(note: Updated mid-afternoon on 2/12 with a statement from the Chancellor, the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving.)
The Tennessean reports that vandals have recently targeted the home of Ambassador Reuben Brigety II, who serves as Vice Chancellor of Sewanee – University of the South.
During a Sunday worship service at All Saints’ Chapel, Brigety detailed the nighttime incidents that happened outside Chen Hall, which is where he resides with his family.
“They have trashed our lawn with beer cans and liquor bottles. They have left threatening messages on pilfered signs near our back door and they have taken measures to ensure that my family and I saw the indecent insults that they left behind,” Brigety said in a video of his Sunday address.
… Brigety said during his Sunday address that he kept the indignities quiet for months until a tequila bottle was smashed near their front door on the final day of classes last semester. It happened after he led the university community in mourning the death of a sophomore Ava Hingson, who died last year in a horseback riding accident.
… Brigety said he has forgiven the vandals just as Jesus teaches. But he also called for reform and said he will not stand for anyone being denigrated or intimidated.
The Sewanee Mountain Messenger adds that the community’s reaction is supportive of Brigety.
Community members attended the worship service both in person and viewed it via livestream. Afterwards, a crowd of perhaps as many as 150 people gathered at Chen Hall, lining the sidewalk and walkways in a triangle around the snowy front yard. “It felt to me like we were forming a kind of human shield,” said Sewanee resident Jim Crawford. “The mood was both solemn and loving.” Crawford and his family listened to the Vice-Chancellor’s account at home on their laptops. They left their dinner on the stove and drove to Chen Hall to take part in the community expression of solidarity.
[University Chaplain the] Rev. Peter Gray initiated a call and response, “Hate! Not in my House! Not in your House!…Fear! Not in my House! Not in your House!” A few speakers addressed the assembly. Others led songs.
Community and student groups have started petitions condemning the vandalism and calling for solidarity with Brigety and his family. In response to Brigety’s call to action, University faculty and staff held virtual gatherings Feb. 11 and Feb. 12. Students will have in-person gatherings next week.
In an email to alumni and friends, Sewanee’s Chancellor, the Rt. Rev. Robert Skirving, writes:
Such acts of violence have no place at the University of the South. No one who is a member of this community should ever feel threatened, physically, via social media, or in any other way. Today, in my role as Chancellor, I write to condemn any and all expressions of violence and hatred at Sewanee and demand that any who have participated in acts of vandalism and intimidation against Chen Hall and the Brigety family cease and desist immediately.
Please be assured that our Vice-Chancellor has the full support of the Trustees and Regents of this University.
Brigety began his tenure as the 17th Vice Chancellor and President last June. A former ambassador, naval officer, and faculty member at The George Washington University, he is the first Black person to hold the post. Sewanee was founded in 1858, and is home to 1700+ undergraduate students, 150 seminarians and advanced theological degree students at the School of Theology, and graduate students in the School of Letters.