How to Fight Racism and Intolerance–A UVA Example

Today,  Members of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in North Carolina, plan to hold a rally in Charlottesville on Saturday, 8 July. The stated purpose of their rally is to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park. Many university community members have come together to repudiate the racism and hate this group espouses, planning a variety of events at the university and in Charlottesville.

The University of Virginia Student Council has worked throughout the summer to plan activity and provide helpful information. They shared the following in an email sent to the University student community yesterday.


Dear University Community,

We hope you are finding ample opportunities to both relax and explore exciting opportunities this summer. As you may be aware, many students return to Grounds after the first major summer session to reconnect with friends in a time we affectionately call “Midsummers.” While this is a great opportunity for many of us to catch up, we would like to remind students to exercise caution while partaking in the weekend’s activities. If you are planning to attend, be sure to brush up on student safety resources provided on the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS) website and the Gordie Center website; drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in the July heat; and make a plan with friends to get home safely. Safe Ride will operate 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. starting both Friday and Saturday evenings.

We also write to address the plans of a North Carolina “splinter group” of the Ku Klux Klan to assemble in downtown Charlottesville tomorrow afternoon, July 8. The oldest hate group in the United States has intimidated, threatened, and inflicted violence in its most extreme forms upon a great many Americans, particularly targeting communities of color. Their impending presence in our community may have you feeling angry, confused, or fearful. We empathize with you, and are here to walk alongside you to protect the values of peace and inclusion that make UVA a safe place to learn and flourish. Members of this hate group will seek out and capitalize on any sign of engagement from you they can provoke. To give their hateful rhetoric a platform and “take the bait” will only serve to further their derisive message. They have a long history of twisting peaceful protest to suit their divisive message. Student Council firmly echoes the recommendation that President Sullivan made in her statement on June 27 “to avoid the rally and avoid confrontation on July 8.” If you do feel compelled to participate in counter-protest events, we urge you to seek out a larger Charlottesville-based group with an organized counter-protest plan that you will be able to join. If you experience verbal threats or physical assaults at any point in time, immediately contact a nearby police officer or call 911. The Dean on Call also is available to respond to student crisis situations 24/7. Your safety and well-being come first. To “affirm and uphold the values of equality on our Grounds,” as the Black Student Alliance has invited students to pledge, we have outlined a number of peaceful community events taking place tomorrow:

  1. The City of Charlottesville’s “Unity Day: Unity Day will begin with programming at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center at 10 a.m.; continue at IX Art Park for a community potluck beginning at 11:30 a.m.; and conclude with a free Unity Day Concert at the Sprint Pavilion on the downtown mall beginning at 2 p.m.
  2. Peaceful Counter Rallies: 2 to 5 p.m. at Jack Jouett Middle School led by Charlottesville NAACP.
  3. Multicultural Student Center: This space in Newcomb will be open for students to gather throughout the day.
  4. Mellow Mushroom Pizza at 1515: Come get a free slice starting at 4:30 p.m.

Our University maintains an undeniable duty to defend the values of equity and inclusion. By standing beside our Charlottesville neighbors in celebration of difference as our excellence and strength, we will send a collective message far more powerful than that of any group seeking to bring hate to our community. Should you be in Charlottesville this weekend, we hope you enjoy reconnecting with friends and look forward to seeing you on Grounds in August.


Sarah Kenny, President Student Council

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Beyond Heated Conversation….

During the past few days, articles have appeared in the local and national news about a torchlit protest and subsequent candlelit vigil in Charlottesville that took place over the course of this past weekend. It’s important to understand what has prompted these events. Over the course of the past several months, the Charlottesville City Council and city residents have been having a dialogue regarding a historic Confederate statue in the city and whether it should be removed. The council voted to remove the statue but there is now legal action preventing these actions from occurring for six months. The city’s decision has drawn both concern and support from a variety of groups and political figures and the events of this past weekend (both the protest and vigil) are outcomes of the decision.

What shouldn’t be lost in these events is that dialogue has been part of the process and should continue. The University is part of the broader Charlottesville community – our students are interns, employees, gym members, shoppers, patients etc. While we may not be able to prevent these types of incidents from occurring, as a community it is important to have open conversations about them and not turn a blind eye – but to have our eyes, hearts, and minds wide open. The physical and emotional safety of our students is paramount to the leadership of the Darden School. We agree that all have the right to express opinions but not instill fear. At Darden, we embrace the challenging discussions surrounding diversity, equality, and justice that face not only our city but our society because it is our mission to develop leaders who are prepared to lead responsibly through the most difficult issues confronting business and the world. When we disagree we must summon our better selves and reject previous paths that have been incendiary and divisive.

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Global Business and Culture Club Holds First ‘Global Week’

Darden’s Global Business and Culture Club (GBCC) hosted its first Global Week to celebrate the school’s cultural and ethnic diversity through a series of events. The week was jam-packed with events, including a kick-off spearheaded by Dean Melissa Thomas-Hunt, a global food festival, a speaker series throughout the week, and an Indian dance workshop to name a few. The club’s President, Roshini Rajan, sat down to talk about how Global Week came to fruition. She emphasized the importance of this event happening in the beginning of the semester to help International students feel welcomed at Darden. She felt this event was, “the perfect opportunity to highlight the global nature of the school!” The events held throughout the week were well received by students and faculty alike. One of the highlights of the week was the Global Food Festival (GFF). More than 150 participants representing over 25 countries had the opportunity to showcase their authentic ethnic cuisine, traditional costumes and cultural performance to nearly 500 attendants. A key goal throughout the week was to embrace the abundant diversity throughout Darden and highlight the ways in which diversity is paramount in a successful workplace and academic environment. During the week, GBCC held a speaker series entitled “Leveraging Diversity in the Global Marketplace” hosted by Judy Shen-Filerman from Dreambridge Partners. The session aimed to raise awareness about critical cross-cultural norms that affect business interactions through experiential dialogue. The events held throughout the week focused on preparing Darden students to step up as leaders and effectively lead in a global context. The events throughout the week provided international and domestic students with a platform to showcase their backgrounds. GBCC helped foster a welcoming environment for all students as they prepared for a successful semester. Global Week served as the impetus to GBCC’s yearlong goal of promoting and showcasing Darden’s diversity.

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Expanding Your Mind: J.D. Vance’s TED Talk “America’s Forgotten Working Class”

J.D. Vance grew up in a small, poor city in the Rust Belt of southern Ohio, where he had a front-row seat to many of the social ills plaguing America: a heroin epidemic, failing schools, families torn apart by divorce and sometimes violence. In a searching talk that will echo throughout the country’s working-class towns, the author details what the loss of the American Dream feels like and raises an important question that everyone from community leaders to policy makers needs to ask: How can we help kids from America’s forgotten places break free from hopelessness and live better lives?

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Expanding Your Mind: Rob Willer TED Talk “How to have better political conversations”

Robb Willer studies the forces that unite and divide us. As a social psychologist, he researches how moral values — typically a source of division — can also be used to bring people together. Willer shares compelling insights on how we might bridge the ideological divide and offers some intuitive advice on ways to be more persuasive when talking politics.

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“Islamophobia: A Threat to All” Presented by Dalia Mogahed

Darden Students, Dr. Marcus Martin, and Dean Melissa Thomas-Hunt with Dalia Mogahed this past Friday, January 27th

This past week, Darden had the honor to co-sponsor a talk held by Dalia Mogahed as part of this year’s MLK Community Celebration. Dalia Mogahed is Chairman and CEO of Mogahed Consulting, a Washington, D.C. based executive coaching and consulting firm specializing in Muslim societies and the Middle East. She is also the Director of Research at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU). Dalia was appointed to President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where she served on the Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation Task Force. She was invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations about U.S. engagement with Muslim communities, and she provided significant contributions to the Homeland Security Advisory Council’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group recommendations. She is also widely known for her TED Talk, “What it’s like to be Muslim in America” in which she asks viewers to fight negative perceptions of her faith in the media, and to choose empathy over prejudice.

What is islamophobia?

Islamophobia is a term for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam or Muslims. The term gained traction in the late nineties leading up to the September 11th attacks, and the sentiments have persisted since. Mogahed’s talk entitled, “Islamophobia: A Threat to All” illustrated how islamophobia opens the door to other forms of bigotry.  She explained the ways in which islamophobia, racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and other prejudices are all inextricably linked. In her talk, Mogahed deconstructed islamophobia in America specifically. Why is there so much islamophobia in America? She speculated that one of the biggest reasons is terrorism. She looked at American public opinion of Islam and data of terrorist attacks between 2001-2013. She reports that islamophobia spiked in the run up  to the Iraq War and before 2 election cycles, but not just as a function of  actual terrorist attacks. Mogahed suggested that Islamophobia is a thriving industry in the U.S. and our media is biased in the content it produces in an effort to increase fear within consumers. Mogahed analyzed that 80% of the media content surrounding Islam is negative in comparison to 73% pertaining to North Korea, a designated Enemy of the State.

Stating, “Fear makes us more accepting of authoritarianism, prejudice, and conformity, “ Mogahed put forth that Islamophobia in the West has added more fuel to the fire; however, it is important to note that islamophobia transcends Islam. In terms of ethnicity, Islam is the most diverse religion. There is no such thing as a “typical” Muslim. Muslims with strong religious identity are more likely to have a strong American identity; piety equates to patriotism. Additionally, Mosque attendance is linked to greater civic engagement. Fear should be replaced by looking at the vast ways in which Muslims contribute to society.

What To Do?

Mogahed wrapped up her talk with a list of five “to-do’s” for those in attendance. 1) Challenge bigotry. She noted the importance of preaching to those who are not in the choir. Many of the audience members were there on their own accord and she urged us to educate our friends (Facebook and real), colleagues, and peers who were not in the room about the far-reaching consequences of islamophobia. 2) Call out bias media coverage. Mogahed encouraged the audience to not only post about biases on social media, but to also reach out to journalists and editors who publish the content. 3) Recognize Muslim contributions to America. It is essential that we realize the positive impacts of Muslims in our environments. 4) Build coalitions for a stronger more pluralistic America. During a time in which is seems as though all oppressed groups are under attack, it is essential that coalitions are made, bridges are built, and gaps are closed. Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ Rights, and Women’s Rights all have a place in the fight against islamophobia, and the intersectionality of minority oppression can be used to create stronger resistance and change. And finally, 5) VOTE.

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University of Virginia Hosts Anita Hill as Keynote Speaker for 2017 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration

The University had the pleasure to host Professor Anita Hill as the keynote speaker for this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration at The Paramount Theater. Professor Hill became a national figure in 1991 when she testified against Clarence Thomas, who was nominated to succeed retiring Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall on the  Supreme Court. Professor Hill’s testimony gained national recognition, and she soon became the target of character attacks from the nation. Many claimed her accusations to be “completely unfounded” and that she was merely seeking attention. Thomas stated that he was being subjected to a “high-tech lynching for uppity blacks.” Ultimately, the United States Senate confirmed Thomas to the Supreme Court by a vote of 52-48, the narrowest margin since the 19th century. Despite the verdict, Professor Hill continued to tell her story, even though it sometimes fell upon deaf ears. During the most difficult time of her life, she was accused of “betraying her race” and being a delusional woman. Professor Hill’s experience is an embodiment the difficulties many women of color face. As a black woman, Professor Hill inhabits intersecting identities that equally shape the ways in which she interacts with the world. Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw contextualizes the various identities women of color possess, the oppressions that afflict each individual identity, and the ways in which those various oppressions come together to create an overarching “intersectional” identity. In the context of Professor Hill, she faced scrutiny not only as a woman who accused a man of sexual assault, but also as a black woman who “betrayed” her race by coming forward against a prominent black man.

The theme of this year’s MLK Community Celebration was “silence as betrayal,” and the decision to have Anita Hill as the keynote speaker could not have been more fitting. During her speech, Professor Hill expanded on the importance of using your voice. She stressed that even in the most seemingly difficult times, it is always better to speak up than remain silent. Although her case took place in the early 90’s, it still maintains relevancy to this day. She gave an antidote to the country’s current political climate, and the increasing importance of exercising your voice. Professor Hill remained hopeful in the future of advocacy and the country’s progress towards inclusion and acceptance. Currently, Professor Hill teaches Social Policy, Law, and Women’s Studies at Brandeis University. Anita Hill’s courage to stand up against the most powerful court in the country and brave the ensuing wrath of hate and ignorance reflect that of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She influenced many women to stand up against the injustices they face daily, and continues to do so through her advocacy. In particular, she awakened the country to the silence thrust upon women of color in instances of sexual violence. Anita Hill reminded the country why silence will always be an extension of betrayal to one’s self and to social justice.


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Sunday Jan 29th Darden Students and Faculty Marched for Muslim, Immigrant and International Student Rights

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Undergraduate School Hosts Diversity Town Hall

This past Friday, undergraduate students across the University came together to host a Diversity Town Hall organized by a fourth-year student, Atia. Students and administrators alike participated in various workshops held throughout the day in which they discussed important topics surrounding diversity at UVa. Topics included Course Curriculum, Addressing Implicit Biases, Faculty Diversity and Admissions, to name a few.

I had the pleasure to participate in the workshop on admissions, during which we tried to tackle the question, “How can UVa increase its outreach and set itself apart to attract and retain diverse talent?” In order to effectively answer this question, we first had to humble ourselves and break down the current undergraduate student demographic as it currently stands: ~13% Asian, ~6.5% Hispanic/Latino, ~6.5% Black/African American, 0.1% Native American, ~63% White. When the numbers were further analyzed, it was noted that yield rates take a heavy toll on the student demographics. With that said, what can the University do to increase attraction and retention of minority students? We are aware of the myth surrounding the “typical UVa student,” and in some cases it may hinder recruitment efforts. The admissions office has to consciously target students that would otherwise not apply to UVa for various reasons. Programs like the Outreach Student Admissions Committee (OSAC), run by Valerie Gregory, are setting the bar for aggressive prospective minority student recruitment. One participant suggested that UVa take on early outreach programs across the state, in an effort to excite students about the college process and plant the UVa seed as early as possible across a diverse population of students. College preparatory programs like Urban Prep, POSSE, and Prep for Prep should be at the top of the University’s radar.

The Diversity Town Hall was a step in the right direction for the Undergraduate school. The Dean of Students, Alan Groves, was present along with faculty and administrators from across the University, like Dr. Michael Mason from The Office of African-American Affairs. When thinking about diversity and recruitment, the University should consider what it can do to set itself apart from its counterparts and competitors. Going the extra mile to find students unfamiliar with the University of Virginia name may prove to be vastly rewarding in the long-run.

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Uniquely You: Finding Your Professional Calling

This Thanksgiving week, I would like to thank those who attended the career discovery panel and workshop entitled “Uniquely You: Finding Your Professional Calling” that I organized and hosted this past Wednesday, 16 November 2016. I would also like to thank those who supported financially, logistically, and with words of encouragement. This event was the manifestation of two desires: (1) to help my Darden classmates, many of whom have voiced uncertainty about their post-MBA career plans, identify and pursue a meaningful career beyond simply repaying school loans; and (2) to expose the Darden community to broader diversity, not only of gender and cultural background, but also of thought and experience.

As we reflect on this past U.S. presidential election and all the lessons we have learned about leveraging diversity in Leading Organizations in Q1, the insights that many attendees walked away with and later shared with me would not have been possible without the stories shared by our exceptional guests.  First, the courageous journey of a woman and refugee from the Liberian civil war who experienced the highs and lows of banking from Goldman Sachs to a front-row seat during the collapse of Bear Stearns.  Second, the decision of a woman to walk away from a six-figure “dream job” to take on an MBA coaching role with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), a non-profit diversity and professional development organization partnered with the top business schools and companies globally, while pursuing her passion for yoga and receiving a certification in mindfulness.  Finally, the path of a woman who overcame rejection after a seemingly successful internship at Google to cultivate a career in social media at NPR and become the voice of inspiration for female entrepreneurs through her podcast, Side Hustle Pro.

This Thanksgiving week, I hope we all can appreciate the diversity, in one form or another, that each of us brings to the Darden experience.

Wishing you all a warm and bountiful Thanksgiving!

Courtney Harris

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