March 22, 2017

Dean Stam's Statement at Forum with Congressman Tom Garrett

Watch full event here.

Statement from Dean Allan Stam

Good evening and welcome to this Community Forum. I am Allan Stam, Dean of the Batten School and your host for this event.

Those present have joined us because they want to exchange views with our elected representative in Congress, a gentleman who holds a seat first contested by James Madison and James Monroe.

Let me state for the record the ground rules we agreed to in an effort to advance the public interest in such a conversation.

The Batten School has held dozens of discussions with elected officials and policymakers. None have been subject to disruption or allegations of partisan imbalance.

The list of guests with whom Batten students have interacted includes Governors Robert McDonnell and Terry McAuliffe, one a Republican and one a Democrat. Senators Jim Webb, Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. Previous Republican and Democratic representatives of this seat, Robert Hurt and Tom Perriello. And many other Members, from Robert Scott and Gerry Connolly, to Tom Davis and Eric Cantor. Our Batten students have also engaged on Grounds with presidential candidates Sanders, Kasich and O’Malley, as well as former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, top intelligence, defense and NGO leaders.

This is what we do.

As public servants at this public university, we challenge assumptions. We listen to views—especially to those with which we disagree—and then we search for common ground. Each of our guests has had a chance to communicate their thoughts—and to listen to yours.

As Dean, I remain deeply committed to the principles of academic freedom and civil intellectual discourse which guide such efforts. So we have made every possible effort again tonight to ensure the fairness and the safety of these exchanges, so central to our democracy. I will vigorously oppose any efforts to deny you these rights.

When we began a conversation with Congressman Garrett about this community forum, each of us here at UVa viewed this as both an academic opportunity and a public responsibility.

Our students are preparing to lead and shape public policy. And our nation desperately needs to find more ways to hold civil, fact-based conversations about issues. Conversations, not shout-fests.

The audience tonight has been selected through a random lottery of 5th district residents, who have been provided 180 seats. The remaining 50 seats have gone to Batten School students selected also through a random selection lottery. Access to this forum has been limited only by the Fire Marshall who has capped this, our School’s largest room, at 230 seats.

As moderator, I invite questions from all of you. Submit your name, where you hail from and your question on the 3”x5” cards provided. In order to ensure we cover as much ground as possible, questioners’ cards will be selected by Batten staff, then you’ll be called upon in turn while I put your questions to the congressman. I’ll ensure you the chance to follow-up directly when necessary to make sure your question has been addressed.

What I ask and expect of you, my fellow community members, is simply what my mom would call ‘good manners’.  My mom taught me you can say anything to anybody if you say it politely.

Please refrain from shouting or going over the deep end with cheering and booing. This is a classroom. We do not, and I will not, tolerate actions that violate the rights of others present to hear and to be heard in a safe environment.

Since we are in a crowded room, not on a tiered floor, waving signs and shouting also violates the rights of others present to see and hear. And questioners giving long speeches without getting to the question, at a certain point, denies others the right to pose a question.    So I may prompt you to yield the floor. Out of obligation to you, I’ll say the same to our guest if a response drifts into filibuster territory.

Now let us begin with a nonpartisan welcome to the winner of last November’s election to represent us in the House, a neighbor from our community, Congressman Tom Garrett.

Congressman, do you wish to say a few words, before we begin the Q and A?