It has been a very difficult week at the University as our community reacts both to the article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine earlier this week and news of the death of a second-year student yesterday. We wrote to your daughters and sons earlier today with a message that responded to the challenges with which we are all grappling. You can find thefull text of the earlier note online, but we do want to reiterate one critical message: We do not tolerate sexual violence in any form. Sexual assault is a crime that can destroy lives and create profound suffering. It has no place in our society, much less in an academic community characterized by freedom and civility.
As always, our first priority in this immediate situation is to keep our students safe. We are in close communication with our students, both via email and through individual outreach. As is customary, all messages to students are also posted on the Parents website. A message about safety went out late this afternoon from Chief of University Police Mike Gibson that mentioned threats the University has received in response to the article. We have reached out to the FBI, Albemarle and Charlottesville Police Departments and will continue to collaborate and call upon the resources of those agencies as appropriate. We have taken specific measures to ensure student safety this weekend, including increasing police patrols on the Grounds and in areas where students congregate and increasing staffing levels for our standing safety resources summarized in our Staying Safe Tip Sheet. For students who may need counseling support, we are making additional CAPS counselors available all weekend via our on-call system (434-972-7004). Please encourage your daughter or son to call CAPS if they need assistance.
Longer term, we pledge to work with you and the entire community to make this University as safe as possible. We care deeply about our students and their well-being, and about creating a culture in which students not only feel safe but are safe. Both of us are horrified by the story depicted in the article, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to get to the bottom of the incidents reported and then effect change.
When your daughters and sons return home for Thanksgiving break, they will likely need to talk about the Rolling Stonearticle and the loss of three of their fellow students this semester. We hope you will encourage them to share their reactions with you. It has been an intense semester, and they will need a supportive space at home to decompress. As parents ourselves, we know we would appreciate guidance on how to support our children during such a difficult time, so we reached out to Dr. Tim Davis, the director of the University’s counseling center, for some advice. Here are some thoughts that you may find helpful as you prepare for your daughters and sons to return home.
Your daughters and sons may be dealing with a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, fear, and disappointment. (You may be experiencing many of these feelings yourself.) Do your best to listen and to validate. Each of your daughters and sons has a right to her or his own particular thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the article and the complex surrounding circumstances. It will be most helpful if you can provide an objective framework for them to talk about their reactions. It is fine for you to share your responses with them, too. However, agreeing too much may intensify the emotion they are already feeling. Disagreeing too much will shut down the communication. Focus on your primary objective, which should be to help your daughter or son work through her or his own response.
Keep in mind that Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) will remain a resource for your daughters and sons when they return to Grounds. CAPS is located in Student Health at the corner of Jefferson Park Avenue and Brandon Avenue, and we will remind students of hours and services upon their return to Grounds. Lastly, CAPS is here for you as well. If you would like to consult with one of the CAPS counselors about how to support your daughter or son, call 434-243-5150 to speak with one of our counselors. We hope that this Thanksgiving break will offer our students and our community a time to rest and reflect before returning for the end of the semester. As always, thank you for your support and guidance.
Teresa A. Sullivan, President
Patricia M. Lampkin, Vice President and Chief Student Affairs Officer