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A Message from the Dean About the Tragic Events in Virginia  (August 2017)

A Place Called Home
As I choose these words to talk about the recent events at The University of Virginia -- the place where I was a graduate student, became a faculty member, and raised my children -- I realize my word choice begs further reflection. I shouldn't call home 'home' to begin with. Home is casa to me. Perhaps it was the Palladian architecture of the UVa Lawn that made me feel a casa when I lived in Pavilion VIII as the only international faculty and one of only two women residing in the academical village. Or perhaps it was my neighbors, who were raising children as I was on that unusual playground. Not that many 5-year-olds get instructed to be careful as they climb on the statue of Thomas Jefferson or told to not disturb the BOV meeting in the Rotunda. But all kids should have what my children had: a safe home; the feeling of being al sicuro, a casa.

Upon further reflection, I realize that the verb choice of “a place called home” bears all the sadness of the past tense. This is not because I moved my family to the other side of the country. Especially for those of us whose circumstances and professions require multiple relocations, home is a state of mind, a way to be in the world, and a right to safety and happiness. That right was violated last week. A place that I once called home was robbed and defaced, and there is no erasing that scar—one of many wounds in a complex national history steeped in democracy, yet marred by slavery and oppression. But sadness bears neither apathy nor cynicism. It rather yields a sober maturity. With this maturity comes the duty to call racism by its name and stand together in denouncing the evil that fueled the violent acts of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and members of the KKK in Charlottesville and at UVa on August 11 and 12, 2017.

Those acts have no place in our homes and universities, the places where, as my former neighbor and UVa Lawn Resident Professor Larry Sabato put it, “Civics education and active citizen engagement remain the best antidotes to racism and hate.”

These acts have no place anywhere in a civil society.

- Dean Cristina Della Coletta

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