The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

Enough about Big White Tent already

SO FAR this year, I have turned a blind eye to the "Big White Tent" both on the patio and in the pages of The Cavalier Daily. I assumed that the supposed issue was really being treated as a joke by the newspaper staff and, while something I saw as a waste of space and totally pointless, had little effect on the general community's opinion of the paper. But the editorial board will be pleased to know that its crusade has finally received some notice -- although most likely not the desired variety.

In the words of one fourth-year student: "It is bad enough that the infamous 'Big White Tent' has been alluded to in numerous articles throughout the year, but then to waste an entire lead editorial on the topic adds insult to injury. I find it hard to believe that there is absolutely nothing more newsworthy in the University community worth addressing in your paper. It is not so much the tent that I find 'offensive' but rather all the attention The Cavalier Daily finds necessary to bestow upon it. If the paper can put this much time and effort into covering 'Big White Tent,' just think what it could do about some of what most people would consider 'real problems' at U.Va."

Other readers noted the paper has criticized the University's tent purchase numerous times to no avail and with little justification, calling into question the general professionalism of The Cavalier Daily. I couldn't agree more. Why should the paper hire an ombudsman to ensure it stays attuned to the concerns of the community and produces a professional product, and then continue to be its own worst enemy by purposefully making the news and the paper's opinion a joke? After all, if the staff's crusade against the tent wasn't originally meant as a joke, that is what it has become.

Even worse, by spreading the joke so thin, the editorial board has diminished the status of its editorials in general. The paper had published two lead editorial blurbs discussing the tent already this semester before last week's lead editorial. Neither of these edits suggested how the University could recoup from its losses by relegating the tent to some back closet nor did either editorial note the general student opinion regarding the "issue." Ultimately, the students don't care and the student newspaper ends up being the joke -- not the supposed white elephant on the Newcomb patio.

On another note, Wednesday's lead editorial on rescheduling fall break listed a number of reasons the reading days should be switched back to Monday and Tuesday instead of this semester's Thursday and Friday schedule. But they missed a main motivation for the change. The Thanksgiving Break traditionally runs from Wednesday through Friday, resulting in three missed days. When added to the Fall Break, students end up missing a full week of classes in the Fall, but when the reading days are given on Monday and Tuesday, no overlap of missed school days occurs. Ultimately, the traditional schedule results in more equal coverage of classes, especially discussions and labs that occur only on one day during the week.

Quick Tip for Columnists

One of the first tricks I learned in graduate school was how to better proofread and judge my own writing. The most effective tip I received was to reread a paper as though I were someone unaware of the paper's general subject and note places where I hadn't adequately addressed possible points and questions. After reading some of the past week's columns, I strongly suggest columnists put this relatively painless process into practice.

For example, is the supposed fact that "we soon will become a homogenized group of black stretch pants and Abercrombie shirts" really a justification for why "the diversity of the student body can't be sacrificed?" Is anyone convinced that "affirmative action isn't fair" simply because "giving an advantage to someone solely on the basis of skin color is wrong?" Or do you, like me, ask "Why?" Are you convinced "the drive that helped [students] succeed in their low quality high schools certainly be enough to help them step up to college life?" Or do you seek a justification, if not empirical, at least something presented in the form of an argument?

At what point did the University's students become responsible for recruiting athletes? Given the argument that students only attend football games for an opportunity to socialize, is it likely they will be motivated to cheer in order to bring in potential football greats?

Does it follow from the Kentucky State Department of Education's decision to remove questions on evolution from standardized tests that they have forced the removal of evolution "from the curriculum?" Or that such a move was designed "to keep students from taking a position on subjects such a death, divorce, animal rights or the theory of evolution?" If such a move is the result of new, subtle subterfuge from creationists, wouldn't the ultimate goal of such guidelines be to influence the position students take rather than do away with thinking on a subject altogether? Exactly what is the definition of "reason" referred to in the sentence "reasonable people must realize that evolution is scientific, not philosophical, and that it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with religion." Please tell me you, too, are concerned with the strange linking and displacing of both philosophy and religion in this statement.

Let me know what you think. Hopefully, we can get the "Big White Tent" out of the way and I can hear about your other concerns. E-mail me at and keep me informed.