Disappointed with Alumni Response

Submitted on Mar 21, 2015 by Joe Roth (Engr ’10)

After reading through all topics and replies regarding the Martese Johnson incident, I feel incredibly disheartened by the alumni feedback. As I read it, most people malign administrators for coming out against the ABC without waiting for a thorough investigation. I completely disagree with this consensus.

First, the facts. Martese Johnson attempted to enter Trinity Bar, was asked for ID, and was not permitted entry. There is no allegation that he used a fake ID. ABC agents approached Johnson, and he was arrested after suffering personal injury. He was charged with 2 misdemeanors: “profane swearing and/or public intoxication” and obstruction of justice without force. Interestingly, “profane swearing and/or public intoxication” is a single charge; Johnson passed a breathalyzer test and is never accused of being inebriated.

The key point of contention is, how did Johnson suffer his injuries? Johnson alleges that the ABC agents “slammed his head against the pavement”, while the agents claim that he somehow hurt himself during the arrest process.

With these facts alone, I think it’s reasonable for the administration, or anyone, to side with Johnson. He has no prior convictions, has high character (evidenced by his election to the Honor Committee), hasn’t been accused of anything worse than “profane swearing”, and ended up with a bloody face and stitches. ABC agents, on the other hand, have a history of using excessive force and acting irresponsibly. Worst case scenario for Johnson: he hurt himself while getting arrested for nonviolent belligerence. Worst case scenario for the ABC agents: they violently abused an innocent kid.

The Rolling Stone debacle has made our community overly sensitive to knee-jerk reactions (rightfully so), but it’s the administration’s job to protect our students. As our President, Sullivan has no obligation to the ABC, the state of Virginia, or society at large to entertain and/or promote all viewpoints equally. Because this is now a national news story, she doesn’t have the luxury of waiting for a thorough investigation before making comment. I think it’s far better for her to defend a member of our community than stay neutral. Personally, I think she should have come out even stronger against the ABC agents; her current comments too light-handed.

I think the past few months have highlighted big problems within the University’s top administrators, and I am extremely critical of Sullivan’s leadership. However in this case, I do not think that Sullivan and others have made an erroneous “rush to judgment”, nor do I believe that a “rush to judgment” is even improper when it’s in defense of our own student. That’s her job. I really hope I’m not the only one here who shares this view….

Comments (6):

  1. Steve Johnson on said:

    Teresa Sullivan needs to move on. Her hiring at the U was a mistake. Let’s hope our next(very soon) President will do better.

    • Ralph Noyes on said:

      It is not NEARLY that simple.

      We Alumni need to take a keen and persistent interest in the independent investigation that the Governor has ordered.

  2. Ralph Noyes on said:

    I have heard NO pretext of justification for the actions of the alcohol police in the first instance, much less the use of force.

    It is a GOOD thing that the Governor has ordered an investigation that will run independent of this police force, which is known for previous heavy-handed behavior in Charlottesville.

    Let the investigation run its course. Let us also learn not to trust the police blindly.

    There are elements among the police who are not fit to perform their jobs and who exhibit sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies. They need to be rooted out of ANY police force.

    “For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it may lead us …”

    Ralph Noyes, College ’72

  3. Tammy on said:

    “Profane swearing”? No, Mr. Johnson, from the instant this incident started, accused the ABC officers of racism in a loud and ugly way. Until we see something that justifies his behavior, and his rush to condemn these men as racists, Mr. Johnson most definitely does not get the benefit of the doubt form me. We need a thorough investigation but there is no reason whatsoever to take Mr. Johnson’s word over anyone else at this moment.

    • Shawn on said:

      It appears the “instant this incident started” was not captured on video. That said, the words he said occurred after his injury. If in fact he felt he had done nothing wrong, what was he supposed to think or feel as blood streamed down his face? Would that not justify his sentiments at least. What’s the appropriate response in those circumstances? The bar owner even said he was “polite and cordial” and that it was only moments after his brief interaction with him when this all occurred. I have no clue if these men are racists. That’s not for me to determine. They did seem a bit aggressive given the circumstances though. An ALLEGED fake ID? Aside from the fact that at this point it appears the ID wasn’t fake, It doesn’t seem like the situation merited such aggression given the bar owner’s account of Mr. Johnson’s demeanor just moments before this all occurred. Maybe I’m putting too much stock in the account of one man (bar owner), but if anyone could’ve testified to his alleged belligerence before this all occurred, it would’ve been him. Instead, he paints a significantly different picture of this man. And it would be irresponsible to ignore the recent history of the ABCs actions in Charlottesville. Facts are still pending though.

  4. James W. Bennett, Darden 1972 on said:

    I would think after the Travon Martin and Ferguson experience, the news media and the race industry would be a little hesitant about jumping in and yelling RACISM. Even an animal learns by trial and error. What I saw on television was the tail end of an event that had been going on for several minutes and, though there were several police officers trying to restrain him, the young man was still not handcuffed and continuing to resist with vigor. The profanity spewing from his mouth did no honor to UVA. I think the matter needs to be investigated and, if they are in the wrong, the police need to be disciplined. However, if the young man is determined to have instigated the incident then he needs to be severely disciplined since his behavior brought great dishonor to UVA.