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UVA Faculty Senate calls for a probe of response to Gaza protest

State Police stand guard at the Rotunda following the arrest of 27 protesters
State Police stand guard at the Rotunda following the arrest of 27 protesters

Many members of the faculty at UVA were angered over the use of state police to end a peaceful protest, but few were prepared to attack the administration. Math professor Peter Abramenko said he was thankful President Jim Ryan had called the cops.

“Look at what happens in this country," he said. "Do you really want us to have a situation here like Columbia? Do you really want to have to cancel the graduation ceremonies for our graduating students?"

For his part, Ryan said he was unbelievably sorry for the way things unfolded, and he defended his decision not to meet with students during the protest.

Campus Police Chief Tim Longo said he had advised ending the protest, because he was afraid of what might happen if it was allowed to go on.

“When I got there Friday night the crowd had begun to swell. Social media was urging people, presumably from outside our university. 'Come bring large numbers, bring tents,' and people showed up that I know didn’t belong here.”

But architecture professor Jessica Sewell thought campus alerts issued by the university was what brought most people to the Rotunda.

“Every time an emergency alert came out, more students came out of the library to come join, so I think this idea that somehow students putting out information on (applause) really is not the issue.”

And Law School Professor Ann Coughlin urged the school to withdraw a no trespassing order issued against faculty members who had gone to the protest to support their students and been arrested.

"Thank goodness staff and graduate students came over and greeted their students and said, ‘We care about you.,’ only to find themselves to their horror being arrested with violence."

President Ryan explained his decision not to meet with students during the protest.

 "If I had gone at that point, the police would have to focus on my safety as well, and there was not indication the students wanted to engage with any administrator."

And he denied that he’d called in state police to protect his job.

"I’m not afraid to be fired. I would never do anything just to keep my job. I’m interested in doing what I think is in the best interests of UVA. If all of you decide I’m not the right leader, that’s your choice, and I don't want to sound flip, but I don't know anyone in their right mind who would want to be president of the university right now."

Faculty members called on the administration to conduct an independent investigation, they rejected a resolution that would have condemned the use of force on campus – in this case or in the future.

Updated: May 11, 2024 at 9:40 AM EDT
Editor's Note: The University of Virginia is a financial supporter of Radio IQ.
Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief
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