U.Va. historic landscape committee to hold public input session

Committee will hear opinions from the public on historic symbols on Grounds

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The committee's charge is to “formulate principles and make recommendations about the display of visible historic symbols on Grounds” while being “cognizant of the particular history of [the] University, both its imperfections and achievements, and its contemporary commitments to both diversity and free expression.” 

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

The University’s Advisory Committee on the Future of the Historic Landscape will hold a public input session Friday morning to receive and discuss opinions on the significance of visible historic symbols around Grounds. 

The committee was formed as a part of the University’s response to the events of Aug. 11 and 12 when torch-bearing white nationalists marched on the Lawn and held the Unite the Right rally in downtown Charlottesville.

As stated on the committee’s web page, its charge is to “formulate principles and make recommendations about the display of visible historic symbols on Grounds” while being “cognizant of the particular history of [the] University, both its imperfections and achievements, and its contemporary commitments to both diversity and free expression.” 

The committee is co-chaired by former University President John Casteen and Claudrena Harold, a professor of African American and African Studies and History. It consists of seven other members including faculty and undergraduate and graduate students.The committee reports directly to the Deans Working Group, headed by Law School Dean Risa Goluboff, and should report to the group by Feb. 15. 

Casteen said in an email to The Cavalier Daily that the committee has an advisory role and its findings would be communicated to the Deans Working Group through a written analysis. 

“We are asked to advise the Dean’s Council on appropriate principles to be used in interpreting or explaining the historic Grounds,” Casteen said. “We plan to provide a written report, probably fairly brief.”

Casteen additionally expressed the importance of the community’s presence in helping the committee establish principles, many of which have already been outlined by the public. 

“We have prepared a list of five topics with which we need help from the community, especially from students,” Casteen said. “This is planned to be several round table discussions running simultaneously.”

Brendan Nigro, a third-year College student and chair of the University Guides Service, is serving on the committee. He said the meeting Friday is the committee’s only public input session and echoed Casteen’s statement that the session is important for giving the community a voice in the changing characteristics of University symbolism and said public input will play a large role in the committee’s work. 

“We’re kind of trying to gear this meeting towards … how community members feel about the historic landscape as it presently sits and how we can kind of alter it with additions and removals and contextualization to better … relay the imperfections and successes of the University’s history,” Nigro said. 

Attiya Latif, a fourth-year College student and student director of the Multicultural Student Center, is also serving on the committee. She underscored the significance of community input when it comes to addressing the University’s past, present and future. 

“The public deals first and foremost with U.Va.'s historic landscape,” Latif said in an email statement. “As such, it is important that those who deal with this landscape first have a large say in how we approach and interpret these historical symbols.”

Latif said public input during Friday’s meeting will properly inform the future decisions and principles of the committee. 

“We are hoping that the discussion on Friday will aid us in establishing principles that best reflect the ideals and beliefs of the University community,” Latif said. 

Nigro hopes that a student presence at the meeting will be high and those in attendance will be willing to engage in challenging dialogues. 

“I think that hopefully a lot of students will come and hopefully … engage in some difficult conversations,” Nigro said. 

The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday in the Commonwealth Room in Newcomb Hall. 

A public input form is also available on the committee’s web page.

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