The Cavalier Daily
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Community of trust

A first year, out of state student’s perspective on the concurrent University climate

<p>Kristin's column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at </p>

Kristin's column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at 

I have lived my life nurtured by a variety of incredibly tight-knit communities.

I attended the same school for 15 years in the town I lived in all of my life. My family’s church was only a few minutes down the road, and both sets of grandparents — as well as my aunt, uncle and two cousins — lived less than one town away.

I recognize a similar community is undeniably alive and well at the University of Virginia. It is something that I greatly admire, and one of the reasons I wanted to come here. Parents of in-state students teach their children the words to the “Good Ol’ Song” and pass down traditions of tailgating before each football game. Families dress in far more orange and blue than is found in the average wardrobe. Friends from high school wait for acceptance letters together and arrive on Grounds in caravans from their hometowns, immediately heading off to lunches with upperclassman friends who have promised to take the new students under their wings.

This spirit of community has also shone in the reaction to the article published in Rolling Stone, which details a student’s horrific experience with sexual assault. As I have observed members of my first-year class respond, I have noticed that almost all begin by addressing “fellow Wahoos” or a “family of Cavaliers,” and end with the assertion that, in the end, there is still no other place in the world they would rather be.

However, as an out-of-state student with no previous ties to the University, these past few months have left me feeling, at times, like I am looking in from the outside. In the wake of this most recent tragedy, I am completely unsure how to respond.

Honestly, it’s been a terribly challenging time to join this community. Though I have been reassured constantly by older students that these circumstances are out of the ordinary, that most semesters are not dominated by the heartbreak and emotional upheaval that have characterized these past few months, it’s difficult to separate my experience as a first year from the turmoil the University has experienced as a whole.

Without that sense of ingrained community which has enveloped so many of our students, it is hard to gather the sense of pride and loyalty with which many of my peers have responded. Without that camaraderie to rally around, it is difficult to see past an apparent failure of a once-trusted administration. It’s hard not to feel uneasy in some social situations which seemed so carefree a few weeks ago. And it’s impossible to escape the constant reminder of what appears to be less of an isolated incident and more of a troubling epidemic.

I don’t know how to react to the allegations of sexual assault or the accusations of an ineffectual response from the administration. But I do know about community.

A community is less about the size of the group and more about the fact that they are united behind common goals and common values. A community is strengthened one person and one relationship at a time, and there is always room for new growth.

It has been encouraging to watch how passionately students have begun the search for ways to get involved, and how quickly resources have been compiled and sent out to assist in this process. Rather than shy away from the issue, U.Va. has joined together in ways to become part of the solution.

At times like these, it is important to remember to turn our collective attention inward and support fellow classmates who may be reaching out. Communities like ours must be strengthened from within. We must strive to once again make our school a place that we feel comfortable defending with such a fierce sense of pride.

In the wake of tragedy, and despite the misgivings that have plagued me during this troubling and tumultuous first semester, the response of the University student body has been one that serves to foster my faith in exactly how strong and welcoming this community can be. It has reminded me that while I may not have arrived on Grounds feeling as though I was inherently a member, I am hopeful that I can work alongside my fellow classmates to be part of this community and, through the process, proudly include myself as a member of the family of fellow Hoos.

Kristin’s column runs biweekly Tuesdays. She can be reached at


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