both situations the University brushed over the resignation as if it were unimportant. However, these people are responsible for the safety of the students and the larger University community, so any changes to these posts affects everyone who attends, works and even visits the University. As students, we should be upset that we were given almost no information as to why Sutton and Graham left their positions. The University must be transparent and open with the students who attend this University, especially pertaining to some of the most important figures who are tasked with keeping us safe.
The police chief is the head of the University Police Department, meaning that they lead the charge in the policing of students as well as our safety. UPD also works closely with students, inituating outreach programs and even works closely with the University Judiciary Committee. When someone who is in the high ranking and powerful job, it is only right that University provides an explanation as to why the chief was put on paid lead and subsequently resigned. More transparency is especially necessary given that if Sutton simply wanted to leave the position for practical reasons, such as pay or location, the University could have provided a brief explanation. However, the University’s recent statements on Sutton’s resignation are insufficient and may lead one to believe that he acted inappropriately.
The University administration created the Associate Vice President for Safety and Security position soon after the events of Aug. 11 and 12 in 2017. This position is supposed to ensure that students are safe and help the University handle any future incidents like the white supremacist rallies more effectively. This position specifically focuses on the University’s safety structures, while the Police Chief focuses on day-to-day operations. The only reason the University gave for Graham’s resignation was that it is due to “personal reasons.” But once again, the resignation was abrupt and the press release only focused on the new holder of the position. While the implications may not seem as bad as the situation with the police chief since he was on paid leave before his resignation, it is still wrong for the University to not be open and upfront about the resignation of someone holding such an important position.
The University lacks transparency about those who are directly responsible for keeping us safe. Law enforcement is already criticized for its “Blue Wall of Silence” that keeps police officers from reporting misconduct. The University’s silence about the internal affairs of its own public safety department is unjust because it ignores the University community and our right to be informed about U.Va.’s operations. We pay tuition to attend this University, we deserve to have a better understanding of its safety structures.
As an institution that prides itself on student self-governance, the University is not living up to its own ideals by leaving students out of the loop. We are supposed to have a say and be part of the operations of the University, but being vague about the reasons behind these resignations ignores that commitment. The Administration should not feel as if they have to go out of their way to communicate this information to students — they should see it as their duty.
Hunter Hess is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.