The Cavalier Daily
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Parting words urge not to stand idle by

THE GREATEST thing I have done is attend the University. It is, and always will be, my most special place. Perhaps that is why I am so passionate about its traditions, and so enraged by its flaws. My time here is quickly drawing to a close, so I leave you with these final thoughts from a wonderful seven years.

I came to the University in 1993. In that time I have seen this institution's best and worst and silliest moments of the last decade. I have seen our football team defeat Florida State on a goal-line stand. I have rushed the court after beating UNC. I listened heartbroken to the radio broadcast of our overtime defeat to Syracuse in the lacrosse national championship. I have known our Rhodes Scholars, and watched the Dalai Lama walk the Lawn with Desmond Tutu. I saw University students protest on behalf of Sandy Kory, and watched the student who prosecuted his assailants give a year of her life to bringing them to justice.

I have also seen the ugly side of the University. I have watched the administration and the Board of Visitors conspire to grant Christopher Leggett his degree even though the Honor Committee found he was guilty of cheating. All because he sued. I have seen the University hire more new administrators than faculty members. I have watched out-of-state tuition go through the roof.

And then there is the silly. I was there when Madison House protestors hung John Finley in effigy on the Lawn. I stood speechless at the Mass Streak. I have seen Student Council pass resolutions condemning Iran. I watched a friend shove six Gusbergers in his mouth just to win a contest.

Through it all I have felt privileged to be a part of this community. Here I found a place where students can put on a jacket and tie and debate on Friday nights rather than go drinking. I found a place where we govern ourselves, where we are treated like adults instead of children. I found a place where the word "honor" still means something.

But I also know how fragile our institutions are. I know that if the Dean of Students does not respect student self-governance, and instead treats us like four-year-olds, it all will unravel. I know that if our Honor Committee is scared by frivolous lawsuits, Professor John Davis' words will no longer resonate on these Grounds. I know that the administration always has the upper hand because while students leave after a handful of years, Madison Hall's pencil-pushers stay a lifetime.

I came to Grounds thinking that Jefferson was the greatest Virginian. I was wrong. Jefferson was an effeminate, freakish intellectual who held vain grudges. Instead the greatest Virginian was Patrick Henry, a man of action and bold truths. The University stands at a key moment in its history. Flush with cash, and held in high esteem, the decisions it makes now will determine its future. Henry's question to the General Assembly before the Revolution rings with particular relevance today. He asked, "Why stand we here idly by?"

So to the Board of Visitors I ask, why stand you here idly by while out-of-state tuition increases have doubled inflation? Why stand you here idly by as the number of administrators has ballooned? Why stand you here idly by while senior administrators are paid huge salaries, but staff doesn't make a living wage?

The same type of questions could be posed to Student Council or the Honor Committee, or any other group that determines the future of our community. With countless others I have asked these questions over the past seven years, and I have come to realize that the very act of asking is the most important contribution we can make to our community. Student self-governance does not mean the freedom to have kegs or rush first-years. It is the freedom, and the responsibility that comes with that freedom, to be critical and demand answers.

So I leave you with the words of another native New Yorker; "These are the last words I have to say, that's why they took so long write. There will be other words some other day, but that's the story of my life." Thank you for reading. It has been an honor.

(Sam Waxman's column has appeared Thursdays in The Cavalier Daily.)

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