UVA President James E. Ryan: What we expect this weekend

university of virginia uvaAs we continue to prepare for this weekend’s anniversary, I plan to keep sharing any important information as it comes up.

Yesterday afternoon, the city, county, and state declared a proactive local state of emergency in Charlottesville so resources will be available if we need them. At the same time, UVA is putting safety measures in place that will limit access to certain areas on Grounds and prohibit certain items from being carried this weekend that could be used to hurt others. You can find more informationhere.

These decisions were made, in part, out of concern that a sizable number of people will be coming to Charlottesville this weekend with all sorts of agendas. While some of them come in peace, others have expressed an intent on social media to do harm.

As I said earlier this week, our top priority is keeping people safe, but it is important to recognize that we do so with an eye toward enabling people to gather safely to mark the anniversary and to engage in reflection, conversations, demonstrations, and in protest. Peaceful demonstrations and protests are obviously acceptable and indeed vital at times. As a university, we are and always will be a place for ideas and debate, including self-examination and criticism. I also understand and admire the desire to stand as allies with those who were targeted last year and to stand up for social and racial justice.

But we must do our best to ensure that peaceful gatherings are not interrupted by those intending to harm others or destroy property. We cannot allow our community members to be vulnerable to that threat. That is why there is an increased law enforcement presence here and why we are taking additional security measures.

I sincerely hope that this weekend will be a time for reflection and productive conversations. I am both a fairly long-time member of this community but also quite new here. My family and I lived here for 15 years, and I served on the faculty during that time. But I have been away for the last 5 years, and am just beginning my tenure. I do so with a fierce commitment to strengthening our relationship with our surrounding communities and to continuing the work to examine not just our past but our present when it comes to issues related to race, diversity, inclusion, and the inequalities that persist in our community.  That is a large part of what drew me back to the university.

I also recognize that this anniversary is fraught, for all sorts of reasons. It will test us as a community, but I hope and believe we will rise to the challenge.

I hope that the precautions we are taking end up being unnecessary. But please know that we are taking them now precisely with the hope that our community can gather and engage in important expressive activities to mark this anniversary.

As always, I will keep sharing important updates as they come up, and I encourage anyone who is interested to visit UVA Today for more information.

James E. Ryan is the president of the University of Virginia.

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