Following the white supremacist rallies of August 11-12, 2017, then-University President Teresa Sullivan created a Deans Working Group to assess the University’s response and to propose changes. This June, a committee created by this group, the Advisory Committee on the Future of the Historic Landscape at the University of Virginia, released a report examining UVA’s principles concerning physical spaces and historic symbols on Grounds.
“First and foremost, the Committee felt that Grounds should be a living and learning space where students have the opportunity to feel safe and celebrated without having to sacrifice notions of the ability to learn,” said Brendan Nigro (Col ’19), a history major and chair of the University Guides Service, who served on the nine-person committee along with former UVA President John T. Casteen III, history professor Gary Gallagher, and history and African-American studies professor Claudrena N. Harold and others.
The Committee’s report identifies principles around celebrating historic agents of change, such as Walter Ridley (Educ ’53), the first African-American graduate of the University, and the four women who filed suit in 1969 for fair admission to the previously all-male University. It also recommends contextualizing unofficial historically significant spaces, such as the Black Bus Stop, and examining the historical significance of existing symbols and whether they continue to uphold the University’s values and principles.
Finally, the report emphasized the importance of collaboration in examining these issues, recommending the creation of a permanent advisory committee on the future of historical landscape.