The University of Virginia Darden School of Business community came together on Monday, 14 August to discuss the racism, hatred and violence that took place after white supremacists descended on the city of Charlottesville the previous weekend — and to plot a path forward.
The community dialogue took place two days after the so-called Unite the Right rally resulted in a series of violent clashes that thrust Charlottesville and UVA into the national and international headlines.
The conversation included many Darden students who have just returned to the School after summer internships and members of the newest Class of 2019, many of whom are just getting to know Charlottesville.
Offering thoughts on the weekend, Dean Scott Beardsley declared he was “saddened, disgusted and concerned” by the rally, condemned the hatred, violence and vehicular terrorism, and said seeing world-wide coverage of the group of torch-bearing white supremacists that marched across UVA’s iconic Lawn in front of his home in Pavilion I was a distressing moment for his family.
Beardsley, who led the discussion alongside Darden Senior Associate Dean and Global Chief Diversity Officer Martin Davidson, said the event clashed with the School’s core values, which include fostering a supportive and diverse community that encourages its members to collaborate and excel. He also said Darden welcomed and valued individuals regardless of background.
“We are a global, diverse community that welcomes people from all walks of life, bound together by common values,” Beardsley said. “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.”
Beardsley said that the beauty of UVA’s UNESCO World Heritage site, the values and bedrock of democracy on which UVA is built, and the welcoming nature of the city of Charlottesville made it a target for outside groups looking to make headlines.
The dean, who also enumerated a number of steps the University and the Darden School were taking to keep students safe, urged the community to avoid the forces of divisiveness and to model inclusiveness in thought and action.
UVA Rector Frank Conner III and President Teresa Sullivan also addressed the ongoing events throughout the weekend, reiterating the University’s ethos of mutual respect and commitment to civil engagement. She stated that UVA stands in support of free speech, but that free speech is not the same as violence. Sullivan condemned the “abhorrent and intimidating behavior” of the white supremacist groups, which was intended to create fear and cause divisions in the community.
Having lived through the violence and intimidation, Beardsley said the Charlottesville, UVA and Darden communities all had an opportunity to lead and build a brighter future.
“This is our moment of truth,” Beardsley said. “This is our university and our business school. This is our house. Let’s be strong and let’s be Darden.”
Following the informal, off-the-record dialogue facilitated by Davidson, in which students, staff and faculty reflected on their experiences over the weekend and shared their personal views, Davidson said it was a “pivotal moment for us,” and reinforced that everyone has an opportunity to make a difference.
He encouraged attendees to create space for honest conversations among each other as the School and its members continue to grapple with the recent events.
Speaking after the community dialogue, Darden Student Association President Anisa Mechler (Class of 2018) said the event reflected the true spirit of the Darden community, and said she was encouraged by the resolve and enthusiasm for positive change demonstrated by a series of First Year speakers.
“The community dialogue is something I find unique to Darden, and is a big part of why I’m here,” said Mechler. “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.”
After the dialogue, in a sign of unity, hundreds of members of the Darden community came together for a photo on the front steps of Saunders Hall.
The photo was organized by Darden members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, a nonprofit organization that seeks to increase representation of minority groups in business schools and corporate management. In a message to the community, consortium member Sam Qiu (Class of 2019), said the photo would “show the world that we stand with resolve, unity and a commitment to diversity.”
Said Qiu: “As the world looks at Charlottesville, let us not allow this atrocious ideology define us as a community. Instead, let us present a unified message to the warm and diverse community that we are.”
About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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