BROOM: The good, the not-so-good, the ugly
Reflecting on The Cavalier Daily’s first week of the semester
A couple of topics important to students, faculty and staff of the University received thoughtful, in-depth coverage this past week in The Cavalier Daily. The changes to AccessUVa enacted by the Board of Visitors this summer eliminating all-grant aid will have a serious effect on future University students. Greg Lewis, with help from Kelly Kaler, did an excellent job telling the story from institutional and personal levels. It’s exactly the kind of thing The Cavalier Daily should be able to do a better job of than just about any publication out there and in this case, I think they did. It was a big enough story that several national publications wrote about it, but I don’t think you’ll find better than the cover story from The Cavalier Daily on Aug. 27.
Second, the University’s decision to drop some spouses of employees from the health care insurance plan offered as a part of the compensation package is an important consideration for faculty and staff. Those whose spouses are offered health care insurance through their own jobs may no longer be eligible for coverage through the University. Andrew Elliot and Alia Sharif did a good job reporting and analyzing, respectively, this news. Again, this is just the kind of story The Cavalier Daily needs to do a good job with and they delivered.
The new print newsmagazine looks great. The Aug. 23 move-in special and Aug. 27 edition made excellent use of the cover space with eye-catching, informative graphics. This looks like it will be a real strength going forward in this new design format.
The not-so-good (it’s not really bad…)
Parts of the website still seem to be stuck in last spring. In trying to re-read several articles, especially Opinion pieces, I found myself feeling more like I was clicking back in time than navigating the website. These aren’t huge problems, but for a digital-first publication, the website needs to be more seamless and the navigation right on target.
Russell Bogue’s Aug. 28 column “Bring back the literacy test” drew, by far, the most reaction from readers this past week. Not only was there a discussion in the comments section on The Cavalier Daily website, there was also a short discussion between a few University alumni on Twitter; and they didn’t like what they read.
The topic makes sense to dig into at the moment given the recent Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v. Holder striking down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. However, in calling for more informed and engaged voters who have a better understanding of history, Bogue betrays a lack of understanding of the history of the place from which he’s writing. And the privilege those of us with access to an excellent education enjoy. In part, Bogue calls for voters to show a command of “…basic American history, with an emphasis on the last 50 years.”
Three years ago, in Charlottesville, a group of people gathered at Charlottesville High School to commemorate the end of Massive Resistance. In 1958, Lane High School and Venable Elementary School in Charlottesville were closed to avoid a district court judge’s order to integrate. Separate private schools were set up for white students, but for many black students that was the end of their education. The schools were reopened at the end of 1959 but the damage had been done. Students from that time would now be somewhere between about 60 and 72 years old. This is just over 50 years ago, but it is not ancient history. And the people shut out of an education would be at a significant disadvantage with any sort of standardized test. Just as The Cavalier Daily staff has to keep in mind where they’re writing from and who they’re writing for, so too do the opinion writers. Charlottesville has a tumultuous history, especially around education and voting rights. This history still has day-to-day effects for the people who live here, especially the people who would be most affected by the proposal in Bogue’s column. Being unaware of, or ignoring, that history does a disservice to the readership of The Cavalier Daily.
Bogue also wrote examples of something that shows up far too often in The Cavalier Daily opinion page: assertions given as fact without evidence. In this case, his notes on basic economic knowledge include several ideas that are significant points of debate among economists and politicians but which he presents as facts on which would-be voters should be tested. It highlights the dangers of the thesis of the column: that we should test citizens before they can vote. Intelligent and highly educated people don’t always agree on what some would present as simple, factual points.
Christopher Broom is The Cavalier Daily’s public editor. His column runs Mondays.