Sources Say 

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UR's New Prez Addresses Blackface

When a white male paints his face black, controversy is bound to follow, especially when it happens on the campus of the private and expensive University of Richmond -- which, admittedly, has been working to diversify its student body.

Yet the potentially explosive racial incident went relatively unmentioned in local media. And new UR President Ed Ayers' handling of the incident, only months into his job, seems to have gone over well.

No one knows the identity of the offender, or whether it was a student or someone from off campus. UR students spotted a white man Oct. 28 wearing "a painted black face, a dreadlock wig, baseball cap, big pink lips, and aviator sunglasses," Ayers wrote. Just in time for Halloween — and homecoming weekend.

Ayers, a Civil War scholar and race historian, responded with an e-mail to faculty, staff and students Oct. 30. He wrote that such racist caricatures represent "a painful part of our nation's history and culture" and have "no place on this campus."

What about freedom of speech issues? Ayers wrote that UR "offers an opportunity to take intellectual risks, risks that we are only willing to take within the safety of our community. Dressing in blackface breaches that sense of trust."

Ayers asked the campus community to reflect on the incident, and noted an online forum about the history and implications of blackface.

Seen Together: Is a certain Wilder confidante prepping for damage control — if not legal advice? Harry Black, the mayor's deputy chief administrative officer, was spotted lunching with Commonwealth's Attorney Michael Herring last week. Black's been criticized for his role in Wilder's failed attempt to move the School Board from City Hall. The two strolled to La Grotta in Shockoe Bottom Nov. 2. Is it CYA time?

The Lewis Effect: Former Channel 12 reporter Sean Lewis, now in Chicago, got some ribbing about his appearance in our column last week, in which we dished on the going-away party for Gov. Kaine press secretary Kevin Hall at the Executive Mansion. Both Sean Lewis and Bob Lewis appeared in the story. But in case it was unclear, the Lewis who accidentally knocked over the framed photo presented to Hall was Bob Lewis.

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