Dear UVA Families:
In recent weeks, events have occurred on Grounds that have been cause for concern. Below is an email your student received this morning from EVP and Chief Operating Officer J.J. Davis and Chief of Police Tim Longo. Our hope is that this message addresses many questions that students have had regarding safety and support. If your student has questions about these incidents, please refer them to this message.
As always, the safety of our students is a top priority of the University. We hope the information provided today is helpful. If you or your student has questions about safety or support resources, more information is available on our Student Safety and Support webpage.
Robyn S. Hadley
To the University Community:
Recently, we have heard a fair amount of concern about three incidents that have taken place on Grounds this year. The nature and timing of these events have caused some to speculate that they are linked or part of a larger pattern of racially motivated crimes. Accordingly, President Ryan has asked us to provide this community with an update and to make as clear as we can: These incidents are not linked, and two of the three were not racially motivated at all. The one that certainly appears to be — namely the noose around the Homer statue — remains under active investigation, and below we will share an update on that investigation.
Last month, as you may have read, rocks were thrown through the window of a building on Dawson’s Row that houses the Office for African American Affairs. University Police immediately notified the community about that event and undertook an investigation, which determined that the perpetrator was a student who was known to OAAA officials and who was motivated by factors unrelated to racial bias. We are unable to divulge the student’s identity due to federal privacy laws, but the individual in question has been charged with this act of vandalism.
Last weekend, several community members reported that a flag bearing a symbol that looked either like a crown or an owl, depending on how the flag is held, was left on the grass near the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers. That same person also left a check for $888.88 that was ultimately delivered, as a surprise, to a student’s room, and the check had the same symbol that was on the flag. As rumors swirled around this bizarre set of events, some speculated that the flag represented a white supremacist organization and that the check was somehow a targeted act of intimidation against a student of color.
University Police and the FBI investigated these claims and identified the individual, who is an alumnus of the University, who was responsible for leaving the flag and the check. After speaking with him, we discovered that he is part of an organization focusing on micro-philanthropy that occasionally engages in random acts of kindness to current students. The letters “WIP” that appear in the photograph of a similar flag on his Facebook page, which has been shared among students, stand for Wise Investment Philanthropy, which is why the marking on the flag is meant to represent an owl. The decision to offer a check for $888.88 is a part of this organization’s desire to offer small acts of philanthropic activity and the site near the MEL was chosen as a sign of respect.
To be clear: the first of those two events, the vandalism at OAAA, is obviously regrettable but not racially motivated. The second of those events is unusual, but neither a crime nor racially motivated. And neither of these two is connected to each other or to the noose that was found around the Homer statue. Which brings us to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the University’s investigation of the incident at the Homer statue, which has been determined to be a hate crime.
As part of that investigation, the University Police have released several photos depicting the person who they believe placed the noose on the statue around 11:15 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7. In addition, UPD is releasing a photograph of a vehicle that they believe is linked to the suspect and was being driven by that person on the evening of this incident. The photos are available on the UPD Facebook page.
In order to encourage those who may know this person to come forward, the University Police Department is offering a reward of up to $2,000 to anyone who offers information that will help investigators solve this crime. If you or someone you know has relevant information, please call 434-924-7166.
There has been some confusion in our community about this event and some frustration that more information has not yet been forthcoming, including about documents recovered at or near the scene.
We have been reluctant to say much about these documents, not out of a desire to withhold information (much less to withhold threatening information), but because releasing information about what was found might compromise the integrity of the investigation. Because of the anxiety around Grounds, however, we want to let all of you know that one document found at the scene was a flyer that advertised a student-led social event that had already transpired and was completely unrelated to this incident. Another document recovered was marked with the phrase “TICK TOCK.”
Investigators are still seeking to determine the relevance and relationship between that document and the placement of the noose, as well as the potential significance of the phrase on the document. Because the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to reveal anything more at this time, except to say, again, that nothing recovered at the scene conveys a specific threat to public safety.
We are grateful to the FBI and to UPD for their hard work as they carry out this investigation, and we will share more as soon as we possibly can.
While there is no current, visible trend of hate crimes or racially motivated acts here at UVA, that does not mean that members of our community never experience intolerance and discrimination here or anywhere else because of their race. We have placed, and will continue to place, great emphasis on making UVA more diverse, more equitable, and more inclusive to people from every walk of life – and we remain committed to that important work. More information about those efforts can be found on the University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website.
In closing, we’d like to thank the members of this community who have voiced concern about these issues. President Ryan and senior University officials have been actively engaged with each of these events and have spoken with many students, faculty and alumni about our efforts to get to the bottom of these matters. Additional meetings are planned for the days and weeks ahead as we continue our work to solve the crime at the Homer statue.
Jennifer J.J. Wagner Davis
Executive Vice President - Chief Operating Officer
Associate Vice President for Safety and Security
Chief of Police
Vice President Robyn S. Hadley, Student Affairs