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Riders on the storm

Things got off to a wild start for the Class of 2000 in their first semester when Hurricane Fran stormed through Grounds, causing classes to be cancelled for only the fourth time in University history. Mad Bowl was transformed into a muddy, rain-drenched playground, with students mud sliding, playing football and dancing in knee-deep water. The high winds and pouring rain damaged property and kept Charlottesville in the dark because of power outages that lasted through the weekend.

It was a strangely appropriate beginning for the Class of 2000. Fran was not the only storm they would have to weather during their four years at the University. The prognosis called for more rough weather ahead. Controversy swirled around everything from the University's alcohol culture and fraternity rush to race relations, student-self governance, the honor system and, of course, the infamous baby switch.

The First Year

As students settled into University life, several administrators announced their departure. Commerce school Dean Bonnie Guiton Hill, College Dean Raymond J. Nelson, Darden School Dean Leo Higdon and Asst. Dean of Admissions Mike Mallory all stepped down from their posts.

As football season got underway, Athletics Department officials announced the Pep Band's half-time antics would be scaled back in favor of marching bands recruited from around the state.

Soon, the University lost the distinction of being one of only two American colleges to have two daily student newspapers when the University Journal reduced publication to three days a week. The UJ eventually folded altogether because of financial problems, but not before holding benefit concerts and raffles in an effort to stay afloat.

University officials and students celebrated the opening of Mosaic House, the University's first multicultural dormitory.

Sensitive to the needs of the University's diverse community, African-American Affairs Dean M. Rick Turner proposed a plan to change the structure of the Office of African American Affairs to create a center that would cater to the needs of Asian-American students and Latino students as well as black students.

On Oct. 17, fourth-year College student Elizabeth L. McGowan died in a tragic fire that started after two of her friends threw smoke bombs into her apartment as a prank. McGowan, whose blood alcohol level was two-and-a-half times the legal limit at .25, was sleeping in her bedroom at the time of the fire. Her friends did not face charges.

In November, basketball recruit Melvin Whitaker was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in prison, with all but three-and-a-half years suspended. In June, Whitaker had pled guilty to slashing Virginia football defensive tackle Maurice Anderson in the face with a box cutter following a dispute during a pick-up basketball game at Slaughter Recreational Center.

As the first semester drew to a close, fourth-year College student Sean Bryant, the student Board of Visitors member, died of asphyxiation from hanging in his Lawn room. Friends organized a memorial to honor his memory.

Throughout the year, national headlines were crowded with news about Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and President Bill Clinton as they battled it out for the presidency. The election ended with Clinton capturing 50 percent of the vote to Dole's 42 percent.

Closer to the University, the two Warners were locked in a close battle for the Virginia Senate seat. Democrat Mark Warner challenged incumbent Republican John Warner, but eventually lost to him.

In University elections, the Honor Committee proposed two referenda to the student body, both of which failed. One would have changed the seriousness clause, which stipulates that a student can be convicted of honor charges only if a jury deems his or her action serious enough to compromise the University's community of trust. The second would have eliminated random student juries. Student Council also voted in favor of giving students 24-hour library access during final exams.

University sports teams experienced a disappointing season. The Cavs lost the Carquest Bowl, 31-21 to Miami. The men's basketball team lost to Iowa in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, while the women were booted from the Sweet Sixteen when they lost to Stanford.

Graduation celebrations tragically were marred when the Pavilion I balcony collapsed as families and friends of graduates waited to watch the ceremony. Eighteen people were injured and one woman was killed. A flurry of lawsuits were filed in the aftermath of the accidents. All but three lawsuits have since been settled by the Commonwealth. The balconies were restored and the aging metal rods that were blamed for the collapse were replaced.

The Second Year

Hoos in the money?

Students who were welcomed back to the University in the fall of 1997 were greeted with the prospect of a new and improved Scott Stadium, thanks to a $25 million donation from former Cavalier football player Carl W. Smith, a 1950 University graduate. Plans included the addition of 30 luxury suites, 16,500 more seats, a colonnade and a $1.3 million Hoo Vision scoreboard. Construction -- the cost of which originally was projected at $50 million, but has since soared to over $86 million -- is scheduled for completion in time for the start of the 2000 season.

Another major donation followed on the heels of Smith's gift. Timothy B. Robertson, a 1977 College graduate and son of Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, donated $1.2 million to create an endowed professorship and a Media Studies Center at Clemons Library.

Encouraged by the flood of money and a strong economy, the University announced in the spring that it would raise the Capital Campaign goal from $750 million to $1 billion.

Race relations became a hot topic starting early in the fall semester, when a lecture about a national apology for slavery by a visiting professor was interrupted by a commotion over a backpack that reportedly had been stolen. The ruckus resulted in a confrontation between University police officer Deborah Higgins, who is white, and Virginia Commonwealth University professor Avon Drake, who is black. Higgins reportedly grabbed Drake and popped two buttons off his shirt. Drake filed a lawsuit against Higgins and University Chief of Police Mike Sheffield wrote an open letter of apology to the University community.

Tensions continued to mount when University Parking & Transportation officials announced that they would move the Commerce School bus stop, commonly known as the Black Bus Stop, to outside Clark Hall. Black students reacted passionately, saying that the Black Bus Stop was an important historical and cultural symbol for the black community. In the end, the bus stop returned to its current location outside the Commerce School.

Plans for the integrated Center for Multi-Ethnic Affairs slowed to a crawl and then ended altogether amid questions of funding and reluctance to change the traditional role of the OAAA. After meeting with concerned Latino and Asian-American students, administrators announced that more deans would be hired to meet the needs of other minorities, but they would be under the umbrella of the Office of the Dean of Students and not the OAAA, which would remain unchanged.

On Nov. 21, 1997, University students and Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity members Richard Smith, Wesley McCluney, Bradley Kintz and Harrison Kerr Tigrett assaulted then-first-year College student Alexander "Sandy" Kory above the Ruffner footbridge, setting off a chain of events that that would result in the suspension of Smith, Kintz and Tigrett -- but not before it had stirred up a long-lasting controversy involving the University Judiciary Committee.

The words "intellectual community" became a catchphrase -- and the source of debate -- when University President John T. Casteen III and Faculty Senate Chairman Jahan Ramazani articulated concerns about the University's learning atmosphere. In his keynote address during fall convocation, Ramazani suggested moving Greek rush from the fall of first year.

After the Nov. 30 death of fourth-year College student Leslie Ann Baltz, Casteen announced his intention to appoint a task force to investigate the alcohol culture at the University. Baltz had been drinking before she fell down the stairs of her 14th Street apartment, suffering massive head wounds.

Among other recommendations, the University-wide Task Force on Alcohol Abuse called for more social alternatives to the Rugby Road scene and suggested the University print birth dates on student ID cards. Perhaps the most visible result of the task force was the Big White Tent in Newcomb Plaza, erected to house a number of events, but particularly the alcohol-free Sunset Concert Series as a Thursday night social option for students.

The emphasis on the University's alcohol culture brought on a battle between Inter-Fraternity Council President Al Park and Dean of Student Robert T. Canevari. Canevari and his office wanted to move rush to the spring, but Park and the IFC argued that delaying rush was an infringement on student self-governance and could damage the fraternities financially. Meanwhile, the Inter-Sorority Council separately voted to move sorority rush to the spring.

Canevari gave the IFC several options for a compromise that would have allowed the IFC to keep rush in the fall, including shortening the pledge period and banning kegs at IFC-sponsored parties. But after initially leaning toward the proposal, the IFC decided to move rush to the spring rather than adhere to Canevari's guidelines.

As the IFC and Dean of Students Office faced off, student self-governance was under pressure at Student Council as well, as two separate scandals shocked the University community. Council Vice President for Administration Dan Soschin was arrested in February for altering an Omni Hotel bill for $3,690.42 in Student Activities Fee funds. He later pled no contest in court. Christopher Butler, the former Student Council chief financial officer who had been arrested for writing two checks to himself, was sentenced in the fall to serve two days in jail.

On the political front, the 1997 Virginia Governor's race was dominating headlines throughout the state. As part of an historic Republican landslide, James S. Gilmore III defeated Democrat Donald S. Beyer with his promise of "No more Car Tax." Gilmore is a 1971 College graduate and a 1977 Law School graduate. In spring, the infamous Monica Lewinsky scandal broke in the national press, leading to the impeachment of President Clinton, who nevertheless weathered the feeding frenzy and held onto the presidency.

The biggest news on the sports scene was the exit of men's basketball coach Jeff Jones, whose Cavs had suffered a disappointing 11-19 season. Providence coach Pete Gillen replaced Jones.

During football season, Virginia fans were miffed -- to say the least -- when sought-after recruit Ronald "Benedict" Curry reneged on his verbal agreement to sign with the Cavs and went to North Carolina instead. A year later he would be faced with a torrent of boos and an embarrassing loss to Virginia as the Cavs trounced UNC with a rowdy record crowd in attendance.

Men's soccer lost in the NCAA final to UCLA, while the women's field hockey team fought its way to the NCAA semifinals, only to lose.

At the end of the school year, Canevari announced his retirement after 29 years as dean. Current Dean of Students Penny Rue, who hailed from Georgetown University, succeeded him in April 1999.

The Third Year

Over the summer, the University Hospital made headlines worldwide when officials confirmed that Callie Marie Jewel Conley and Rebecca Grace Chittum were switched at birth. The switch was discovered when Paula Johnson -- in an effort to demand child support from her ex-boyfriend Carlton Conley -- ordered a DNA test for Callie, the girl she had raised as her daughter.

The results found that Callie was the daughter of neither Conley nor Johnson and soon it was discovered that Callie was in fact the biological child of Tamara Whitney Rogers and Kevin Chittum, both of whom died in a July 4 car accident, never knowing that the daughter Rebecca was not their biological child.

Things got bitter when the Rogers and Chittum families settled with the Commonwealth for $2 million, but Johnson refused to settle and threatened to file for custody of both girls and the families traded accusations and incriminations. A judge eventually declined to give Johnson custody of Rebecca, but the families finally agreed to a visitation schedule.

As Scott Stadium construction progressed, an inspection team discovered 32 broken support wires in the roof of University Hall, which they deemed structurally unstable. Athletics offices were evacuated by August 12 as emergency construction began. The Board of Visitors voted later in the year to approve plans to build a new basketball arena.

In October, a female University student was raped near the train tracks under Beta Bridge. A month later, a second University student was attacked by an unidentified man pretending to be a photographer. She got away, but the incidents evoked fear and anger in the University community. Safety concerns became paramount and the IFC started the Rugby Area Watch in an effort to make the community safer.

After the Delta Zeta sorority house was broken into in October and March, Charlottesville police arrested Garrett James Lloyd. Lloyd eventually pled guilty to one of the break-ins, but police still have no suspect for the assaults.

But peace came to Grounds in November when nine Nobel Laureates attended a landmark University conference on Human Rights, Conflict and Reconciliation. Featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activist Betty Williams, among others, the unique event prompted several hundred students to camp out overnight outside Scott Stadium for a chance to claim a coveted ticket and drew celebrities such as Beastie Boy Adam "MCA" Yauch. The event was broadcast live on the Web.

Meanwhile, the Board of Visitors was divided over whether to build a satellite campus in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar, but approved the plans in a close vote. Despite a nod from the Virginia General Assembly, the proposal fell through the following summer over disagreements about whether the campus should be subject to American accreditation standards.

The Board was flooded with angry calls, letters and e-mails over a proposal to change the name of Clinch Valley College to "University of Virginia-Wise". Alumni complained that only graduates of the University should have the distinction of the University of Virginia name and that there might be confusion between the University and the community college in Wise, Va.

After the Board voted not to include the words "University of Virginia" in CVC's new name, the General Assembly intervened with a compromise and Clinch Valley College was christened "University of Virginia at Wise".

Student groups, including the IFC, ISC and Corks & Curls, voiced frustration with the Board when they were evicted from their office spaces in Peabody Hall to make way for the Office of Admissions. The Office of Admissions was being relocated from Miller Hall, which was slated for demolition to make way for a new underground special collections library. The student organizations soon found themselves setting up shop in Newcomb Hall.

The Board also found itself entangled in an affirmative action argument that was fired up by Linda Chavez, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative Washington, D.C.-based think tank. The CEO accused the University of unfairly using racial preferences in undergraduate admissions. In an emotionally charged debate on Grounds, Chavez faced off against University Dean of Admissions John A. Blackburn as several students booed and catcalled. The Board responded to the controversy by creating a special committee to look into the University's admissions policies. Board member Terrence P. Ross was named chair.

In the spring, five Phi Kappa Psi pledges were arrested in Lexington, Va., after going on a crime spree throughout the south. They were found with a letter on fraternity stationary telling them to pick up the various stolen items -- including a Hardee's sign and flags from the Augusta National golf course -- as part of a scavenger hunt.

Cav football players Antwoine Womack, Adrian Burnim, John Duckett and Devon Simmons were arrested and charged for assaulting University students Jonathan Dean and Cabral Thornton near Kerchof Hall.

Womack, a running back, was convicted of misdemeanor assault and battery Dec. 16, 1999, after originally facing two felony charges of malicious wounding. The jury recommended sentences of six months for Burnim and Charlottesville resident Kevin Cromartie, who had participated in the attack, but Womack's UJC trial was dropped and the running back is scheduled to rejoin the football team in the fall.

1999 was a more or less a rebuilding year for many University sports, but the men's lacrosse team beat Syracuse for the national championship. The football team went to the Peach Bowl, only to lose to Georgia when kicker Todd Braverman missed a long field goal with only seconds left to play.

In November 1999, the University Judiciary Committee tried and expelled Tigrett, Kintz and Smith for their involvement in the 1997 Kory assault. Kintz and Tigrett did not attend their UJC trial because they said William W. Harmon, vice president for student affairs, told them it had been postponed. The three expelled students appealed the Committee's verdict to the Judicial Review Board. They were permitted to stay in school pending a JRB decision on the matter.

JRB found problems with the first UJC trial and sent the case back to UJC to be adjudicated again. The delays continued until the Committee set a trial date for April. Before the trial could take place, the three student prosecutors resign in fear of lawsuits and the trial chairwoman stepped down because of potential bias.

The UJC voted in closed session to send the case to Harmon, who appointed a panel to hear the case. The panel recommended a two-semester suspension for Smith, and one each for Kintz and Tigrett. Casteen increased the suspension for Smith to two years, one year for Tigrett and one semester for Kintz. Casteen's decision was appealed to the JRB, which upheld the ruling.

It was revealed that Kory had offered to drop all UJC charges for $500,000 but Smith and others turned down the offer.

Smith, Tigrett and Kintz all have since sued the University and Kory has filed suit against Smith.

The Fourth Year

The Wahoo ego received a slight blow when the U.S. News & World Report annual college rankings revealed that the University had slipped to second place. Mr. Jefferson's University had been edged out by the University of California-Berkeley. The year before, Berkeley had had shared the coveted spot as the number one public university. For the first time in five years, the University was no longer number one.

As students came back from summer vacation, news of a violent crime sent shock waves throughout the community. Just before classes started, a man raped a female University student in her 15th Street home. The woman's male friend allegedly was held at gunpoint during the ordeal. The perpetrator, Charlottesville resident Montaret Davis, later was arrested and in the spring he was sentenced to 90 years in prison. The incident caused concern for students safety to once again become a hot topic on Grounds.

Students soon were caught up in a heated racial debate after the Charlottesville NAACP called for Board of Visitors member Terrence P. Ross' apology for what the NAACP deemed racist remarks. Ross had commented to The Daily Progress that the University is "clearly in some cases reaching a little bit down our academic standards to recruit black students." The NAACP issued a statement characterizing Ross' comment as "careless," a "half truth" and "unacceptable." Days later, the Virginia NAACP demanded Ross' removal from the Board. The governor, however, declined to remove Ross.

At a time when anti-affirmative legislation was being debated in Texas, California and Florida, Ross' comments added to the tense racial climate at the University. A Board proposal to institute a summer program for minority high school students left many wondering about the fate of race as a factor in the University's admissions process. Debate continued, with pro-affirmative action students rallying for its support during the drizzly days of October. During the "October Camp," a group of students pitched about 15 tents on the Lawn, sponsored speakers and discussion groups and handed out "This Matters" stickers to passersby.

Those opposed to affirmative action policies argued through editorials in The Cavalier Daily and other student publications and by posting signs around Grounds that affirmative action was a form of discrimination. Some suggested socio-economic factors, not race, should be used as a consideration in the admissions process.

University Rector John P. Ackerly III and Casteen both declared that the University would stand behind its practice of using race as a factor in admissions.

In the midst of the debate over affirmative action, The Cavalier Daily published confidential documents revealing that children of those likely to donate large sums to the University are tracked by the Development Office, which then passes on the lists to the Office of Admissions.

The University's next encounter with the media was less controversial. In October, students lined up en masse in the Newcomb Plaza for ABC's "College Jeopardy!" quiz show tryouts. Fourth-year College student Molly Jesse advanced to Los Angeles to represent the University on national TV.

Two new ethnic-oriented sororities and one fraternity emerged into the University's Greek spotlight. Omega Phi Beta, a Latina-oriented sorority, alpha Kappa Delta Phi, an Asian-oriented sorority, and Lambda Upsilon Lambda, a Latino-oriented fraternity, all signed their Fraternal Organization Agreements this year. Since these Greek organizations felt they did not fit under the jurisdiction of the historically white IFC and ISC or the Black Fraternal Council, fourth-year College student Kasara Davidson spearheaded the formation of a brand-new umbrella organization: the Fraternity-Sorority Council.

But the IFC, still at odds with the administration over the never-ending formal rush date debate, did not fare as well this year. Despite fraternity leaders' complaints over supposed financial woes and aborted student self-governance, Dean of Students Penny Rue stuck to her guns and maintained that formal rush should be held in the spring, not fall.

In September, Phi Delta Theta fraternity was investigated for the illegal hazing of second-year Engineering student John W. Cox. Cox, a Phi Delt pledge, reportedly drank a fifth of rum in 30 minutes, resulting in his passing out in a bathtub later that night. The UJC later revoked Phi Delt's FOA, but in the spring, the JRB instructed the UJC to work out a new sanction.

In November, the Virginia General Assembly Republicans gained an historic majority for the first time since Reconstruction. Meanwhile, the race was on nationwide for president, as Arizona Sen. John McCain and Texas Governor George W. Bush fought for the Republican nomination and New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and Vice President Al Gore contested for the Democratic nomination. By Super Tuesday, it was all over: Gore and Bush would face off in the fall of 2000.

With a surprising number of University graduates holding top positions at Internet and technology companies, Fortune magazine asked the question, "Is there something in the water in Charlottesville?" The University responded with the much-publicized e-summit, a conference designed to link the academical village to the Internet age. The successful event drew big names from Internet and technology companies across the nation.

The University's Capital Campaign hit the big time that December, with a $10 million gift from alumnus Frank Batten propelling the Campaign over its $1 billion goal -- a year ahead of schedule.

As 1999 came to a close, the world waited to see what the new millennium held, but more importantly, what would happen when the clock struck midnight. Fear and excitement mounted on New Year's Eve and thankfully, the Y2K bug scare was the disaster that never happened.

In February, admissions statistics revealed that the University experienced a 17 percent decrease in admissions applications. More striking, however, was the 25 percent drop in the number of black students who applied to the University. Discussion continued about the hoopla surrounding the affirmative action debate and the release of the tracking statistics.

When it came to Student Council elections, students displayed more interest than usual. A high voter turnout yielded a close call in the race for Council president, resulting in a runoff in which third-year College student Joe Bilby defeated fellow third-year College student Brendan Dignan.

Megan Stoker, who would have been walking down the Lawn tomorrow with her fellow fourth-year classmates, succumbed to leukemia March 17.

Activism infected the University when some students trekked up to Washington, D.C. to join the thousands protesting the policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In April, five members of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity were arrested in Fauquier County for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and opium. For University Police, dealing with an opium charge was a first.

Sports fans experienced a mixed year as the women's basketball team went to Sweet Sixteen and swimmer Ed Moses broke two world records. The men's basketball team was denied a bid to the NCAAs after an exciting season in which they upset Maryland, but Gillen's team went on to the NIT only to lose a triple overtime thriller to Georgetown in the first round. The football team, dazzled by the footwork of star running back Thomas Jones, upset Georgia Tech in a victory that incited students to rush the field. But the team went to the bowl and lost miserably to Illinois.

But looking back, perhaps one of the most picturesque moments of the Class of 2000's final year came when a few snowflakes turned into a full-scale snowstorm, dumping over eight inches on the University during an unusually chilly winter. Even though the governor declared a state of emergency, the University remained open -- fourth years would not enjoy a repeat of the freedom they remembered from their first year, when Hurricane Fran swept through town. Nevertheless, many students took the opportunity to nab trays from dining halls and sled down the inclines of Nameless Field, Mad Bowl and other sloped locales, making the most out of what nature had dealt them, just as they had during Hurricane Fran.

In the end, however, none of the storms that raged during the Class of 2000's time at the University will matter when students walk the Lawn Sunday, rain or shine. Students have weathered their four years here and still managed to have a great time. They've been through a hurricane and they're ready for anything.