Leadership at UVA

Adam Lawrence Dyer
3 min readMay 4, 2024
Police on UVA Grounds, May 4, 2024

I’m supposed to preach tomorrow about leadership…

I will preach tomorrow about leadership…

But my words will be colored by what I saw of leadership today.

I watched peaceful, albeit vocal, protesters seeking peace in Gaza, be pepper sprayed, fired on, and arrested for “unlawful assembly” at my public university, The University of Virginia. Literally in the shadow of the rotunda which mimics Thomas Jefferson’s own home, Monticello, a phalanx of police officers bullied and threatened unarmed people who are fed up with the systems of this country (which by extension include a public institution like UVA) enabling the senseless killing currently happening in the Middle East.

In this blog at this moment, I will not comment on Gaza or Israel. I have not been there, I have not seen the horror first hand. There are people much better versed in advocating for peace from that nightmare. I will however comment on being in a crowd of unarmed students, facing armed and armored state police wielding shields, rubber bullets, and noxious chemicals in my direction.

And I will offer my commentary through the lens of leadership. My impulse to be in that space today was not driven by my burning desire to support the protest (although I unquestionably do). It was driven by recognizing that people who I call “mine” were in the melee. Knowing that their danger was a possibility, I couldn’t not be there. Things at any protest can spiral quickly…as people who were in Charlottesville in 2017 know all too well. I am personally experienced enough in protests to know that if you don’t know the program of what has been organized, best to just be on hand and assist as needed, and if possible stay out of harms way. Likely there are people who have prepared to be in the direct path of what is coming; follow their lead. Having been part of protests, sit ins, die ins and a bunch of other things for LGBTQ rights and other actions, I know that this is a form of leadership…self leadership that allows me to provide what I can in ways that do not pull focus from the actual thing being protested. Yes, it feels good to yell “fuck you” in the face of police, but it does no one any good if it prompts them to open fire.

The other lens of leadership I will reflect on here is that of the University administration. I don’t understand how I’m actually supposed to feel as if this institution is in any way invested in who I am if one of the options in their (literal) arsenal is to allow scores of weapons to threaten me or anyone else who calls themselves “student” at the institution. Administrators, even administrators of state institutions should by all rights have some obligation to keep students safe. Understanding the recent history of police interactions with young people, allowing state police to show up like THIS feels deliberate and vicious…

This is not leadership. UVA administration failed miserably today.

My dissertation is starting to take shape, even at this early stage. My writing is one of the more important tools I have at my disposal. I will use it. Interestingly, the more I study, the more my dissertation is emerging to be about violence; histories and legacies of violence. Today was a good reminder that part of that study needs to include a description of how leadership can not only be violence in itself, but how the absence of leadership becomes violence when it is passed off by cowards as policy.

Shame on you UVA. I will not forget these images. I cannot forgive you this.


Originally published at https://spirituwellness.com on May 4, 2024.