A look back at the past semester
Rotunda opens for first time since spring 2014, Eramo wins defamation trial
Dragas condemns Strategic Investment Fund (July 6)
Helen Dragas, rector of the Board of Visitors from 2011 to 2013, published an editorial in the Washington Post in July about the $2.3 billion Strategic Investment Fund, which was authorized by the BOV in February. Dragas opposed the fund, calling it a “slush fund.”
In her article, Dragas mentioned that in-state tuition costs have increased by 74 percent since 2009, and that the fund could be used to slash in-state tuition by 70 percent. The University defended the fund and said the funds will be used for improving academic quality through investment in laboratories and scholarships for in-state students, among other purposes.
Amidst the controversy, two state senators, J. Chapman Petersen (D-Fairfax City) and William R. DeSteph Jr. (Virginia Beach) led an inquiry into the fund. State auditor Eric M. Sandridge, who led the investigation into the fund, found the creation was legal and the University did not violate state audit laws.
Block party draws smaller crowd, increased security (Aug. 20)
Concerns surrounding Block Party on Wertland Street have increased in recent years due to reports of sexual assault and underage drinking. The event is held annually during move-in weekend and is not sponsored by the University. Although the number of attendees dropped from 6,000 in 2015 to 4,000 in 2016, the number of summonses increased this year.
Charlottesville Police Lt. Steve Upman said this year’s Block Party had an increased police presence, with about 40 officers patrolling from both the Charlottesville Police Department and the University Police Department. In an effort to provide alternative events for students during the weekend, University Programs Council sponsored a concert at John Paul Jones Arena with rapper J. Cole. Additionally, IM-Rec Sports and U.Va. Dining held “After-Hours at the AFC” which featured free pizza and activities.
Multiple emails from University President Teresa Sullivan, Dean of Students Allen Groves and Athletic Director Craig Littlepage were sent to students and parents in the weeks leading up to the event. Littlepage specifically encouraged student-athletes not to attend Block Party. These statements occurred after a Washington Post article reported an alleged sexual assault between two student-athletes at the event in 2015.
Hate speech and graffiti on and around Grounds (Sept. 2–Nov. 3)
Several instances of bias-motivated speech and graffiti were reported on and near Grounds throughout the fall semester, including the writing of the N-word in the Kent-Dabney dorm association, a Star of David with the word "Juden" written on the outside of GrandMarc Apartments and the word "terrorist" written in Brown college near the door of two Muslim students.
University administration acknowledged the increasing number of incidents involving hate speech and graffiti, condemning what they called “acts of bigotry and bias” in a Nov. 2 email.
Student responses included Black Student Alliance programming in dorms and the formation of the Eliminate the Hate campaign, as well as protests at the November Board of Visitors meeting.
Click here to see a more in-depth list of bias-motivated incidents throughout the semester.
Virginia football starts season with new coach (Sept. 3)
Bronco Mendenhall became the 40th head coach of the Virginia football team this year. The University athletics department announced the hire Dec. 4, 2015, following the Nov. 29, 2015 resignation of former head coach Mike London. Mendenhall signed a five-year, $16.25 million agreement to coach the University’s struggling football team.
Mendenhall has already implemented changes to the program, such as giving junior transfer Kurt Benkert the starting quarterback position and reforming preseason and practice drills. Prior to serving at Virginia, Mendenhall spent 11 years as head coach of Brigham Young University football and achieved a 99-43 record. The Cavaliers finished 2-10 this season.
Jordan Hall renamed after Vivian Pinn (Sept. 15)
The Board of Visitors announced in September that Jordan Hall, which serves as a medical research building, would be renamed Pinn Hall. The current name of the building was criticized because it was named after prominent eugenicist Harvey E. Jordan, who served as dean of the School of Medicine in the 1900s.
The building will be renamed to honor Vivian Pinn, who was the only female and only African-American student in the 1967 graduating class from the School of Medicine. Pinn was chosen by a group of leaders in the school who considered new names for the building.
“I am just stunned and actually feeling extremely humbled by such an honor by the institution that gave me my foundation and education for my medical and professional career,” Pinn said in previous Cavalier Daily interview. “I am very grateful and appreciative that the University believes me worthy.”
Rotunda opens its doors after two years (Sept. 26)
After being under construction for four years and closed for two, the Rotunda officially opened to the public Sept. 26. The building now has collaborative areas and functioning classrooms, as well as study spaces in the dome room, upper west oval room, first balcony and multipurpose room. The exterior of the Rotunda was updated with the addition of benches to the north, east and west courtyards.
With study rooms and gathering spaces interspersed, the Rotunda serves both educational and social purposes. In a nod to a tradition implemented by President Frank Hereford following renovation in the 1970s, the Rotunda can now again host Dome Room Dinners, formal events for first-year dorm associations.
The Rotunda is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Between Sunday and Tuesday, the building will be open until 10 p.m. for study in the upper west oval room, dome room and middle gallery. During finals, the Rotunda will be open until midnight.
Lecturer compares Black Lives Matter to KKK (Oct. 4)
Douglas Muir, an executive lecturer in the Engineering and Darden Schools, came under fire for comparing the Black Lives Matter movement to the Klu Klux Klan in a Facebook comment.
“Black lives matter is the biggest rasist organisation since the clan [sic]. Are you kidding me. Disgusting!!!” Muir wrote in response to a post from Charlottesville realtor Roger Voisinet.
On Oct. 4, Voisinet posted about Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza speaking at the Paramount Theater. Garza was speaking at an event titled “Rooting Out Injustice: Poverty, Race and the Role of Legal Aid.” The Engineering School and Darden School both responded to Muir’s comment via their official Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Following the comments, community members held a protest outside of Muir’s restaurant, Bella’s, on West Main St. Muir took a leave of absence from the University but is now teaching again in the Engineering School.
Eramo sues Rolling Stone (Oct. 17–Nov. 7)
A federal jury sided with former Associate Dean Nicole Eramo in a defamation lawsuit that found Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Wenner Media, Inc. and Rolling Stone Magazine liable for actual malice in their November 2014 article “A Rape on Campus.”
The article, written by Erdely, recounted the alleged gang rape of first-year “Jackie” at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and the University’s subsequent response. An investigation by Charlottesville Police Department did not find any evidence to support Jackie’s claims.
Eramo, whom Jackie told about the alleged rape, based her case on claims that she was wrongly depicted in the article as uncaring and indifferent toward survivors of sexual assault. The prosecution submitted 14 statements associated with the article to the court, and the defense was found liable for actual malice in six of them. Eramo will be awarded $3 million in settlement.
Honor holds first open trial since 2013 (Nov. 19)
For the first time since February 2013, Honor held a public trial Nov. 19 at the defendant’s request. Engineering graduate student Georgina Hunt was found guilty of cheating on an MSE 6020 final exam she took during the spring 2016 semester. Prof. Sean Agnew, who taught Hunt’s class — Defects and Microstructure in Materials — filed the charges against Hunt with supporting testimony from one of his teaching assistants, Engineering graduate student Fulin Wang.
Hunt and Agnew met to discuss a final exam Hunt needed to make up, but the two reported very different accounts of the conversation. Agnew had sent out the final exam answers May 11 after the rest of the class had taken it, but Hunt also had access to the email and looked at the responses.
Hunt claimed Agnew granted her permission to look over the original exam, but Agnew said he had told her not to look at it, and that she had acknowledged she would not. Agnew claimed Hunt could not have taken the exam without some form of unauthorized aid.
Hunt is on a student visa granted to her by the University and will now have to either transfer to a different school or go back to the United Kingdom.
Khzir Khan visits U.Va. (Nov. 1)
Khzir Khan, father of late University alumnus and Army Capt. Humayun Khan, came to the University Nov. 1 for a private taping of the Miller Center show “American Forum” and a public event at Old Cabell Hall.
Humayun Khan graduated from the University in 2000 and later served as a member of the United States Army in Iraq, where he was killed in 2004.
“We only conclude — Mrs. Khan and I — that we were blessed to have him for 27 years,” Khizr Khan said of his son in a previous interview with The Cavalier Daily.
Douglas Blackmon, Miller Center director of public programs and host of “American Forum,” interviewed Khan about his experience as a Muslim-American and what drove him to make his now-famous speech condemning Donald Trump’s comments about banning Muslims from entering the United States at the Democratic National Convention.
Professors question Sullivan’s use of Jefferson Quotes in emails (Nov. 11)
Faculty in the Psychology Department drafted a letter to Sullivan Nov. 11 condemning the use of Thomas Jefferson quotes in her post-election email encouraging community. Following the contentious election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Sullivan asked students to unite and work together despite political differences.
“Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that University of Virginia students ‘are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friendships and fortunes,’” Sullivan said in the email. “I encourage today’s U.Va. students to embrace that responsibility.”
The letter, which was signed by professors, students and alumni, criticized Sullivan’s decision to quote Jefferson in an email calling for unity, as he owned slaves and held racist beliefs. Sullivan defended her original email in a statement Nov. 14, claiming that she supported Jefferson’s message of University students helping to lead the country.
“Quoting Jefferson — or any historical figure — does not imply an endorsement of all the social structures and beliefs of his time,” Sullivan said in the statement.
Clem 2 under construction (ongoing)
The Clemons Library is currently undergoing renovations, including the creation of an advising center on the second floor — lovingly referred to by many as Clem 2 — and a new eco-friendly roof. Work on the advising center started in January, and plans for the roof were announced in February after a roof leak on the fourth floor.
The advising center — which will be open as a study space after business hours — will feature faculty office hours, career counseling, and internship and study abroad search assistance.
The center is set to be completed in late January. Roof renovations should be done by the end of the semester.