The University relies on its Community of Trust — a “benefit” at the University that binds its students not to lie, cheat or steal — to protect one another when we perceive something wrong. We are obligated by this trust and honor regardless of our geographic location. But its locus is on our Grounds and the immediately surrounding areas. And we have violated the Community of Trust.
Frequently, I receive emails about sexual assaults, bias-motivated assaults, robberies, stabbings and now a missing person report. The targets are my peers, my friends, my sorority sisters, my classmates and my fellow Charlottesville community members. The University has a special way of making people feel connected to one another, to the school and to its traditions. So why aren’t we taking better care of one another?
In messages and speeches, the University has said the Community of Trust defines our life and learning. Perhaps too much. Currently, students, faculty and administration wait with bated breath for the return of Hannah Elizabeth Graham. We are simultaneously battling the bystander effect to reduce our incidences of sexual assaults. Just last year there was a string of attacks against students based on their sexual orientation. Robberies are reported frequently, and two people were stabbed near the Corner this summer. Yet students still feel empowered to leave their laptops, wallets, purses and other personal belongings strewn around Grounds — and walk home alone at night — citing the Honor Code and the Community of Trust as their protecting force. The obsession with the Community of Trust has created a dichotomy we must draw attention to. We invent our safety and security in a place and time that is unsafe.
We do not live in an idyllic world. We live in Charlottesville, a city just like any other city. Charlottesville has crime, and Charlottesville has problems, just like any other city. But we, as students and responsible young adults, have a duty to protect ourselves. The Community of Trust is something we should strive for, but it is also something we have to earn. Protecting ourselves, not just our own person but also our fellow Wahoos, is a step in the right direction.