Help Me Out. Let’s FOIA UVa about Trespass Warnings

Bacon passes around the tin cup

by James A. Bacon

Back in April 2018 Jason Kessler, the white nationalist organizer of the infamous Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, found himself the target of a series of lawsuits. He was spotted in the University of Virginia Law School library one day, minding his own business and reading up on the law. Someone recognized him, and word quickly spread. Traumatized by his presence, law school students chased him out of the room. The law school followed up by obtaining a Trespass Warning to bar him from setting foot in the library.

Later that same year, med school student Kieran Bhattacharya attended a panel discussion on the topic of microaggressions. In a question-and-answer exchange, he shocked many attendees by challenging the presenter’s premises. There unfolded a series of events, now the subject of litigation, that culminated with the issuance of a Trespass Warning forbidding him from entering the grounds.

As Ian Fleming’s character Auric Goldfinger memorably told James Bond in “The Man with the Golden Gun,” “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action.”

I have identified two instances in which enemies of the campus Left — one, the detestable Kessler and the other, Bhattacharya, a skeptic of social-justice pieties — have been banned from the university grounds. Could this be, in Goldfinger’s rendering, a coincidence? Or could it signify something running deeper in the UVa culture? Has the issuance of Trespass Warnings become a new tool — unappreciated by the public — for expelling undesirables and enforcing Leftist orthodoxy?

I do not know the answer, but I want to find out. I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for copies of all Trespass Warnings issued by the University of Virginia police department since, and including, calendar year 2017. UVa estimates that it will charge me $880 to locate the records and redact them as necessary.

I don’t get paid a dime to publish Bacon’s Rebellion. Reader contributions are applied first to paying for hosting, security, and IT services, and second, if there are sums left over, to promoting readership. If I am to dig deeper into the use and/or abuse of UVa’s No Trespass Warnings, I will need readers’ financial support. Therefore, for the first time ever, I am passing around the tin cup. If you share my concerns about the abuse of No Trespass Orders, please make a contribution by clicking on the yellow “Donate” button in the upper left-hand column.

Trespass Warning policy. By way of background, the official University of Virginia policy for issuing trespass warnings was created April 25, 2018 — six days after Kessler’s expulsion from the law school library. A remarkable coincidence? Hard to say.

The document describes the reason for the policy: “The University of Virginia Police Department is committed to providing a safe workplace and environment for its employees, students, patients, contractors, and visitors.”

A Trespass Warning may be issued by “Authorized University Officials,” states the policy. These officials include:

  • University police officers.
  • Medical Center Office of Patient Safety and Risk Management officials, with authority over patient and visitor access to the medical center.
  • Division of Student Affairs officials, with authority to issue warnings to a student reasonably believed to pose “a threat to themselves, to the health or safety of other members of the University, to University property, or to the educational process.”
  • Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights (EOCR) officials, authorized to issue an interim Trespass Warning to provide “remedial or protective measures” regarding sexual and gender-based harassment “and other forms of interpersonal violence, and to “prevent and address discrimination and harassment.”

Trespass Warnings may be issued to enforce “disciplinary outcomes or findings of responsibility for violation of the Student Standards of Conduct or University Policy.”

The University Police are empowered to enforce the trespass warnings. Violation of a Trespass Warning constitutes a Class 1 Misdemeanor and is grounds for arrest. Warnings remain in effect for four years unless removed by administrative action.

If a Trespass Warning has been issued, subjects have five calendar days to appeal. Appeals can be submitted in writing or by email to the Associate Vice President for Safety & Security (the university police chief). They must include “a complete and candid explanation for the conduct that precipitate[d] the warning.” The police chief “shall issue the decision upholding, modifying, or withdrawing the Trespass Warning within 21 calendar days” after receipt of the written appeal. (The current police chief, Tim Longo, was appointed, coincidentally enough, April 10, 2018, just a few days before the Kessler incident.)

For Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights-issued Trespass Warnings, states the policy, there is no appeal

Issues. Kessler was not threatening anyone at the Law School library with anything more noxious than his presence. Battacharya was accused of making threatening remarks in an online forum. There is no way at present for outsiders to tell if Kessler and Bhattacharya would have been considered threatening by the standards of ordinary citizens exercising common sense or if they were guilty of offending the tremulous sensibilities of delicate snowflakes who dominate the administrative machinery of UVa.

Here is how I plan to address the issue. First, I have requested copies of all Trespass Warnings to find out how frequently they are issued, by whom they are issued, and if there are patterns in the types of individuals the warnings are issued to. This is what the estimated $880 will cover.

Depending upon my findings, I can either drop the query or proceed to the second phase, in which I will request copies of all appeals filed against the Trespass Warnings and the outcomes of those appeals. This may make necessary a second appeal for funds.

Lastly, again depending upon my findings, I will endeavor to find out if UVa’s system for issuing and administering Trespass Warnings is unique to the university or if it is practiced widely in the higher-ed community.

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17 responses to “Help Me Out. Let’s FOIA UVa about Trespass Warnings”

  1. LarrytheG Avatar

    to be fair and clear – this was UVA’s response that actually was published in BR:

    ” Defendants admit a November 26, 2018 email was sent from the Medical School directing Plaintiff to undergo a psychological evaluation before returning to class but deny that the email was related to or triggered by Plaintiff’s speech at the panel discussion.

    Instead, it was triggered by events including but not limited to: a November 14, 2018 meeting between Plaintiff and (Dean) John Densmore at which Plaintiff’s behavior was erratic and troubling, to the point that Dean Densmore was sufficiently concerned about Plaintiff’s health and welfare that he accompanied him to the University’s counseling center; Plaintiff’s involuntary admission to the hospital thereafter; a later meeting between Dean Densmore and Plaintiff during which Plaintiff’s behavior was extremely erratic, aggressive, and concerning, to the point that Dean Densmore had to call the police; another involuntary hospitalization of Plaintiff; and the issuance of a restraining order against Plaintiff with respect to his girlfriend, who was also a Medical School student. ”

    Several people felt threatened by his behavior – not his words.

    1. WayneS Avatar

      Several people said they felt threatened by his behavior…

      1. Publius Avatar

        And I have had many, many people say they feel threatened by you and Larry!
        Cuz people, especially hate-filled leftists who hate having their religion questioned, couldn’t possibly make a report as revenge, could they?
        I mean revenge porn doesn’t exist! And false race hoaxes never happen, right? And, touching the third rail here, women never file false rape claims!

        Why don’t we let the legal process play out…I’m going with “Professionalism Concern Card” sounds….how shall I say it?…Stalinesque?

        Meanwhile, Larry, you will be one of the first “disappeared” along with all the other true believers whofilled the role of useful idiots (and I am using that in the historical sense). But if you guys don’t pay attention, you will fulfill Martin Niemoller’s tragic poem…

        They came for the Communists, and I didn’t object
        – For I wasn’t a Communist;
        They came for the Socialists, and I didn’t object
        – For I wasn’t a Socialist;
        They came for the labor leaders, and I didn’t object
        – For I wasn’t a labor leader;
        They came for the Jews, and I didn’t object
        – For I wasn’t a Jew;
        Then they came for me
        And there was no one left to object.

        Martin Niemoller, German Protestant Pastor, 1892-1984

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Obviously, you got away.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Then, of course, we have the Plaintiff’s filing in which he states that his girlfriend insisted that he seek psychiatric help or she would break up with him.

      I dunno ’bout Bacon, but I never put money on crazy…

  2. May I recommend reaching out

  3. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    BTW, I looked in that tin can. It’s empty. Bacon must’ve got out all by his lone.

  4. I am agnostic on the issue of whether Bhattacharya was drummed out of UVa medical school because of mental-illness issues or because of his challenge of orthodoxy… or perhaps a combination of the two. That’s why I think it would be helpful to find out more about the Trespass Warnings. It’s entirely possible that they are being used legitimately and everyone who gets issued with a warning deserves it. It’s also possible that the system has been twisted to serve ideological ends. We can flap our jaws all day long in speculation, but we won’t ever know until we get all the facts and perspectives.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Backpedal for brakes.
      “We can flap our jaws all day long in speculation, but we won’t ever know until we get all the facts and perspectives.”
      Such restraint wasn’t shown earlier.

  5. Howard Steinman Avatar
    Howard Steinman

    I initially thought Kieran B. was railroaded out of medical school for questioning some theories at a medical school conference. Now, after reading the University’s response I have serious doubts.

    I am a physician who has taught on the full-time faculty at two medical schools. Medical schools try their hardest to help and retain academically and psychologically troubled medical students and residents. They have considerable resources to tutor and psychologically/psychiatrically them.

    It is VERY unusual to expel, let alone ban a medical student or resident – and profoundly rare to involuntarily hospitalize one. IMO it is quite possible Kieran does have a level of physiological illness that fits the narrative the University is describing.

    There were a few members of my class with either significant academic or psychological issues that eventually graduated.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      If only all departments had the resources to provide psychological and psychiatric aid to students and staff. Too many incidents have made national news because universities were not prepared or so equipped.

  6. Stephen Haner Avatar
    Stephen Haner

    A key point keeps getting missed. This is a tactical approach to suppression that shows the fine hand of a lawyer, an obnoxious one but a lawyer. Was it the Assistant Attorney General who is responsible for legal advice to the school? The one appointed by and responsible to AG Herring? Should not the spotlight shift over there?

  7. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Setting a high cost is a common method used by agencies to discourage FOIA requests. $880 seems excessive. There should be a computer database with the information you are seeking.

    I would push back on the cost. Ask them to justify it. Here is what they can charge for:

    “FOIA allows the Office to charge for the actual costs of

    responding to FOIA requests. This would include items such as staff time spent searching for the requested records, copying costs or any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records. It cannot include general overhead costs.”

    A source of help is the Virginia Coalition for Open Government.

  8. Rafaelo Avatar

    Tried to contribute. Despite misgivings about a FOIA inquiry into potential wrongdoing without a lawyer involved. That ends up with at best, an answer. But words with no consequence. Lawyers know how to put together words with consequences. Nothing about Bacon’s Rebellion on Paypal’s list of charities. You need to get a 15 year old to show you how to Get Paid. Or Zyhanna Bryant.

    1. Rafaelo, Thanks for trying to contribute. Only a fraction of the number of people who have tried to do so have been able to. I have contacted PayPal to figure out what the problem is, but the company has been totally unresponsive so far.

      The good news is that the contributions that have gotten through (some coming by check in the mail) are sufficient to cover the FOIA costs. I expect there will be follow-up requests — and UVa demands for money. Save your funds for now. There is a good chance I will be passing around the tin cup again. Hopefully, PayPal will be working then!

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