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Updated: U-Va. president urges McDonnell to change law in response to lacrosse killing

Anita Kumar

University of Virginia President John T. Casteen met with Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) today to ask him to change state law so college officials would be notified if students are arrested.

The meeting between the two leaders came after U-Va. lacrosse player George Huguely was charged in the death of fellow student Yeardley Love, 22, a player on U-Va.'s women's lacrosse team who was his former girlfriend.

"Our concern really is that we understand that violence of even this most terrible kind does occur even in the most peaceful communities and ... that information that should be in the hands of commonwealth's attorneys and police officers, are in their hands," he said.

Casteen said today that if the university had known that Huguely had been arrested in 2008 in connection with fighting a police officer, he would have been suspended, perhaps even expelled. In that case, Huguely pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, public swearing and public intoxication.

"Information of that kind would have lit our system up,'' he said. "Students who do those things and we know about it, find themselves under suspension immediately. We regularly require students to leave the university and undergo psychological treatment. In some cases, we don't readmit them."

McDonnell said he plans to speak to other university presidents in the coming weeks, and at a campus safety conference next month in Richmond. The soonest the General Assembly would be able to change the law would be next January unless McDonnell calls legislators back for a special session later this year.

Casteen said reports that the U-Va. lacrosse coach Dom Starsia knew that Huguely attacked a sleeping teammate in February 2009, but did not tell school officials, was "hearsay."

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"There is an internal process in making sure coaches confirm to rules,'' he said. "I have to say I hear a great deal of hearsay, but that I do not see evidence capable of supporting everything that has been described. What I do with that kind of information is turn it over to the director of athletics, and in appropriate cases, the information goes into the discipline system. My own personal experience of the coach and his program does not bear out a great deal of the hearsay that floats around.''

Update, 4:15 p.m.:
When he was asked if he still had confidence in Starsia, Casteen said: "Certainly to the extent that I have any information."

"The process by which the coach's activities are supervised and allegations of misconduct are addressed is a regular one that includes due process protections and I don't form opinions until the process runs."

Casteen and McDonnell met for lunch at the governor's mansion, along with McDonnell's chief of staff Martin Kent and U-Va. Vice President Leonard Sandridge.

"It brings to mind a larger issue in our culture that all people have as Virginians, as students, to see what's going on their community, do a better job of being their brother's keeper, looking out for their neighbor, finding a way to bring to their attention to the authorities what seems to be wrong, what seems to be out of line, excessive drinking, threats of violence, emails, any of these things," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said some law enforcement leaders have expressed some logistical concerns about how they would know the person they are arresting is a college student. "I think we have some challenges on how to do that,'' he said.

Full coverage of this story can be found here.

By Anita Kumar  |  May 11, 2010; 1:36 PM ET
Categories:  Anita Kumar , Robert F. McDonnell  | Tags: Bob McDonnell, University of Virginia  
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Comments

Notification of college authorities might have saved Yeardley Love, but not some other woman who broke up with Hugeley and had to deal with his power and control issues. The real law change that might have offered help would be a class of protective orders that assist those who do not cohabit, marry, or have a child in common with a violent person. Love was not eligible for any of the protective orders available in VA - even stalking ones. The potential to prevent violence would have been aided by more availability of orders of protection and the university knowing when a student is the subject of an order.

Posted by: lydandy | May 11, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Notification of college authorities might have saved Yeardley Love, but not some other woman who broke up with Hugeley and had to deal with his power and control issues. The real law change that might have offered help would be a class of protective orders that assist those who do not cohabit, marry, or have a child in common with a violent person. Love was not eligible for any of the protective orders available in VA - even stalking ones. The potential to prevent violence would have been aided by more availability of orders of protection and the university knowing when a student is the subject of an order.

Posted by: lydandy | May 11, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Public record - hire someone UVA

Posted by: rockettonu | May 11, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Casteen will have to completely change the culture of UVA. My daughter, a second year there, says the professors, deans coaches and university police cover up all sorts of infractions by students.

Posted by: fredmlaw | May 11, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Seems like a knee jerk reaction to me. The first time UVA tries to suspend a minority student due to a spring break arrest for assault, the ACLU will be there in --- uh, force. I'm not sure what university officials are going to do with this information, or how privacy advocates would see the problem. There is no guarantee the d-bag wouldn't have killed the girlfriend even if on suspension or had been kicked out.

Take a deep breath.

Posted by: Curmudgeon10 | May 11, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

How could his parents have raised such a self-entitled brat. They should be thrown in jail too since they supported this monster.

Posted by: TG10 | May 11, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Why does the law need to be changed? How hard would it be to do a public records search? It looks like Casteen wants to blame law enforcement when it seems pretty obvious that UVa doesn't actually expel students for getting drunk -- which is all Huguely was accused of. Sure, he got tasered, but if Casteen expelled every undergrad who got drunk and obnoxious, he'd have none left.

Posted by: diesel_skins_ | May 11, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

From the linked WaPo article: "U-Va. lacrosse Coach Dom Starsia quickly learned of the February 2009 incident and disciplined the two players, ... according to the former players, who spoke on condition of anonymity...."

Casteen (who announced long before this stuff hit the fan that he was retiring from U-Va) is correct: the allegations that Coach Starsia knew about the earlier incident are hearsay.

So what's the truth? One of his players shows up with facial bruises; other players know about it; and nobody tells the coach. Or the players who said the coach was told are telling the truth.

One way is bad for the team; the other way is bad for the coach. Either way, why is this team still playing?

Posted by: ad9inaz | May 11, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

The WP ran a story about 13 or 14 yrs ago about UVA athletes and their indiscretions. One of the athletes mentionned was from Northern Virginia, I believe it was Herndon. The athlete picked up a student who he thought had "dissed" him in the cafeteria and proceeded to throw him through a car's windshield. I don't remember the offender getting expelled.

Gotta wonder how many of UVA's athletes would have been admitted based on their high school academic records.

Posted by: almelbe | May 11, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

Part of the problem here is that colleges have very little control over students who live off campus. Maybe George Huguely V would have been suspended; that is, he wouldn't have been allowed on campus for a while. He'd have a choice: go home and amuse himself as best he could or remain in Charlottesville and amuse himself as best he could. His parents probably had no more control than anyone else.

Posted by: jlhare1 | May 11, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

For UVA to ask law enforcement to notify university officials of student crime shows that the era of the UVA Honor Code is over.

A sense of honor is clearly no longer the motivating factor it once was in the 18th century. No athlete is going to admit to any infraction if it means suspension from sports and probable expulsion. It's unclear how many coaches and officials at UVA turn a blind eye to student infractions in pursuit of the big money brought in from the sports teams.

Why is this men's team still playing? This system needs complete overhaul and investigation. Huguely was a product of this turning-a-blind-eye culture. How on earth could Huguely have been seen to threaten in a drunken rage to "get her back" the very night of Love's murder, with not one attempt on the part of his fellows to stop him or to alert authorities? What kind of honor is this?

This event has exposed the cracks -- the chasms -- in the UVA Honor Code culture. (Has the quest for the almighty dollar taken its place?)

With the national spotlight on UVA now, will it step up and do the right thing? Investigate and address its own culture? Ask the hard questions and make the changes needed? And get these men off the playing field, in the wake of loss of human life? It's the only honorable thing to do.

Posted by: JenniferA11 | May 11, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

For UVA to ask law enforcement to notify university officials of student crime shows that the era of the UVA Honor Code is over.

A sense of honor is clearly no longer the motivating factor it once was in the 18th century. No athlete is going to admit to any infraction if it means suspension from sports and probable expulsion. It's unclear how many coaches and officials at UVA turn a blind eye to student infractions in pursuit of the big money brought in from the sports teams.

Why is this men's team still playing? This system needs complete overhaul and investigation. Huguely was a product of this turning-a-blind-eye culture. How on earth could Huguely have been seen to threaten in a drunken rage to "get her back" the very night of Love's murder, with not one attempt on the part of his fellows to stop him or to alert authorities? What kind of honor is this?

This event has exposed the cracks -- the chasms -- in the UVA Honor Code culture. (Has the quest for the almighty dollar taken its place?)

With the national spotlight on UVA now, will it step up and do the right thing? Investigate and address its own culture? Ask the hard questions and make the changes needed? And get these men off the playing field, in the wake of loss of human life? It's the only honorable thing to do.

Posted by: JenniferA11 | May 11, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

jlhare1 - I agree. Even if they'd yanked his student status, he still would have been obsessed with the same girl, and could have walked around grounds, or Rugby Road, or wherever he pleased. He still would have been feted at the same parties and had the same friends. Most people would think he was even cooler for getting expelled, and what does someone like that care about his transcript? The University is just preparing for a lawsuit.

Posted by: fleeciewool | May 11, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

So in the future all students have to do is deny that they attend college. Or claim that the go to a college out of state.

Posted by: MKadyman | May 11, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

Public record - hire someone UVA

Posted by: rockettonu | May 11, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

-----------------------------------------

Well said. Casteen is making excuses for not having the foresight to get public records on students 18 and over. The cost is not prohibitive in today's automated processing (several vendors can do this in a heartbeat) and UVA is after all a multi-billion dollar organization with massive upward pricing ability.
.

Posted by: hz9604 | May 11, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

What exactly is the law that prevents universities from getting information about the public arrest records of adults?

Anita? Are you there? Or are you busy trying to find the next trivial item to bash Bob McDonnell over?

Posted by: hz9604 | May 11, 2010 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Hearsay? Starsia supposedly disciplined both players. An individual chose to enter another's bedroom and start a fight/beat up a sleeping person. Never reported to law enforcement. The bros /team knew. Fast forward and GH again enters a bedroom and gets physical. Seems to be a pattern of entering bedrooms and beating up people ONLY the second time we know there are permanent consequences---a woman is now dead.

Posted by: mydchome | May 12, 2010 7:13 AM | Report abuse

College isn't about education anymore. It's just about drinking, sports, and fraternities/sororities. Dumbing down of society and increase in violence is no coincidence.

Posted by: FiatBooks | May 12, 2010 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Why would someone make up a story about Huguely beating someone up in their sleep and getting disciplined for it -- it seems too odd and detailed to be a fabrication.

In any event, it seems easy enough for Casteen to ask Starsia about the disciplinary action against Huguely, so one doesn't really need to rely on 'hearsay', unless he doesn't want to know the answer.

Throwing out a generic 'hearsay' argument, while neither confirming nor denying the story seems a bit weak.

I suppose nothing is stopping UVA from checking criminal proceedings for evidence of their athletes' involvement. Maybe someone should think this through before implementing a system that is more work for law enforcement, when it should be the university's responsibility to protect their students from their athletes.

Posted by: postfan1 | May 12, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

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