On Monday, August 14th, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business community came together to discuss racism, hatred, and violence. The dialogue took place in response to the “Unite the Right” rally, which saw white supremacists descending on the city of Charlottesville in a series of violent clashes with counter-protesters. The goal was to help “plot a path forward” for the school, explained the press release.
Darden Speaks Out Against Violence & Encourages Diversity
Dean Scott Beardsley, alongside Darden Senior Associate Dean and Global Chief Diversity Officer Martin Davidson, led the conversation with hundreds of members of the Darden community in attendance, saying that the “rally” went against the school’s core values of fostering a supportive and diverse community. Other speakers included UVA Rector Frank Conner III and President Teresa Sullivan, who reiterated the university’s commitment to mutual respect, free speech, and condemnation of violence.
These sentiments echoed Dean Beardsley’s words from a press release over the weekend, in which the dean said: “While we respect free speech, the values and ideology of the so-called ‘alt-right’ and the images broadcast on media around the world are in complete opposition with Darden’s values, which include unwavering support of a collaborative, diverse community bound together by mutual respect. We will not bend our values. We will emerge from this even stronger as a community.”
The Monday event at Darden took that dialogue even further by involving returning and new students in the conversation. The discussion touched on the values and “bedrock of democracy” on which the University of Virginia was built and how the welcoming nature of Charlottesville made it the perfect target for white supremacist groups looking to make the headlines.
Beardsley and Davidson then focused on how welcoming the Darden community is, and how every individual is valued regardless of their background. They also touched on important topics such as what the university was doing to ensure students’ safety and urged students to focus on modeling inclusiveness in both their thoughts and actions.
“We are a global, diverse community that welcomes people from all walks of life, bound together by common values,” Beardsley told the audience. “Here, we seek to understand and respect all points of view and train global, responsible leaders who have to lead in this really complicated context we have in the world.”
The entire event was an informal, off-the-record dialogue that allowed students, staff, and faculty to reflect on their experiences and share their personal views. And at the end, attendees were encouraged to continue to have open conversations with each other.
The event concluded with a speech from Darden Student Association President Anisa Mechler (MBA ’18), who said, “The community dialogue is something I find unique to Darden and is a big part of why I’m here. We want to have a nuanced understanding of how people are feeling. We want to show we’re inclusive as a community. We want to come together to support each other and be there for each other in times like this and start to turn that into what we can do to make the world better and make Charlottesville better.”
And as a final strong statement of unity, hundreds of members of the Darden community came together, organized by members of the Consortium for Graduate Student in Management, to take a picture on the front steps of Saunders Hall.
Taking Back the Lawn
Two nights later on Wednesday, August 16th, thousands of University of Virginia students and Charlottesville residents came together in Nameless Field to retrace the steps that the white supremacist demonstrators had taken in a powerful statement against hate and bigotry.
The procession started at 9 p.m. and led marchers through the grounds and then down McCormick Road before ending on the Lawn. At the close, marchers participated in a moment of silence for Heather Heyer and state troopers H. Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, the three people who lost their lives during the protests over the weekend.
The march was planned by UVA students with support from the UVA administration. The crowd included UVA alumni, faculty, staff, and friends and was an important event meant to send a message that UVA was taking back the Lawn.
As University Rector Frank M. “Rusty” Conner said in a press release: “It is important to reclaim the Lawn from the evil that occurred here on Friday evening. The Lawn is a place of liberty, equality, freedom, and justice and we are going to restore that.”
To reassure UVA students in light of recent events, UVA President Teresa Sullivan has repeatedly addressed safety and security on campus. Just recently, the university released a news article with seven safety resources available to students, faculty, and staff. You can read the full article here.
UVA’s Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
It’s important to note that the University of Virginia’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and non-violence has been a prominent value long before the “Unite the Right” rally. Prior to the event, the school held a July 10th event to discuss a rally of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Charlottesville. It also ran an article on the Darden Diversity Blog preparing students for the coming August 12th rally. There is also a clearly articulated UVA Commitment to Diversity from the Office of the President:
“Diversity stands with ethics, integrity, and academic excellence, as a cornerstone of university culture. The university promotes an inclusive and welcoming environment that embraces the full spectrum of human attributes, perspectives, and disciplines. When people of different backgrounds come together, they exchange ideas, question assumptions (including their own), and broaden the horizons for us all. A University of Virginia community rich in diversity affords every member equal respect and provides a forum for understanding our differences as well as our commonalities.”
Darden also partners with a variety of diversity organizations that strive to increase the representation of minorities and women in business and MBA programs. Some of these programs include the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Graduate Horizons, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and more.