White Supremacist in the Library

University of Virginia bans organizer of last year's fatal Unite the Right rally from coming on campus after calls from students and professors to do so.

April 27, 2018
Jason Kessler

UPDATE: The University of Virginia has banned Jason Kessler from university property. Students had alleged Kessler bullied and harassed them online, according to a news release from the university. It also stated that Kessler misled police regarding the rally he organized last year that "threatened the health and safety of members of the university community."

Original story:

The white supremacist who led a torch-lit march at the University of Virginia as a part of a weekend of racist, far-right activities that turned deadly in Charlottesville last year has returned to the campus twice in the past two weeks, prompting questions as to why the university has not barred him.

While Jason Kessler purportedly did little except visit the institution’s law library to study for a civil case for which he is standing trial, just his presence triggered angst among students and professors.

The institution has since restricted use of the law library to just those with university identification -- at least until mid-May. But officials never told Kessler not to trespass on campus. University policy states that such a trespass warning could be issued if a person committed a crime or broke UVA’s own rules -- it is unclear, given Kessler’s role in last year’s events, whether he did.

In August, he organized the Unite the Right rally; a day earlier, rally participants crossed the UVA campus chanting “white lives matter” and “you will not replace us” by torchlight.

When Kessler, a Virginia alumnus, visited the School of Law library April 18, he attracted small groups of protesters. Asked for comment on Kessler’s appearance, university spokesman Anthony de Bruyn directed a reporter to a Daily Progress story.

Per the newspaper, Kessler made anti-Semitic remarks about multiple students while walking the halls of the library. Several people followed him around in protest.

The next day, officials put together a town hall, where law school leaders apologized. A summary of the town hall was posted online by local advocacy group Solidarity Cville.

Risa Goluboff, dean of the law school, broke down crying at the event. These were tears of pride for her students, who responded to a distressing situation with care for another and with constructive criticism, she said via email to Inside Higher Ed.

"My highest priority is for the safety and security of our school's students, faculty and staff," Goluboff wrote.

"Let me be clear," she said in another part of her email. "White supremacy is abhorrent and inimical to our values."

Students from multiple minority groups on campus had spoken up and said they felt Kessler had targeted them; they also expressed disappointment with the university’s response, according to Solidarity Cville.

But Kessler came back this week. He was back in the library Wednesday and holed up in an office at the invitation of a research librarian, the Daily Progress reported.

More protesters gathered, and some began arguing with police and administrators who came to supervise. More than an hour later, police arrested a Charlottesville man -- unrelated to the university -- who entered the room where Kessler was situated.

Kessler eventually left with a police escort.

Some on campus have advocated for Kessler to be banned from campus -- but thus far their efforts have been rejected. UVA is considering making much stricter its time, place and manner policy. Under the current policy, any outside party can congregate on campus with almost no limitations. University officials have proposed that people or organizations who are unaffiliated with the university only allowed to speak or pass out literature outdoors in certain areas -- and only in two-hour blocks during certain times on weekdays. They would also need to register with event planning staffers and the Office of the Dean of Students.


Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.


We have retired comments and introduced Letters to the Editor. Share your thoughts »

Today’s News from Inside Higher Ed

Inside Higher Ed’s Quick Takes

Back to Top