Dear Law School Community,

Like many of you, I have been trying to forge meaning out of the horrible and heartbreaking events that occurred in Charlottesville this past weekend.

My immediate and visceral reaction is revulsion. I am appalled at the attempts of white supremacists to instill fear and provoke violence in our community. Let me say with absolute clarity that bigotry is abhorrent, that acts of racial intimidation and violence are criminal, and that white supremacy is a doctrine of terror, meant to insult, frighten, injure, and kill. There could be no mistaking those messages this weekend, from Friday night’s march with torches on the Lawn to Saturday’s loss of life and beyond.

I am also profoundly sad. I grieve for those killed this weekend and for their families and friends. I mourn as well the vulnerability and alienation that so many of us feel today. I am confident that with the support of our community these feelings will give way in time to a renewed sense of security and belonging. 

As I seek to understand these events, the historian in me moves away from the present to contemplate both the past and the future. When the story of the long march of civil rights is told, this moment will—I hope, if I don’t quite predict—be seen as a late and ultimately futile response to the successes of the freedom struggles of the last fifty years. Those successes are far from complete. This weekend was a disturbing reminder that progress is all too often accompanied by reaction. In the words of Thurgood Marshall: “I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…. We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”

Our law school plays a crucial role in ensuring that better future. We do that in part through the values we live every day, values that are fundamentally opposed to hate, violence, and exclusion. At our core, we are committed to diversity, humanity, equality, and mutual respect. We invest in the belonging of every member of our community and support honest and empathetic exchange across our many differences. Now is the time to reaffirm our values, to work even harder to realize them fully within our own community, and to offer them up as a model to those beyond our Grounds.

It is not only our values but our mission that puts us at the center of the struggle to do better. We are in the business of educating and equipping the next generation of lawyers to promote justice, equality, and the rule of law. At my most optimistic, I believe that this weekend will prove galvanizing for our students, as they enter a profession committed to testing ideas through dialogue and persuasion, rather than violence and intimidation. Now more than ever, the mission of the Law School and the values we hold dear are critical to healing and bettering this city and this nation. 

In the short term, the safety of our students is of paramount importance, and we have policies and procedures in place to safeguard it. Equally important is our students’ emotional well-being. We will share more information soon about programming the Law School is planning to help students process what happened and to address their concerns.

I am touched and gratified, though not in the least surprised, by the myriad students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who have offered support and solidarity over the past few days. Each act of humanity and kindness heartened us this weekend, and I know that I can count on many more as we reckon with these events in the weeks and months to come.

As we begin the new semester, the world will be watching how we respond to the forces of intolerance in our midst. People near and far will note how we beat those forces back, and they will take comfort in and celebrate our resolve. For this is who we are, and this is what we do.

Risa L. Goluboff

Dean Goluboff's Aug. 12 message

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

Media Contact