UVa reverses course, allows nursing student arrested at protest back on Grounds (2024)

After public pressure and the threat of a lawsuit, the University of Virginia has reversed course on its decision to ban a nursing student from Grounds.

Local Education

Student's future in jeopardy after UVa denies access to Grounds citing protest

  • Jason Armesto

Mustafa Abdelhamid was one of 27 people arrested when Virginia State Police cracked down on a May 4 anti-war protest at the school. Multiple arrestees, including Abdelhamid, say they were not even participating in the protest or the encampment where people had been voicing their opposition to Israel’s war with Palestinian terror group Hamas that has killed tens of thousands since Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack on the nation.

Although he has no criminal record and a court is expected to drop his trespassing charge in August, UVa issued Abdelhamid a “no trespassing” order, or NTO, preventing him from being on university property, thus jeopardizing his academic future.

UVa reverses course, allows nursing student arrested at protest back on Grounds (2)

A nursing student at Piedmont Virginia Community College, Abdelhamid’s program requires that he do clinical rotations with UVa Health. And this summer, the award-winning student had been offered a paid externship to work at UVa Health’s intensive care unit. That offer was rescinded after the university issued his NTO, and Abdelhamid worried the prohibition would cause him to flunk out of his academic program.

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But on Wednesday, one day after The Daily Progress published a story on Abdelhamid’s circ*mstances and as attorneys prepared to sue UVa on his behalf, he received welcome news: his planned externship was reinstituted and UVa announced Police Chief Tim Longo had modified his NTO.

“Following the completion of a review into this individual’s case, which required the University to gather additional information, Chief Longo has modified the NTO to permit him to return to Grounds, provided certain conditions are met,” UVa spokesman Brian Coy told The Daily Progress.

Previously, the university had declined to comment on the matter, leaving it unclear why Longo had modified the NTOs of other arrested protesters, many of whom have also seen their trespassing charges dropped already, but not Abdelhamid’s.

The decision to drop his NTO was made after he completed a 2 1/2-hour interview on Tuesday with UVa’s threat assessment office.

“Although no significant risk factors for health and safety were identified during your May 28th meeting, I continue to have some concerns based on the totality of circ*mstances related to your history with the University and your conduct on May 4th,” Longo wrote to Abdelhamid on Tuesday.

The police chief laid out five conditions upon which the modification relies:

■ Abdelhamid must adhere to all UVa policies and cannot engage in any criminal behavior on or off Grounds.

■ He must find a UVa faculty member to serve as a “mentor” to sponsor his participation in the externship.

■ He must remain in contact with the school’s threat assessment office.

■ Finally, he must permit the office to communicate with his faculty sponsor and the externship officials.

“I reserve the right to reinstate the full terms of the NTO if it is reported that you are not compliant with the conditions,” Longo wrote.

Abdelhamid was not part of the original protest that was broken up by state police. A DoorDash delivery driver, he says he was completing an order near the university’s iconic Rotunda and the protesters’ encampment on May 4. UVa faculty members offering him legal advice maintain that Abdelhamid saw some of his classmates in the crowd and decided to join them, unaware that police had declared an unlawful assembly in the area.

He said as much in his appeal letter to Longo, noting that his nursing program requires him to be on Grounds. But the police chief effectively accused Abdelhamid of lying, saying that law enforcement records — which were never shared with Abdelhamid, the public or The Daily Progress — stood “in stark contrast” to the brief two-sentence account Abdelhamid offered in his appeal letter.

The same day The Daily Progress story published, three of Abdelhamid’s classmates reached out to the newspaper, baffled and incensed by UVa’s refusal to allow Abdelhamid on Grounds.

“He’s just the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. Always eager to help everyone out. There’s never been a mean bone in that guy’s body,” PVCC nursing student John Kermgard told The Daily Progress. “I hope he sues them. I really do.”

Fellow classmate Nathaniel Reiner said that two weeks before final examinations, his computer stopped working. Abdelhamid loaned Reiner one of his own.

“He let me use it until finals were done and I gave it back, no questions asked. He wants to be a nurse to help other people,” Reiner said, adding that he was angry upon hearing the story.

Abdelhamid had not told his classmates of his predicament, or of the long and tragic series of events that had brought him to the U.S. from the Middle East, and the rigorous vetting he underwent with federal authorities to attain political asylum.

“When I heard about this I was so confused. I didn’t believe it, like, there’s no freaking way this is Mustafa. He’s like the sweetest guy in our program,” Bogdan Patarinov said. “He’s tried so hard, and he’s so nice. He’s a valedictorian. He has all A’s. His grades are the best in the class. He tutors me actually.”

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Both Patarinov and Kermgard recalled an incident where a fellow student was undergoing financial difficulties and wasn’t going to be able to finish the program. They said Abdelhamid organized a fundraiser for the woman, putting together enough money so that she could complete her education.

“I want him to sue the university. I’ll appear as a character witness on his behalf. This is absolutely insane,” Kermgard, a decorated U.S. Navy combat veteran, said a day before UVa reversed its decision.

In his letter reversing the decision, Longo wrote that on May 22 he had instructed the office of threat assessment to offer Abdelhamid a voluntary meeting “to gather additional information and further evaluate your appeal.” It was the same day that The Daily Progress first reached out to UVa about Abdelhamid’s case.

Since his original appeal had been denied on May 16, multiple UVa faculty members and other friends of Abdelhamid had been quietly reaching out to UVa officials behind the scenes for weeks, pleading with Longo and other officials to reconsider.

It was not until a lawsuit was drafted and his case received public attention that the university modified the NTO.

UVa reverses course, allows nursing student arrested at protest back on Grounds (6)

Kermgard and others believe the delay can be attributed to racial profiling, noting that Charlottesville is a “melting pot” with a large immigrant population.

“We’re known for hosting Afghan refugees for Christ’s sake,” Kermgard said. He said it is suspicious that while other people had had their NTOs modified, Abdelhamid was not originally up for consideration.

“Somehow their stuff gets overturned and his doesn’t. That doesn’t make sense to me,” Kermgard said.

Jason Armesto (717) 599-8470

jarmesto@dailyprogress.com

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UVa reverses course, allows nursing student arrested at protest back on Grounds (2024)
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