The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

STUDENTS UNITED: Open Letter to the Board of Visitors

We write as concerned students who are seeking a formal avenue of communication with the Board of Visitors. We propose establishing a public comment period at your regular meetings, in front of the full Board.

We are members of a coalition called UVa Students United that is composed of a wide range of students representing diverse interests. Our coalition takes action towards building a more democratic, accessible and inclusive University.

Presently there is no established structure of communication between the Board and the people who are affected by their decisions, including students, faculty, staff and community members. A public comment period is a crucial first step in letting these voices be heard. It is critical for maintaining democracy in a university setting. As Gray Whisnant stated in his recent op-ed in The Cavalier Daily, “allowing students the option of coming to talk directly to the Rector and the Board as whole would bring the University meaningfully closer to the Jeffersonian ideal of civic engagement.” Student engagement in issues directly affecting them is essential to the tradition of student self-governance, a founding tenet of the University. We are among many students who fully intend to utilize this platform to give input on critical issues, including student debt and the diversity of the student body.

A public comment period does not require funding or considerable administrative coordination on your part, simply a few additional hours of your time. We understand the Board has a busy schedule, but the implications would be incredibly significant for increasing democratic decision-making in Board governance. Based on our research of many different public universities’ policies, we propose establishing a 90-minute period for public comment on each of the two days that the full Board convenes, resulting in a total of three hours. Speakers can register in advance with the Board secretary, with remarks limited to five minutes each. In the event that not all slots are filled ahead of time, individuals can sign up to speak at the time of the meeting.

We want to see this public comment period enacted at the upcoming meeting in November. Since an official schedule has not been released, we urge you to take this proposal into consideration when drafting the agenda.

We have also been in contact with Board of Visitors Student Representative Meg Gould, who is independently in support of an effort to institute a platform for public input. We are happy to discuss with you specific details of this proposal in greater depth, and hope to hear back from you soon.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

With best regards,

UVa Students United

Hannah Beaman, CLAS ‘17

Ashley Blackwell, CLAS ‘15

Cierra Brooks, CLAS ‘15

Kelly Carson, CLAS ‘16

Allison Febrey, CLAS ‘17

Isabelle Han, CLAS ‘17

Clive Hillyard, CLAS ‘17

Dyanna Jaye, CLAS ‘15

Joseph Kreiter, CLAS ‘17

Gregory Lewis, CLAS ‘15

Augustina Mensa-Kwao, CLAS ‘15

Katharine Miller, CLAS ‘17

Stephanie Montenegro, CLAS ‘14

Londeka Mthethwa, CLAS ‘17

Chudi Obi, CLAS ‘15

Saeeda Quansah, CLAS ‘16

Ryland Richardson, Curry ‘15

Carina Rodriguez, CLAS ‘15

Ninar Taha, CLAS ‘18

Rosa Waters, CLAS ‘15

Claire Wyatt, CLAS ‘13