The University of Virginia (UVA) is set to welcome an incoming class of students Friday, less than a week after a violent white-nationalist rally rocked Charlottesville, Virginia, where the campus is located.
New students move onto campus beginning Friday, August 18, and classes begin for undergraduates on Tuesday, August 22. In all, about 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students will move back to the area in upcoming weeks.
Former President of UVA Robert O’Neil called the violence that Charlottesville and the UVA community experienced “profoundly different” than anything he has seen over the course of his nearly 50 years in academia.
“I don’t recall anything at all comparable,” to the violence over the weekend, O’Neil, who served as UVA’s president from 1985-1990, told Business Insider.
Current UVA President Teresa Sullivan directed students seeking support to contact the university’s counseling and psychological services.
O’Neil, who also served as president of the University of Wisconsin, said he has received many “routine messages about the start of the school year” but that one sent by UVA Law school Dean Risa L. Goluboff to law school faculty stood out. Goluboff wrote:
“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.”
It was an “eloquent appeal for bringing the law school community back together,” O’Neil said.
White nationalists called a “Unite the Right” rally last Saturday in response to a plan to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a park in Charlottesville.
Apparent white supremacist James Fields rammed his car into a crowd of demonstrators, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Two Virginia State Police also died when their helicopter crashed as they were monitoring the protests.
UVA didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.