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Darden Dean Unambiguously Condemns Racism and Violence in Charlottesville

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The president of the United States may have been slow to decry the white supremacists who transformed the otherwise bucolic Charlottesville, VA, into a scene of violence over the weekend, but Dean Scott Beardsley of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business was quick and absolutely clear. “I am appalled, saddened, and sickened by the racism, hatred, bigotry, and violence that have taken place in the wake of the Unite the Right rally and condemn it unambiguously,” he said in a message sent to the Darden community on Saturday, the same day the events unfolded. “The terrible events of the past 24 hours in Charlottesville have shaken us all and are shocking in this place that we know, love, and work to build as members of this incredible community.”

A 32-year-old woman was killed and dozens others were injured when a speeding car driven by 20-year-old Ohioan James Alex Fields, Jr. slammed into a crowd of demonstrators gathered to oppose the white supremacists. Acquaintances report that Fields has expressed radical white supremacist views in the past. Two state police officers also died when the helicopter they were flying to monitor the protest scene crashed.

In his message, Beardsley sought in particular to allay concerns incoming first-year students might be having about the city they have just opted to call home for the next two years. “For those who are experiencing Charlottesville for the first time, including our arriving First Year students, please know that Charlottesville—and the University of Virginia—are actually wonderful places; most of the protestors from the Unite the Right group are from other places and many have unfortunately imported hooligan-like violence to our lovely town,” he said.

While underscoring Darden’s commitment to free speech, Beardsley noted that the values and ideology of the so-called “alt-right” are completely at odds with the school’s, which celebrate a diverse, collaborative community bound by mutual respect. “We will not bend our values. We will emerge from this even stronger as a community,” he said.

Beardsley himself lives on UVA’s Lawn, which meant torch-wielding protesters where quite literally on his doorstep. His brother and nephew, attempting to visit him, were turned away by police. “Like many of you, my family in Europe saw pictures of flames in front of our home on their national news, and the grim images of violence today,” he wrote. “But it will take a lot more than that to break the spirit of the Darden Community, and to stop us at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business from educating the next generation of responsible leaders the world—and the United States—need more than ever.”

This weekend’s events were not the only recent occasion in which Charlottesville was placed at the center of a controversy around race. In October 2015 incendiary comments made on social media by an adjunct professor who taught entrepreneurship at both Darden and UVA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) prompted official responses from the Darden School, the Darden Student Association, and Darden’s Black Business Student Forum, reinforcing their commitment to diversity. Lecturer Douglas Muir lambasted the Black Lives Matter movement on social media, comparing it to the Klu Klux Klan. Muir’s comments were in response to an upcoming event featuring Black Lives Matter Co-founder Alicia Garza speaking about the topics of white privilege, the struggle of black Americans, and the focus of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Then, as now, the Darden administration was quick to distance itself from racist views, to underscore that they are in no way a reflection of the school and its values, and that racism and intolerance have no place on the campus. In fact, the school proudly reported last year that its most recent incoming class represented its most diverse ever, with minority students making up 20 percent, a record.