Get the complete facts before ‘fanning the flames’ !!!

Submitted on Mar 20, 2015 by David Morthland (Law ’65)

Dear Ms. Sullivan,
After reading your letter below and the accusatory statements of Mr. Martin as you have suggested, It is clear that his staff and department is in as much or more need of investigation as anybody else involved for having completely and with the utmost bias, prejudged the incident before anybody has any clue of the complete and true facts about what actually may have occurred.

Equally or even more alarming and more disturbing is the fact that you, in your position of ‘Leadership’ ???, prematurely suggest and draw reference to this statement as if it is some sort of an accurate reliable, and truthful, factual account or source of what really did happen, [when it really contains essentially no facts at all about what did actually take place]. Go back and read your own words to us about the lack of any clarity of detail of what actually happened at this point in time. Neither you nor your Mr. Martin and company provide any real insight or facts of what really happened. Until those facts are fully public and available, correspondence like this from both you and Mr. Martin and company is inciteful and totally irresponsible and inappropriate.

David W. Morthland, Law, 1965.
Retired VP, Willamette Industries, Inc.

Comments (18):

  1. Bruce E. Hague on said:

    I agree with David Morthland’s letter.

  2. James St Clair on said:

    Great Comments, David. Students have, from time to time, had issues with authority. We had the great “undergrad car riots” in the 50’s. What is different with the students occasionally getting their heads “cracked’ back them for failure to comply, then now? Maybe it is the “professional” agitators on and off the Grounds and some students trying to excuse bad conduct? It was conventional wisdom not to have disputes with the “law” out in the street, but to resolve disputes in the court room. Maybe it is better to spend the Univ’s money teaching these lesson then to establish a separate department to treat some student differently than others?

  3. paula dunn tropello on said:

    I appreciate the transparency of the administration and communication on all of this and trust that the university does not feed into media hype but gets answers that will improve outcomes. Underage drinking exists and safety is what is important.

  4. Mark - Double Hoo on said:

    It was unfortunate that the young man was injured while being taken into custody. However, that can happen when resisting arrest. It is more unfortunate that the University has a double standard with regards to other groups of students. Several months ago, when a woman made false allegations about a group of students who were in a fraternity, the Univerity presumed those students guilty and punished all students in the fraternity system. After it turned out that she lied, the sanctions the University imposed were not lifted and Ms. Sullivan did not apologize for jumping the gun. There has been no discussion of having the female student brought up on honor charges for lying about the incident and harming the reputation of the fraternity members.

  5. Gerry A. Zimmerman BA- College '59 on said:

    I totally agree with Mr. Morthland’s letter, and having been a fraternity brother of Jim St. Clair and remembering our time together at UVA, he is also right on the money in his comments. It’s a shame the student was injured, but could that maybe have been prevented if he acted differently at the time this event occured? If a student is smart, he will not have an attitude and be confrontational with the authorities. As for Ms. Sullivan’s overreaction in this situation, her lack of leadership and catering to various interests rather than minding the business of serving as the president of Mr.Jefferson’s University should be disturbing to all who view the school as a very special place. She should review all the facts before jumping to a conclusion that the authorities were either racist or over-reacted in this incident.

  6. Duncan Hubbell on said:

    Everyone is responsible for their behaviors, students, law enforcement agencies, college administrators, etc. Responsible public statements and responses to news stories should be based on the investigation of the facts. Let’s set an appropriate example by being professional and reporting the facts once we have them.

  7. Jim Sherlock on said:

    Thanks David. Ms. Sullivan’s letter, as in the cases of previous highly publicized incidents, appears to go too far too soon. We all expect her make a statement of regret for the incident pursuant to her duties as President of the University, but also to recognize that other local and state officials are competent and devoted to their jobs as well. She wrote in her letter that “I contacted the Governor’s office to ask for an independent investigation of the incident.” How can that be read in any way other than she assumes that the Charlottesville Police, the University Police, the state ABC, the State Police and the Attorney General cannot be trusted to do their jobs without her intervention with the Governor? These are self-inflicted wounds, and she needs to back off and think about the consequences that her well meaning but ill-chosen words often have.

  8. Briordy Meyers Class of '99 on said:

    I also have to agree with the general sentiments here about not jumping to conclusions. I think everyone agrees that it was unfortunate the young man was hurt during his arrest. To the extent it comes out that improper use of force was indeed a fact, I support appropriate discipline for the arresting officer/ABC agent. To the extent it comes out that the additional force was because of the student’s race, I support appropriate discipline for the arresting officer/ABC agent. However, I was beyond ashamed to see such a large portion of the University community already holding vigil and protesting. Ironically–to assume that the student’s injuries were because of improper force and/or racism was embarassing. I try to remember being young and idealistic and when one is in that stage in life its easy to jump to conclusions. But I’ve aways had faith that our student body was more savvy and nuanced than that. That we were the type of community that distinguished itself for deliberate and critical thinking skills–not the type of community that would conflate recent news stories into assumption and ball that up into protest. I love UVA. I lived for a year in the Charlottesville area after graduation working as a reporter before law school and my brother was a bouncer at several of the bars on the corner and elsewhere in C’ville. So I know this for a fact: Many drunk idiot white guys have had their bodies scraped during arrest. We can’t forget this student committed an illegal act, was underage and drunk and resisted arrest. I am here going to embody what I’ve written above about being deliberate: I will not conclude that the student should be smeared or talked ill of. I don’t know enough about him or what actually happened prior to the video picking up when he was already on the ground. But I can tell you this–Vigils/protesting and making assumptions about racial motivations while ignoring the underlying fact that it was a drunk underage person trying to enter a bar illegally does way, way, way, way more damage to the University than what happened to this student. I’m certainly not happy he was hurt. But when a drunk young adult is resisting it’s not easy to arrest him in a delicate way. The upshot is we are dealing with rushes to judgment and a lack of nuanced and intelligent thinking in the UVA community response right now. I support all appropriate follow up and investigation, but that tone of immaturity palpable in the student body and larger community response is embarassing at this point in time.

  9. John Harms Class of 71 and 77 on said:

    Fully agree with Mr. Morthland’s letter. No matter his race or standing as a student at UVa, he broke the law, was drunk, and appears not to have been obeying the law officers with his yelling racist etc.. Would this same attention and focus be given if the student was Caucasian?

    • Joe SEAS 2010 on said:

      You say you agree with a letter condemning a rush to judgement, but then make your own, fact-starved allegations?

  10. Eugene A. Groshong, Jr. on said:

    Other considerations aside, ABC investigators should put their efforts into policing their licensees without trying to pressure customers into giving up their 5th amendment rights to testify against the licensees.

  11. Jake Stephenson on said:

    Will the young man (who serves on the honor committee) be expelled on the grounds of violating the honor code with a fake ID?

  12. Stephen Coyner Johnson on said:

    Martese was obviously in the wrong. Teresa Sullivan should move on. Too bad she didn’t a couple of years ago.

  13. Andrew Lane on said:

    I don’t know all the facts and don’t care. What I find appalling is the University’s reaction of attack, attack,attack. We are nowhere near Harvard of the South anymore.

  14. Beth Battaglia Emanuel, McIntire School of Commerce, Class of 1988 on said:

    Words can’t express how disappointed I am in the President and other administrators at UVA. The rush to judgement when the facts are not in is unbelievable. All any of us have seen is a tiny clip from a cell phone. It’s obvious President Sullivan is incapable of leading the University when real leadership skills are needed. She needs to go.

    • Keith Liskey Class of 1968 (Eng) on said:

      I would like to agree with every word Beth Battaglia Emanuel wrote. I could not express how I feel better or more concisely.

  15. John Walters Law School 1965 on said:

    I must agree with my classmate’s well-considered observations regarding this process. The propensity for college and university presidents to jump the gun and reach for premature conclusions (Duke, Oklahoma, Virginia twice, Berkeley) has become alarmingly farcical. Take a deep breath, don’t become intimidated by the voices of the extremists, and let the process play out. Please!

  16. Gerry Kruger on said:

    I have not seen the video or read extensively about this incident. My information simply comes from Daily Progress articles from Mar.19 and 20, and I find it interesting that those of you who want us to know the facts before jumping to conclusions have omitted two statements that were in these newspapers.
    MARCH 19:
    1. “Two law enforcement officers confronted Johnson after he was turned away at the door because he was underage, said Brennon O’Toole, a staff member at the Pub. One officer grabbed Johnson’s arm after he pulled out a cell phone and the other tackled him, O’Toole said.

    “(The officers) instigated the whole thing,” O’Toole said.

    MARCH 20:
    2. From Johnson’s lawyer, Daniel Watkins––”After Johnson presented a valid Illinois state ID issued in 2011, a pub employee asked him to recite his zip code. Johnson recited the zip code for his mother’s current Chicago home rather than the one on the ID, Watkins said. Watkins stressed that Johnson never presented a fake ID during the encounter.”

    Therefore, unless one of these gentlemen is lying, we have information that Johnson did not have a fake ID and he did not do anything physically that should cause the officers to tackle him except to take out a cell phone. We can infer that he most likely had been drinking because he was charged with being intoxicated in public.