June 22, 2024

Message from President Hurley

To the UMW Community,

Across the nation, people were shocked and horrified by recent revelations in a Rolling Stone magazine article detailing an alleged 2012 gang rape in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia.  This article has heightened public awareness of the issues surrounding sexual assault and sexual misconduct at colleges and universities.  And, while the article describes a particularly egregious act, sexual assault most frequently takes place between acquaintances, and far too often goes unreported.  The University of Mary Washington will not tolerate this type of behavior.

I wrote to you recently concerning these issues.  In that message, I outlined some of the steps we are taking at UMW to foster a campus climate where sexual assault and sexual misconduct are not tolerated, that seeks to educate all members of the community, that supports and honors victims, and that ensures that appropriate law enforcement measures are taken when criminal behavior has occurred.  I am writing now to reiterate my commitment that the University will proactively address issues of sexual violence.

Much of the current national attention has focused on the role of Greek life organizations within university communities.  Certainly, incidents of sexual assault and misconduct are not in any way limited to Greek organizations; however, some institutions are placing restrictions on the activities of these organizations or even disbanding them.  At the same time, there have been recent calls to establish an institutionally-recognized Greek system at UMW, which does not have a tradition of such organizations.  While I recognize that these organizations can have many positive attributes to offer for some students, I believe that now is not the time for us to move forward on any proposal to formally establish a Greek system at Mary Washington.  Therefore, I am placing a moratorium, until further notice, on consideration of establishing such a system at UMW.  If and when the time should be right to revisit this issue, we will do so—but it will not be in the immediately foreseeable future.

When it comes to issues of sexual assault and misconduct, it is not sufficient for UMW simply to meet our legal requirements or to comply with the provisions of Title IX.  I am determined that we will strive to become an innovative leader among institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I believe we have the expertise to bring to bear in this endeavor, along with many fundamental attributes that—together with a sincere and firm commitment—will enable us ultimately to succeed.

I am pleased that Dr. Leah Cox, Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Inclusion and UMW’s Title IX Coordinator, is serving on the statewide task force appointed by Governor Terry McAuliffe to deal with matters of sexual misconduct and sexual assault.  Dr. Cox’s involvement ensures that UMW will have a strong voice at the table in recommending statewide action.

In my previous message, I also announced my intention to appoint a task force on sexual assault to focus greater attention on these matters and to create a strategic plan to move UMW forward in this area.  I am also pleased that Dr. Cox will be leading this task force for Mary Washington.  The other members that I am appointing to the task force are:

o   Chris Kilmartin, Professor of Psychology

o   Marjorie Och, Professor of Art and Art History

o   Courtney Clayton, Assistant Professor, College of Education

o   Nicole Phillips, Assistant Professor, College of Business

o   Dee Conway, Associate Professor, Athletics, Health and Physical Education

o   Betsy Lewis, Chair and Professor, Modern Foreign Languages

o   Mike Hall, Chief of Police

o   Ray Tuttle, Director of Judicial Affairs and Community Responsibility

o   Melissa Palguta, Staff Psychologist, Talley Counseling Center

o   Brittany Harper, Assistant Director of Residence Life

o   Terry Lockhart, Employee Relations Analysis, Human Resources

o   Richard Blair, Facilities Services

o   Grace Mann, UMW Student

o   Bailey Meeks, UMW Student

o   Sydney Bauman, UMW Student

This task force includes members from across the UMW community.  These individuals are deeply committed to making Mary Washington a better place and they bring critical expertise and experience to the work ahead.  I am charging this group with recommending to me a plan that will ensure that UMW will be resolute in addressing the issues and building a campus climate conducive to the needs of all of our students.

I urge all members of the UMW community to take a personal interest in this endeavor.  Please offer your ideas and suggestions to Dr. Cox and the members of the task force.  Together we can make Mary Washington a place that we can all be proud of and that can serve as an example for the Commonwealth.



Richard V. Hurley




  1. K. Ingebretsen says

    The first paragraph of President Hurley’s message is missing from this article. (But thanks for posting the rest of it!)