UVA Alumni for Change Hold Rally and Deliver Letter to UVA President

Posted: Updated: Apr 25, 2015 09:52 PM
UVA Alumni for Change Rally at President Sullivan's residence. UVA Alumni for Change Rally at President Sullivan's residence.
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Hundreds of people marched Saturday from the UVA Rotunda to the President's house on Carr's Hill.

“We're just marching in solidarity with the students here on grounds in support of Martese,” says Pat Collier, UVA Alumni for Change member.

Third year student Martese Johnson marched with the crowd. His bloody arrest by Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents made national headlines last month.

“He's just an incredible young man and so seeing him there in that video, there on the ground, it was just really heart wrenching and I knew in that moment that I had to do something,” says Collier.

Organizers of the newly-formed group "UVA Alumni for Change" say they want a noticeable shift at the university. Their message is that the university needs to be more welcoming of African Americans.

The group UVA Alumni for Change organized the rally to demand the university make changes. At the rally Saturday, they suggested just what those changes should be by way of hand delivering a letter to University President Teresa Sullivan.

It asks UVA to triple the number of enrolled African American students by 2020, and increase the number of black tenured faculty to 15 percent.

“And that there are resources around for the support of these students so they can feel at home here, just like everyone else,” says Pat Collier of UVA Alumni.

Mike Dudley, a class of 81 graduate, was back at the university for UVA's Black Alumni Weekend. “I care about what goes on here and I care about these young men,” says Dudley.

Dudley says he was outraged by what happened to Johnson. He joined UVA Alumni for Change to help Johnson's fight for justice.

“We're raising money again to help with any legal defense he needs for his criminal defense as well as civil support he needs to have. We're just here to show our support for him,” says Dudley.

Martese Johnson spoke briefly at the rally, but declined an interview.

Johnson says Saturday's march won't accomplish the changes they want, but asked everyone to keep trying in the future.

UVA Alumni for Change Letter to President Sullivan:

Dear President Sullivan:

This weekend marks the 30th anniversary of Black Alumni Weekend; a tradition begun to address the herculean task of engendering goodwill between the University and the thousands of Black alumni whom have walked the lawn since the first meaningful numbers of our population began to be admitted as students in the early 1970s. Over this span many of us have raised our voices, protested, donated, and partnered with mutual stakeholders to push the University, our University, to confront its history while remaining deeply vested in its future. Our deep and abiding love for the University of Virginia impels us to push toward the lofty principals articulated by its progenitor. Each of us did this work and engaged in these arduous efforts in hopes that even in some incremental, though ever increasing way, an ever more robust generations of Black students would finally be able to experience the Academical Village in all of its affirming promise and glory.

Unfortunately, as the deplorable, horrific attack, and prosecution of Martese Johnson has demonstrated, this hope remains unfulfilled as yet another dream deferred.

Yet it need not be so.

Today, we call upon you as President of this prestigious University to do what your predecessors have not chosen to do: join us and say ‘no further, no longer'. Commit to doing all that can be done to ensure that our wait for access and justice goes no further than this moment. Commit to doing all that can be done to ensure that we no longer have to wait to transform the University into an ecosystem that gives no fertile ground to racism. Commit to dismantle the institutional indifference and culture of ignorance and intolerance that have permitted the continual denial of Black excellence. From offensive “articles” in the Cavalier Daily to ongoing critiques of venerable resource centers such as the Office of African American Affairs, more must be done to directly confront the environment that allows injustice to flourish.

We recognize that you might well find these commitments easy to embrace rhetorically, but far more difficult to operationalize. To that end, we have the following recommendations that, if implemented, will begin to meaningfully advance us down the path of the concrete expression and realization of these commitments:

1) Ensure that no honor or judicial charges are advanced against Martese Johnson.

2) Direct the Office of Admissions to set and operationalize a goal of tripling the number of enrolled Black students by 2020.

3) Require all students to take a “History of the University” course that directly addresses the role of enslaved labor.

4) Grow and fully fund the African American Studies department.

5) Address issues of implicit bias and cultural awareness for all faculty.

6) Set and operationalize a goal to increase the number of Black tenured faculty to at least 15% by 2020.

7) Grow and fully fund the Office of African American Affairs, the Carter G. Woodson Institute, and the Luther P. Jackson House.

8) Finally and fully implement ALL of the recommendations outlined in “Audacious Faith” and its follow up reports/evaluations.

9) Establish a President's Advisory Council for Black Alumni (which includes the senior University Administrators) who can serve as a ‘kitchen cabinet' to your office to provide advice and guidance in the strategic planning and implementation of the above and other such recommendations.

The time has come for us to move beyond hoping and wishing this will all resolve itself. It is time for “Audacious Action”. We fully realize that this has been a difficult year for the University. And as concerned Alumni we stand ready and willing to assist wherever needed. We ask you to commit to this course and join us in stating and acting unequivocally that time will go no further. We can no longer to ACT!

In unity,

UVA Alumni For Change

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