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Members of the Alt-Right led a torch march thru the grounds of the University of Virginia Friday night in Charlottesville, Va. Photo/Andrew Shurtleff/The Daily Progress

The University of Virginia had insufficient policy protections and didn’t enforce existing laws when white supremacists marched through Grounds on Aug. 11, according to a report by the Dean’s Working Group.

In its first report, the group, which is chaired by Risa Goluboff, dean of UVa’s School of Law, pointed to gaps in university policy and made suggestions for improvements. The group also provided details of when the UVa Police Department was informed of the march.

The school and the UVa police could have done more, the group said, to gather information about and react to violence at the Aug. 11 torch-lit march to the Rotunda, which occurred on the eve of the Unite the Right rally in downtown Charlottesville.

“University officials’ frame of mind was shaped by a decades-long history of nonviolent pro-tests on Grounds that led them to approach the march with the assumption that it was consti-tutionally protected and should be accommodated with minimal police intrusion,” the report said. “On a number of levels — intelligence evaluation, policy backdrop and police response — this mindset led the university to make judgments that were misaligned to the context and left UPD insufficiently equipped to respond.”

The report lists breakdowns in three main areas:

» Incomplete intelligence: The school relied on official intelligence and did not effectively use information offered from social media and the website It’s Going Down. Police also relied too much on inaccurate information deliberately planted by organizers of the rally.

» Insufficient policy: UVa does not have a formal permitting process for common spaces on Grounds, which would help police know when and where demonstrations will occur. Addition-ally, police were not aware that the school’s open burn and open flame policy prohibits candles and tiki torches.

» Inadequate enforcement: The school responded according to protocols for nonviolent pro-tests and was not prepared for a “large, highly organized, torch-bearing group intent on intimi-dation.”

The working group suggested that the Academical Village, at the heart of Grounds, be classi-fied as a facility. That would mean visitors to the Lawn would not be allowed to carry weapons.

Currently, visitors aren’t allowed to possess, store or use weapons at campus facilities or at university events, but that rule doesn’t extend to the Lawn. University employees, staff and stu-dents already are prohibited from having weapons on Grounds.

The working group recommended strengthening UVa’s policy for open flames by making sure any approvals of open flames on Grounds are communicated to police, and that anyone vio-lating the policy can be charged with trespassing.

The working group also suggested permits for First Amendment activities, such as rallies and protests. The university currently lacks a system or policy governing time, place or manner reg-ulations for demonstrations in common spaces.

Other schools that have been lightning rods for protests, such as the University of Missouri and the University of Ohio, recently have updated their policies for demonstrations.

School officials have faced repeated criticism from students, faculty and community members about why a group of white nationalists was able to march through Grounds on the eve of the Unite the Right rally. The Dean’s Working Group clarified when university police, university officials and state police were informed of the march.

At 3:23 p.m., university police and officials learned of a possible march on Grounds that even-ing. At 7:50 p.m., officials were sent a link to the It’s Going Down website that said Unite the Right was planning a surprise rally with torches, and that information was shared with other local law enforcement. When contacted, Unite the Right gave misleading information about the event, and university police were not sure a large rally would occur on Grounds until almost 10 p.m., when the group arrived on the Lawn.

The report suggests that, although officials didn't want to attract even more attention to the area, the school should have weighed the fact that the Lawn is the symbolic center of the uni-versity, and should have sent an alert.

Few details were provided in initial messages to the police, according to the report, and uni-versity police still believed that the march would be small and quick, right up until the moment the tiki torches were lit.

“Going forward, the University of Virginia and higher education institutions across the nation must be prepared to respond to situations in which violence and intimidation accompany demonstrations and protests,” the report said. “It is incumbent upon the university to forge new policies and practices that will prevent it from again becoming a locus of intimidation and violence while recommitting to the principles of free speech at the core of its mission.”

The reports focused on the response of the administration and the police, but several faculty members also have asked to formally recognize students who heard about and protested the march.

Professor Walt Heinecke, who was at the Rotunda on Aug. 11, issued a statement commending and thanking students “for exemplary citizenship and actions.” According to Heinecke, he and more than 400 others have signed a statement that asks the university to take a stronger position against white supremacy and to support student activists.

A more comprehensive review of the school’s preparedness and response will be compiled by Margolis, Healy & Associates, an outside consultant. That process could take months, according to university officials.


The University of Virginia had insufficient policy protections and didn’t enforce existing laws when white supremacists marched through Grounds on Aug. 11, according to a report by the school’s Dean’s Working Group.

In its first report, the group, which is chaired by Dean of Law Risa Goluboff, pointed to gaps in university policy and made suggestions for improvement. The school and the University of Vir-ginia Police Department could have done more, it said, to gather information about the Unite the Right rally and march on Aug. 11 and 12 and to react when events became violent.

“University officials’ frame of mind was shaped by a decades-long history of non-violent pro-tests on Grounds that led them to approach the march with the assumption that it was consti-tutionally protected and should be accommodated with minimal police intrusion,” the report said. “On a number of levels—intelligence evaluation, policy backdrop, and police response—this mindset led the University to make judgments that were misaligned to the context and left UPD insufficiently equipped to respond.”

There were breakdowns in three main areas, according to the report:

• Incomplete intelligence: The school relied on official intelligence, did not effectively use information offered from alternative sources and relied too much on inaccurate information deliberately planted by organizers of the rally.

• Insufficient policy: The school does not have a formal permitting process for common spaces on Grounds and the school’s “Open Burn and Open Flame” policy did not explicitly au-thorize police enforcement.

• Inadequate enforcement: The school responded according to protocols for nonviolent protests and was not prepared for a “large, highly organized, torch-bearing group intent on in-timidation.”

The working group suggested that the Academical Village, at the heart of Grounds, be classi-fied as a facility. That would mean the university could prohibit carrying weapons in the Academical Village; university employees, students and visitors are not allowed to possess, store or use any weapon on school grounds or at school events.

The working group also recommended strengthening the school’s policy for open flames, and asking for permits for First Amendment activities, such as rallies and protests. The university currently lacks a system or policy governing time, place or manner regulations for demonstra-tions in common spaces. Other schools that have been lightning rods for protests, such as the University of Missouri and the University of Ohio have recently updated policies for demonstra-tions.

The group clarified when university police, university officials and state police were informed of the march. School officials have faced repeated criticism from students, faculty and commu-nity members about why a group of white nationalists with tiki torches was able to march through Grounds on the eve of the Unite the Right rally. That march ended at the Rotunda, where the group was met by a group of counter-protesters.

Few details were provided in initial messages to the police, according to the report, and uni-versity police still believed that the march would be small and quick right up until the moment the tiki torches were lit.

“Going forward, the University of Virginia and higher education institutions across the nation must be prepared to respond to situations in which violence and intimidation accompany demonstrations and protests,” the report said. “It is incumbent upon the University to forge new policies and practices that will prevent it from again becoming a locus of intimidation and vio-lence while recommitting to the principles of free speech at the core of its mission.”

A more comprehensive review of the school’s preparedness and response will be compiled by Margolis, Healy & Associates, an outside consultant.

Ruth Serven is a reporter for The Daily Progress. Contact her at (434) 978-7254, rserven@dailyprogress.com or @RuthServen on Twitter.

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