Dear Arts & Sciences Alumni and Friends,
I never imagined having to write a letter like this, much less only a few months after my arrival as the new dean of the College.
On Sunday, November 13, a professor from the College boarded a bus with eager students for an outing to see live theater and enjoy a meal together in Washington, D.C. It was just the sort of opportunity we crave for our students and among the experiences we champion as what is best about the University of Virginia. As you know, that trip ended in the deaths of students Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis, Jr., and D’Sean Perry, and the wounding of their classmates, Mike Hollins and Marlee Morgan, who are recovering.
There are no words to fully capture the heartbreak and grief we feel. Our thoughts remain with the families and friends who poured so much love and energy into these young people. Each of them was a dynamic, unique individual with great talent and possibility. Each cultivated meaningful relationships in classrooms, art studios, labs, residence halls and athletic fields. Our thoughts also go to the survivors — the bus driver, the other students and the professor — and to their families and loved ones who are called to respond and support them.
Because my words cannot do justice to those experiences, I want to share with you just a few of the extraordinary acts I observed on Grounds in the hours, days and weeks that followed. These actions are also connected with the series of events that began that night and will continue to reverberate through the University and beyond.
Our colleagues in the Carter Woodson Institute and the leadership of the Department of African American and African Studies issued a powerful message of solidarity while the Dean of the Office of African-American Affairs led and provided incredible support for students and colleagues. The College held space in the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium to allow students, faculty and staff a place for mourning, meditation and reflection. On their own, students organized a candlelight vigil to honor their classmates and to support loved ones.
The Department of Drama held an extraordinary service at the Arts Grounds, where the shootings occurred, to reclaim the space as a site of healing, learning, and art-making. University counselors and alumni in partnership with the Office of African-American Affairs offered their services in hundreds of meetings with students and staff, professors adjusted syllabi and assignments and responded with compassionate care to thousands of students. College staff worked to reschedule programming and provide comfort and grace. Among them, advisors and registrars worked tirelessly to prepare an alternative grading option for students. And, throughout this past month, University leadership provided round-the-clock efforts to secure Grounds, support students and respond to urgent needs for care as hundreds of alumni, friends, and family members traveled to Charlottesville to celebrate the lives of our students and provide condolence.
There were countless other acts of beauty in the midst of our pain and grief as students, professors, and University staff drew strength from each other.
In that spirit, I wish you all courage and grace now, through the holiday season and in the days and weeks to come. I thank you for the love and support you are bestowing on those in the UVA family who are suffering the most right now. It is truly humbling to be a new member of this unique University, and it is a true honor to serve this community.
Thank you for your prayers and good wishes and for sharing your own grief with us. Thank you also for the hugs that held us upright and that continue to provide nourishment and comfort. I hope we all emerge from this challenging period inspired by the resilience of UVA, by its strong community near and far from Grounds, and by the great and good work that lies ahead.
Christa Davis Acampora
Buckner W. Clay Professor of Philosophy and Dean
College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
University of Virginia