University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan distributed a message to the entire University Community today, in which she stresses the essential truth in Thomas Jefferson’s words,
“It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.”
President Sullivan acknowledges that many students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff have reached out to her directly in order to offer reactions to the devastiting information revealed for the first time in an article that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. Over the last few days opinions have been painfully shared as well as many suggestions for combating violence on Grounds, and specifically sexual violence.
“For students and faculty at the University the central theme above all else is honor, and a basic respect for the dignity of all persons.nded as much as it is sought, to let our idealism outweigh our reality.
At UVa we speak in idealistic terms: honor and tradition inform our thinking, and balance our daily actions. And it is easy here, where success is demanded as much as it is sought, to let our idealism outweigh our reality.
Jefferson, as he always does, provides a compelling backdrop:
It is more honorable to repair a wrong than to persist in it.
The wrongs described in Rolling Stone are appalling and have caused all of us to reexamine our responsibility to this community. Rape is an abhorrent crime that has no place in the world, let alone on the campuses and grounds of our nation’s colleges and universities. We know, and have felt very powerfully this week, that we are better than we have been described, and that we have a responsibility to live our tradition of honor every day, and as importantly every night.
As you are aware, I have asked the Charlottesville Police Department to investigate the 2012 assault that is described in Rolling Stone. There are individuals in our community who know what happened that night, and I am calling on them to come forward to the police to report the facts. Only you can shed light on the truth, and it is your responsibility to do so. Alongside this investigation, we as a community must also do a systematic evaluation of our culture to ensure that one of our founding principles – the pursuit of truth – remains a pillar on which we can stand. There is no greater threat to honor than secrecy and indifference.”
President Sullivan also described her own sorrow and rage, but those feelings are now to be directed to a determination for meaningful change, and one that will demand a great deal of us:
This will require institutional change, cultural change, and legislative change, and it will not be easy. We are making those changes.
The President noted that the Inter-Fraternity Council had announced that all University fraternities have voluntarily suspended social activities this weekend; and while ethis was what she described as “an important first step,” she also announced that as of today, she is suspending all fraternal organizations and associated social activities until January 9th, and that between now and then there will be groups comprised of “students, faculty, alumni, and other concerned parties” to discuss what the next steps are to be proactive in the prevention of sexual assault on Grounds.
“On Tuesday, the Board of Visitors will meet to discuss the University’s policies and procedures regarding sexual assault as well as the specific, recent allegations.”
President Sullivan has called upon “the collective strength of the members of our community to ensure that we have the best policies,” noting that the recently posted Student Sexual Misconduct Policy is currently open for public comment, and invited those with an interest in this matter to do so.
In an excerpt for a letter to William Roscoe, on 27 Dec. 1820, Thomas Jefferson was describing his vision for the University of Virginia:
” … this institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. for here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”