Race attack: Alleged assault shakes UVA

Last fall it was students wearing blackface to a party, now this. In yet another race-related scandal at UVA, a black student council president hopeful was attacked behind the Lawn by an assailant who reportedly said, "No one wants a nigger to be president."

Students and officials are shocked and outraged by the attack, which came during a runoff election between second-year student Daisy Lundy, who is African America and Korean, and third-year student Ed Hallen.

"It really hit me after I head the news that racism is still alive at the university," says fourth-year Graham Clark, although he doesn't think that "one person's actions should be representative of the study body as a whole."

The attack occurred shortly before 2am February 26 in Poe Alley off the West side of the Lawn, according to Lundy, who says she was retrieving her cell phone from her car when a heavyset white male grabbed her by her hair and repeatedly slammed her head against the steering wheel.

Lundy fell to the ground, injuring her knee and ankle. She was treated and released at UVA hospital for minor injuries, including a mild concussion.

Less than 24 hours after the attack, UVA held a "Community Reflection and Response," during which university officials and local spiritual leaders addressed a packed house of nearly 700 students, faculty, and community members. The speakers expressed sadness and anger over the attack and the implications of the attack for the university community. Some called for action.

"Please don't give the perpetrators your support with silence," said the Reverend Alvin Edwards of Mount Zion Baptist Church.

Members of the university community expressed concern over yet another blow to the precarious state of race relations at the university. "It's frustrating that an action by one could so tear down a community," says McIntire School of Commerce Senior Associate Dean Ellen Whitener.

Both UVA President John Casteen and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Lampkin released statements asking the university community to unite against racism. Casteen said that the University would "continue our work to create an open and civil community. That work now takes on a new urgency to which we will respond with renewed resolve and vigor."

Lampkin issued a four page statement saying that the attack "draws anger and sadness. It should. Our institutional values do not condone physical violence, racism, stealth, intimidation, or terror."

Wednesday's incident was not the first sign of racial tension surrounding the student council election. Several days earlier, Lundy had filed a police report claiming that she had received threatening phone calls in her dorm room.

Some students expressed disbelief over the nature of the attack. "It's ridiculous that someone would resort to violence over a student council election," says fourth-year student Renee Howell.

The highly publicized incident is now being investigated by University Police as a hate crime, and on Friday, February 28, the FBI officially launched a civil-rights investigation. University Police Sergeant Michael Coleman said that the department could not comment on the open investigation.

The university offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, which was soon followed by another $1,000 from the Walter Ridley Scholarship Fund, which provides aid to African American students. The law school's Committee for Progress on Race, formed after the attack, pledged $750 to the reward fund, and then on Friday, the Council on African American Affairs, a Washington, D.C., think-tank whose president, Ted Small, is a graduate of UVA's School of Law, announced that it was offering a whopping $20,000 reward.

The university's runoff polls were shut down after the attack and will reopen next week following Spring Break. If elected, Lundy will be the university's first black female student council president.

The assailant is reported to be a heavy-set white male between 18 and 20 wearing a dark coat, light pants, and a dark hat. Anyone with information on the attack is asked to call 924-7166.

 

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