I have tried to avoid the front page of The Cavalier Daily lately.I see the newspapers neatly stacked at the entrance to Monroe Hall as I come in every morning for my classes.
I pass by the stack and walk quickly up the stairs, not letting my eyes catch the front of the paper.
In class, when lectures start to drag or my attention wanders, I will reach for other sections of the Cav Daily that were left behind by students in the previous class.
I will scan the Sports section for news of a big Wahoo win, or I will check Arts & Entertainment for reviews of a new album.
Of course, I also devour the Life page, with its thought-provoking commentaries on student life -- not to mention its clever columnists.
But I hesitate before reaching for the front page, and I honestly avoid it when I can.
I don't want to see the headlines.
As you are all aware, our University community was stunned and saddened by the recent violence that occurred right in our midst. The suspect in this horrible and thoughtless act of brutality is one of our peers, our fellow students.
Not only have I mourned for the victim's family and friends, but also for our University and our community.
When Mr. Jefferson founded this school, he created an institution of brotherhood and higher learning. He endowed U.Va. with the principles he held dear, and he meant for us to hold those ideals dear to our own hearts.
Certainly, violence is not new to our community. Our honor system, the pillar of values at Virginia, evolved from a homicide that took place right on the Lawn. The students at the time refused to recognize that violence as acceptable behavior for Virginia scholars. They wanted to attend a school that stood for honor, integrity, and justice.
And so do we.
When I decided to apply to U.Va., I was drawn by its traditions, its school spirit, its beautiful Grounds and its honor system. I wanted to live in an environment where students showed respect to one another, to their community, and to the legacy of the great scholars that came before them.
Is that the school we attend today?
The story told in the headlines of our newspaper is not the story of a leading institution of higher learning.
In my four years at Virginia, those headlines have told the stories of cheating scandals, racial violence, theft and homicide.
While we are still saddened to read similar headlines in a national newspaper, they are even more shocking in our own college newspaper in Charlottesville.
Ironically, a couple weeks ago, I was flipping through television channels and came across an A&E documentary that mentioned the word "Charlottesville." Curious what our little town had to do with this documentary, I kept the channel on A&E and sat down to watch.
Scenes of the University filled my television screen, and I smiled as I saw familiar and beloved images of U.Va.
But the warm feeling ended abruptly as the images ended, and a sheriff discussed a gruesome murder committed by a University student.
The story was, of course, the tale of Jens Söring, a German student convicted of killing his girlfriend's parents while a first year at U.Va. in 1985.
Söring, who received two consecutive life sentences, was a Jefferson Scholar, the highest honor given to students entering the University.
I wonder how those students felt to have a killer in their midst. I wonder how the news affected those who lived with Söring, attended class with him, or knew his girlfriend. I wonder how the Charlottesville community looked upon this young Jefferson Scholar, who was attending the top public school in America for free.
Do those feelings from 1985 parallel the way we feel today?
As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us will give thanks for the education and experiences we will take with us when we graduate. For those of us whose graduation is rapidly approaching, we reflect on the value and meaning of our degree, and what it means to "have worn the honor of honors."
But how will the value of that degree change when we continue to read the headlines from U.Va. after we have left Charlottesville? Will we still brag to our colleagues about our four years at Virginia, will we still display that pride?
Or will we silently mourn for our school and quietly read the other headlines?
Each student was selected to enroll at U.Va. and join the community of trust because they exhibited scholarship, integrity, passion, and service. Our success at Virginia is also measured by many of the same standards. The caliber of students who attend U.Va. is unparalleled by the student bodies at other institutions.
While the physics cheating scandal was a disheartening message to our community, the rash of violence is mind numbing.
Our generation has had first-hand experience with violence, suffering, and fear since September 11. As Anthony Trollope said in his Victorian-era novel, "The Way We Live Now," "we belong to a newer and worse sort of world."
The violence in our world today is troubling enough, but when we internalize it and carry it inside of us, we become part of the disease.
As students, we have a conscious choice every day to uphold the honor, justice, and achievement for which our University stands.
If we support each other, respect our community, and become intolerable of violence and destruction, the headlines of our newspaper will reflect it.
If our children choose to attend Virginia, maybe they won't have to run hastily up the steps of Monroe Hall, avoiding the stack of papers by the door.