U-Va. to re­move Con­fed­er­acy plaques

Au­gust’s deadly white su­prem­a­cist rally spurs univer­sity pol­icy changes

The Washington Post - - METRO - BY JOE HEIM

char­lottesville — The Univer­sity of Vir­ginia Board of Vis­i­tors voted unan­i­mously Friday to re­move plaques hon­or­ing the Con­fed­er­acy and to ban open flames, fol­low­ing stu­dent de­mands made af­ter a torch­light march by white su­prem­a­cists and Nazi sym­pa­thiz­ers last month.

The vote will re­sult in the re­moval of two plaques from the univer­sity’s Ro­tunda that hon­ored stu­dents and alumni who fought and died for the Con­fed­er­acy in the Civil War.

The board also ap­proved the stu­dents’ de­mand that the univer­sity re­vise the school’s open­flame pol­icy and de­clare the Lawn, the univer­sity’s most prom­i­nent out­door pub­lic space, a res­i­den­tial fa­cil­ity.

The board’s ac­tion means open flames, ex­plo­sives and weapons will be banned from the Lawn. When white su­prem­a­cists marched through cam­pus Aug. 11, they pa­raded down the mid­dle of the Lawn to­ward the Ro­tunda chant­ing “Blood and Soil!” and “Jews will not re­place us!”

The re­vi­sion of the open-flame pol­icy clar­i­fies the univer­sity’s abil­ity to en­force ex­ist­ing laws that pro­hibit the unau­tho­rized use of open flames, as well as state laws that ban the burn­ing of ob­jects “in a man­ner hav­ing a

di­rect ten­dency to place an­other per­son in rea­son­able fear or ap­pre­hen­sion of death or bod­ily in­jury.”

The three de­mands ap­proved by the Board of Vis­i­tors were among 10 for­mu­lated by numer­ous stu­dent groups and en­dorsed by the stu­dent coun­cil.

On Thurs­day, in re­sponse to one of the de­mands, the school agreed to ac­knowl­edge a $1,000 gift in 1921 from the Ku Klux Klan and con­trib­ute the amount, ad­justed for in­fla­tion, to a suit­able cause.

Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Teresa Sul­li­van an­nounced the school will do­nate $12,500 to the Char­lottesville Pa­tient Sup­port Fund, which was es­tab­lished for those af­fected by vi­o­lence on Aug. 12 that left three dead. The board has not acted on the other stu­dent de­mands.

Fol­low­ing the vote to re­move the Con­fed­er­ate plaques, Mau­rice Jones, one of three African Amer­i­cans on the 19-mem­ber board, said, “These were not young men dy­ing for Amer­ica, they were dy­ing for the Con­fed­er­acy. And if they had won, I wouldn’t be here with you to­day.”

The univer­sity will move the plaques to a lo­ca­tion that has yet to be de­ter­mined.

Though the torch­light march was the most vis­i­ble sign of racial ha­tred on cam­pus, some stu­dents said the univer­sity has to work harder to ad­dress racism that per­sists in less vis­i­ble ways at the school. For Clara Cam­ber, a sec­ond year stu­dent from Fred­er­icks­burg, that be­gins with Thomas Jef­fer­son, the univer­sity’s founder.

“Jef­fer­son had pow­er­ful ideas and quotes, but can you re­ally sep­a­rate that from him be­ing a racist and a rapist and a slave owner?” Cam­ber said. “I can’t.”

No­jan Rostami, a fourth year stu­dent from Re­ston, said that as the univer­sity deals with Con­fed­er­ate plaques and Jef­fer­son’s com­pli­cated legacy, it is in some ways “a mi­cro­cosm of the coun­try as a whole as it tries to come to terms with its racist his­tory.”

Caro­line Mu­biru, a sec­ond year stu­dent from Falls Church, said she no longer feels com­fort­able as a black woman on cam­pus, par­tic­u­larly when she hears other stu­dents say some of the de­mands go too far.

“The de­mands we’ve made are a re­sult of years of racism, not just Aug. 11 and 12,” she said. “We have to con­front this. We’re past the point of say­ing that we need to put these things be­hind us.”

The board’s de­ci­sion came on the same day it an­nounced the se­lec­tion of Har­vard dean James E. Ryan as the univer­sity’s next pres­i­dent.

He will re­place Sul­li­van, whose term ends this aca­demic year. Though Sul­li­van’s de­par­ture was planned, she has come un­der with­er­ing crit­i­cism from fac­ulty, staff and stu­dents for the univer­sity’s han­dling of the march and for not do­ing more to alert the cam­pus com­mu­nity.

In a speech he de­liv­ered to stu­dents im­me­di­ately af­ter his se­lec­tion was an­nounced, but be­fore the board’s vote on stu­dent de­mands, Ryan ex­pressed his re­vul­sion at the events of last month and said he was en­cour­aged to see steps taken in re­sponse.

“Like all of you, I was heart­bro­ken and hor­ri­fied to see U- Va. and Char­lottesville in­vaded by white su­prem­a­cists and neo- Nazis. And I join those who have con­demned this vi­o­lent dis­play of ha­tred,” Ryan said. “But con­demn­ing big­otry and anti- Semitism and racism is in many ways the easy part. The hard part, which we’re all fac­ing now, is what to do in re­sponse in the short and longer terms.”

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