Sines and Chia would talk about their experience later. They agreed that, while terrifying, neither had any regrets about being there. In a joint statement they released to the press, they summarized with a quotation frequently attributed to Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
One Administration Cowers; Another Springs into Action
On Saturday the 12th, President Trump—usually a bottomless reservoir of bile spewed freely at Kaepernicks or Khans—was dry-heaving at Klansmen. As the Trump administration’s limp statements failed to denounce neo-Nazis, our own law school administration took action. In interviews with the Law Weekly, Deans Faulk, Donovan, and Goluboff each said their first concern was the safety of their students in Charlottesville. “As the dean of the law school, my first priority has to be to the people who are, in a sense, under my care are safe,” said Dean Goluboff. “My first instincts were towards my own law school community, making sure that people who were fearful, or vulnerable, or new or in town and felt like targets—which they were in a collective sense, if not an individual sense—were as safe as they could be and felt supported.”
Senior Assistant Dean of Career Services Kevin Donovan was returning home from a callback training session with students when news broke that the protests had turned violent. “We . . . reached out to a few student groups to let them know that if people felt unsafe, they were welcome to come out to our house for as long as things were unstable” said Donovan, whose first concern was for students in physical danger.an offer he also extended to 2Ls gathered at the callback session. “My secondary concern was for students who experienced a loss of a sense of personal safety because of the events.\ Concern for OGI was really third.” Thankfully, OGI appeared to carry on successfully. Although Donovan offered to call firms on behalf of students who felt they couldn’t go through with callbacks, no students asked him to. “The students showed extraordinary resiliency and strength in being able to move forward and do what had to be done,” Donovan said.
Because the rally happened on the weekend after OGI and nearly two weeks before the start of 1L classes, many students and faculty were either out of town or leaving. The ones who remained, however, may have been the most vulnerable. On that Saturday, most of the LLM students—many of whom had never having been to the United States before—“arrived in the midst of hate and violence much of which is xenophobic in addition to being racist and intolerant,” said Goluboff. According to Assistant Dean of Admissions Cordel Faulk, there was also a contingent of incoming 1Ls in town who, without a network of friends yet, “were just kind of sitting in their apartments watching, and they didn’t know anybody so they didn’t have anyone to process this with.” Although both deans were out of town, Dean Faulk recalls getting a phone call from Dean Goluboff on Saturday and putting into action a plan to support some of the new 1Ls.
Dean Goluboff was particularly concerned for minority students. On the Saturday of the rally, Dean Goluboff took a phone call with the mother of an incoming woman of color. Her daughter had arrived in Charlottesville early as part of the Law School’s Community Fellows program only to find violence and white supremacy. “She said, ‘I’m inclined to just fly her home and have her go to a different law school. Why shouldn’t I do that?’” In talking to the Law Weekly, Goluboff paraphrased her reply, “I can’t guarantee her safety, I wish I could. And, as a mother, I understand why you might want to bring her back, but, I said, let me tell you why I think she chose us and who we are. Who we are today is just as much who we were yesterday, and maybe even more so.”
The administration’s response was not limited to comforting words, however. After her calls with the student’s mother and Dean Faulk, Dean Goluboff recruited 2L Toccara Nelson to pick up the new student. Within a half an hour the two law students were together hanging out. Nelson, hesitant to take credit for her own heroics, credited Dean Goluboff for her “amazing” leadership. “I’m very encouraged” she said. “They’re meeting with us to get our perspectives and that’s a start.”
One of those meetings happened Sunday after the rally. Dean Faulk returned to Charlottesville where he and Senior Director of Law Firm Recruiting Patrice Hayden immediately set to work reaching out to a larger group of 1Ls. “Dean Goluboff and I decided to do something to try to get them together as a group so they [could] at least talk to each other and ask us questions,” said Faulk in an interview last week. Under different circumstances, planning a large last-minute dinner might have been a challenge. “By the time I had the guest count back it was probably four o’clock in the afternoon and we were going to dinner at six-thirty.” Faulk said. “So, I called Burton’s, and I talked to one of the managers there and told them what we were trying to do. And they gave us their private room, no charge, on two hours’ notice. They were amazing.”
To plan the dinner, Faulk drew on his experience from past national moments including the discredited 2014 Rolling Stone article, and the violent arrest of Martese Johnson that happened just before the open house for the class of 2018. “Unfortunately, we’re reusing lessons the lessons that we’ve learned from those terrible incidents”,” Faulk said. During the admissions cycle, the admissions team fans out across the country to “bring admits together in small groups and let them ask any questions that they have regardless of how tough they are, and then answer with utter honesty,” Faulk said, “and then invite them to come to Charlottesville to look for themselves.”
The questions at Burton’s that Sunday were, by Faulk’s own description, “really tough.” Although Faulk was unwilling to repeat them to maintain the askers’ confidentiality, he went on record to say, “The thing that impressed me most was that the 1Ls had such mature questions about what had happened, what the university had done, what the university was going to do moving forward . . . these are 1Ls who just moved to town, had not had a day of classes, and they were asking questions you would want a lawyer to ask.”
Miles away, Dean Goluboff also drew on a pool of experience supplied by tragic incidents. “There’s a listserv for everything, and it’s not something you think about as a student, but there’s a listserv for law school deans,” Goluboff revealed. Her comments, reprinted here verbatim, are a reminder that UVa is not alone:
Law schools now have joint resources to share for responding to major civil unrest, and responding to stark racial inequalities, and violence. It wasn’t that the events were the same as ours but it’s both a sad thing and a gratifying thing that there are so many places that have had to respond to these kinds of things in recent years to know that we have been gathering these resources and they’re not going to waste, that we’re sharing them each other and helping each other cope and improve.
In the days following the rally, Dean Goluboff relied on her counterparts at other law schools for their support and ideas. She shared with them her Monday email to the law school community, and read the messages they were sending to their own students. “That was when I really felt like this was a national moment,” said Goluboff. “Most of the deans felt like they had to say something to their communities who were not even in school yet. You could imagine university presidents doing that, but the law school deans felt like this was something they had to address.” Goluboff hypothesized that their special interest stemmed from the event’s unique relationship to the law and to law schools as engines of social change.
As much as she relied on her peers at other schools, Dean Goluboff also relied on her administrators here. When she heard that Faulk and Hayden had taken a group of students to dinner, and that Donovan had opened his home, she was heartened. By her own account, she teared up when thanking them at the annual faculty luncheon. “I wrote in my email that we have to live our values of diversity and humanity and belonging,” Goluboff said, “and we did in the response to that moment. People really went above and beyond.”
The Deans Working Group
In her message to the Law School community and her interview with the Law Weekly, Dean Goluboff applauded her school’s response to the violence and hatred. Mere days after the rally, however, her focus broadened from praising the Law School’s response to evaluating the entire University’s. Around August 18, University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan appointed Goluboff to chair the Deans Working Group, a congregation of deans from each of the university’s schools and departments charged with evaluating and guiding the university’s response. The group’s composition was unique because, as Goluboff explained, university decision-making doesn’t usually involve the deans directly. With the working group, however, President Sullivan wanted information from sources closer to the students and faculty. The deans were also eager to open lines of communication between schools so they could better coordinate their own responses. “Just as I was fortunate to get resources from the deans of other law schools, [we wanted] to share resources from all the other schools at UVa,” said Goluboff. Sullivan charged the working group with scrutinizing the events on three levels that, broadly summarized, are (1) safety and security; (2) self-examination; and (3) academic mission.
“We spent the most time on safety and security,” Goluboff told the Law Weekly in an interview that took place several days after the working group released its first official report on the Friday protests. Pursuant to this directive, the working group coordinated with consulting firm Margolis Healy, the University Police Department (UPD), the Office of University Counsel and others to evaluate the risk to student safety on August 11, and generate a timeline of events.
The report, which posted on September 11, is limited in scope to the August 11 unannounced march through Main Grounds.1 Goluboff declined to discuss any of the fact-finding used to generate the timeline and report, but it is clear that university officials, including UPD officers, were interviewed for their recollections of the evening. Their subjective beliefs about how the rally was going to play out color the report’s modest proposals. For example, the report prefaces its recommendations with the assertion that “University officials’ frame of mind was shaped by a decades-long history of non-violent protests on Grounds that led them to approach the march with the assumption that it was constitutionally protected and should be accommodated with minimal police intrusion.” Statements like these appear to justify the UPD’s passive reaction to violent torch-bearing white supremacists. Furthermore, they fail to explain why the UPD allegedly remained passive even after their assumption proved false. Taken together, they reflect a cautious working group, eager to enact concrete change without pointing fingers.
Goluboff was willing to comment on one of the reports’ more startling findings. According to the reports, University Police had two independent opportunities to extinguish the white supremacist march long before any violence occurred. They failed to take either. The report states:
The University’s “Open Burn and Open Flame Operations at the University of Virginia” policy, prohibits open flame devices (which includes but is not limited to candles and tiki torches) on University property and facilities unless that use has been approved by the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) or the University of Virginia Medical Center Fire Protection Inspector’s Office, as appropriate, and is conducted in accordance with the Virginia State, County and City codes and regulations.
Obviously, no office in the university approved UTR’s use of torches on Grounds, but the UPD did not think to (and was not required to) check with the proper university officials, and university officials were not required to notify UPD of approvals. Goluboff backed up the report: “We’ve long had a policy that you have to apply for an approval, but those approvals were never communicated to the police so they were never in the business of enforcing those.” Therefore, the failure to use the university’s “Open Burn and Open Flame” policy to obstruct the UTR march might be seen as a mere lapse in communication. But the report leaves open the possibility that UPD knew about the policy but mistakenly believed the protestors had a permit for their torches.