Dear Darden Faculty, Staff and Students:
On Monday, July 10, the Darden community in Charlottesville convened to discuss the experience and impact of the July 8 rally in Charlottesville by the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). As many of you know, the event transpired fairly peacefully with 50 KKK members rallying, and over 1,000 Charlottesville area citizens present and voicing opposition to the racist organization. My goal in writing to you is to recap the Monday conversation and to provide an update on the plans for action moving forward. In particular, many community members had constructive ideas on what we could do in advance of the “Unite the Right” rally to be held August 12. The following links provide more information about that rally and its organizers. Portions of the content may be offensive to some readers and viewers:
Community Conversation Review
On July 10, we expected about 20 people to come together in the South Lounge, and 70-75 people attended. People from throughout the enterprise attended, bringing a diverse set of perspective to the discussion. The conversation centered around three questions: What was it like to be at the KKK rally? What reactions did you have as this emerged in our community? What can we at Darden do in advance of the August 12 rally?
A variety of people expressed perspectives in heartfelt and honest ways. Community members shared a numerous powerful stories, some drawn from experiences of being at the rally, others from past personal experiences. The goal of the first half hour was to tell our stories to one another and, as a community, we did so with grace and authenticity.
At about the halfway mark—and in tune with several people noting they were worried about what was coming on August 12—we began to brainstorm what we could do at Darden and a many ideas emerged. Since this was brainstorming, we did not have adequate time to discuss and gain any consensus. What we choose to do as a school remains to be decided and I will share more in my next update. But some of the ideas expressed included:
- Start of School Year Preparation:
- Provide orientation to our new students about the events, U.S. history, race, politics, free speech and the First Amendment;
- Help all students understand that if they attend the event, they must be properly prepared. All students should know University protocols if they face any threats and should know how to make the bets decisions in what could be tense moments;
- Engage Second Year student leadership to support the community;
- Darden Protest: Be present at the rally as a Darden community, make our presence known publicly;
- Learning Sessions: Convene informational conversations about the issues underlying the rally and the resistance to it. Discussions or learning sessions that highlight topics such as “what is the ‘alt-right?’” “Who is Richard Spencer and what is the UVA connection?”) Many people lack information about or context for the rally;
- Small group conversations throughout the year: Sustain energy and effort toward being more inclusive at Darden. One idea was to formalize small group conversation — over meals at Darden, at people’s homes, or other comfortable venues. People learning together and building relationships and bonds makes events like this less disruptive to the daily flow at Darden.
- Law Enforcement Information Session: Invite a conversation with law enforcement about how to function if community members want to attend the rally;
- Personal Preparation: Fortify ourselves personally in advance of the rally by talking not only with Darden colleagues, but with family, friends, and children, about what’s happening. Entering these conversations (especially with children) with questions and inquiry.
We are in the process of planning next steps. There will be an additional communication about next steps in the next two weeks. Please check the Darden Diversity Blog for information and resources. The ongoing objective of all of this is not to simply get through this rough patch. Rather, it is to use this as one of many opportunities to build skill and capacity for leveraging difference throughout the Darden School community and enterprise.