BROOM: Between the lines

The Cavalier Daily should work to extract meaning from its stories

Last Thursday President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and others headed up a one-day summit at the White House to discuss how to increase opportunities for low-income and disadvantaged students in higher education. The University featured prominently at the summit with University President Teresa Sullivan in attendance and Assistant Education Prof. Ben Castleman and Economics Prof. Sarah Turner invited based on research they have each done in the field. UVA Today, the University’s news publication, trumpeted the University’s involvement.

Last Thursday, Michael Drash wrote a brief news article for The Cavalier Daily about the education summit. Much like other news pieces I’ve written about in the past, there wasn’t a lot of information nor were there quotations or information apart from what was available to most anyone who paid attention to other media coverage of the summit. He did write about the involvement of Sullivan and the two professors. Overall, the information ended up being what amounted to a subset of the information available from UVA Today. That’s not to assert that Drash drew his information from UVA Today. But it is to point out that there is a different role for The Cavalier Daily to fill. This paper is the major independent news reporting organization at the University. Nowhere in the paper was there any mention of the fact that all of this participation in thinking through how to expand access to higher education for low-income students is coming while the Board of Visitors has fundamentally altered AccessUVa, the University’s major financial aid program.

Other pieces in the paper last week show that there are many working for the Cavalier Daily thinking a lot about how to help increase opportunities and about the lives of those who have less. Gray Whisnant wrote an interesting piece on the concept of a universal basic income in place of the patchwork welfare system we currently have. Though the comments section was depressingly void of engagement despite Whisnant’s attempts, I found the piece intriguing. Nazar Aljassar wrote about the futility and cruelty of requiring drug testing for those who would receive welfare benefits. Regardless of whether you agree with the arguments, these were well-researched and well-sourced columns.

Turning that kind of focus and effort to the AccessUVa changes in light of the University promoting involvement with the White House in trying to increase opportunities for low-income students would be a service to the University community. How do those in the administration and on the Board make sense of expanding opportunities while also increasing the amount that low-income students will have to spend or shoulder in terms of debt? What do those same professors who were invited to the education summit have to say about loans versus grants in encouraging underprivileged young people to consider higher education?

For the same reasons I wrote last week that I hope The Cavalier Daily will turn some attention to how health care changes are playing out in the lives of those in our community, the editors and writers should focus on questions of access. The independence of the organization combined with the access to a range of people means that there are a wealth of stories and perspectives to be covered. The Cavalier Daily can do more than just inform us about what happened: it can also analyze the meaning of the events and give us a local context that no one else can offer.

Christopher Broom is The Cavalier Daily’s public editor. He can be reached at or on Twitter @CDPublicEditor.

Published January 19, 2014 in Opinion

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