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Affirmative on action

Amid the recent controversy surrounding the current admissions policy at the University, the University chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is gathering steam to launch itself onto center-stage of the community's political forum.

Although the University chapter of the NAACP fizzled out more than a decade ago, it was reintroduced into the community in 1996 by then-first-year College student Rahsan Boykin, who said he believed the University had too few minority advocacy groups to support the minority student population.

"The U.Va. chapter of the NAACP had at least a 10-year hiatus," said Phillippe Devieux, University NAACP president and fourth-year College student. "I want to build a new NAACP that is resilient and that will survive in that it will reach the community, establish a political stake at U.Va. and promote educational issues."

"We want to concentrate on building a stronger framework for the NAACP here," Ferebee said. "There's not a great capacity for that right now."

But the rejuvenation of the NAACP has gotten off to a jolting start, as the current admissions debate has spread across Grounds, generating demonstrations like this week's October Camp.

"With the current admissions policy situation, we support the advocate organizations such as the Black Student Alliance," Ferebee said. "We just want to make sure an issue like this doesn't get swept up under the rug."

At last Saturday's home football game, students supporting diversity wore black t-shirts.

"I think it really let people know where others stood on the issue," Ferebee said.

Last night the NAACP held a board meeting to discuss admissions issues.

"We want to possibly hold a Day of Silence in the future to show our support of the current admissions policies and for diversity," Devieux said. "We want to hopefully get the whole community involved in the Day of Silence and perhaps even other universities too."

He said they also planned to discuss ESPN's coverage of last Saturday's football game, and may decide whether to write ESPN about it.

"We are mad at the press," he added. "At the football game last weekend we had an entire section of students participating in the [diversity t-shirt] effort and an ESPN reporter came up and asked us what we were about, walked away and never came back. We didn't even get any TV coverage."

While the University NAACP has garnered attention of late, it has been rebuilding since its rejuvenation process began in 1996.

"I think the organization disappeared because of a lack of student interest and a certain apathy," Boykin said.

With the NAACP out of service for a decade, race issues may have appeared to be on the backburner, but he said he wanted an organization to help minorities.

"I saw a need for a national organization to represent minority interests on campus," he added. "At that point there was only NESBE [National Society of Black Engineers at the University], and I thought we needed to have national backing, prestige and history."

Other than the admissions policy, Boykin said the University NAACP plans to focus on service this year, a goal he has maintained from the start, beginning with tutoring programs and a diversity parade.

"When I restarted it, I wanted a large focus on service," he said. "I think the NAACP is an important organization because it adapts to issues, and is not static."

This year the organization also wants to build ties to the community, Ferebee said.

"We want to put an emphasis on community involvement," he said. "Community service, such as tutoring, is going to be a really important element."

He added that the University NAACP has donated space in Charlottesville for use as a mentoring classroom. NAACP volunteers plan to read to kids and teach computer literacy there.

"Some people think there isn't a need for an NAACP here, but those of us in it disagree," Ferebee said. "There will always be a need for the NAACP everywhere -- if only to promote voting rights awareness in the community."

While many students may think the NAACP just helps black students, Ferebee pointed out the group is not defined that narrowly.

"It's not just black undergraduate students," he said. "We want to attract graduate students and all races to the organization."

Devieux said tutoring may be a key for the organization to reach all races.

"We want to venture into tutoring," he said. "I think we will touch all races that way -- not just blacks. This organization is all about helping people"


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