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​A modest proposal

There is but one self-evident course of action for the U.Va. community in the wake of the arrest of Martese Johnson. I know I will have the support of my fellow students when I hereby request the withdrawal of every minority student from the University of Virginia.

I mean this in the most literal sense possible. It appears that, in order to avoid bodily harm, we should all pack up and get the heck out of dodge.

The administration and sections of the student body have proven they cannot or will not provide safety for minority students. Now, this is a sticky claim, since the experienced discrimination of LGBTQ students, students of color and female students varies in type and intensity (to say nothing of when these categories intersect). I use the term “minority” without intending to equate any individual’s experience with anyone else’s. I use the term as a shorthand to represent each category of student that faces present bodily harm.

For LGBTQ students, we may remember the 2012 hate crime perpetrated against a gay student on the Corner. And we are aware that women face higher rates of sexual violence in college, especially at a school with inadequate systems of support. And the incident of brutality Wednesday morning proves students of color are still other-ed by those in power, and are not safe from bodily harm on these Grounds.

Although these problems are not U.Va.-specific, if there is any doubt that this is a uniquely racist, misogynistic or homophobic school, we should examine the facts. We are in a milieu of systematic discrimination. The fraternity system, which controls the social scene for many younger students, is a white and moneyed institution, and it controls social events based off standards of race and sexual orientation. Our school refuses to provide workers with a living wage, and minority studies remain programs and not departments.

And these are just the contemporary examples. If you want to know more, ask a professor about how the first classes of U.Va. would avail themselves to the sexual services of lower-class women from the community, or how the construction of Old Cabell Hall happened to coincide with a public outcry over the eyesore black neighborhood beyond the Lawn.

It is obvious that a mass exodus from U.Va. is an issue of safety for minority groups. But in addition to providing safety, my proposal has the power to change the very structure of U.Va.

We have seen time and time again that the administration will not change unless forced to. Without a clear and present danger to the University’s economic or academic standing, the powers that be resist doing anything that might upset alumni or disrespect the vision of Thomas Jefferson. We may use this to our advantage, though. A school as evidently reputation-obsessed as ours makes for an easy target. Imagine if every queer student, every female student, every student on financial aid and every student of color were to pack up and leave Charlottesville tomorrow. At the risk of international humiliation (not to mention state divestment), President Sullivan and the like would have no choice but to overhaul the policies that perpetuate the privilege of the select few. And while policy changes do not necessarily lead to culture changes, new rules will create a culture toxic to discrimination and help drive prejudiced students away. Our departure would force the hand that has been so slow to react on these issues, and provide actual and robust change to an institution two centuries behind the times.

So that’s why I think the withdrawal of every minority student from U.Va. is the best, if not the only, strategy to combat discrimination. Once we all have set up camp at different universities, I’d wager U.Va. will try to court us back. But until the administration can prove it can ensure a welcoming and safe environment for all students, we will delay our return. So for the time being, I hope other minority students will join me when I say, “later, jerks.”

Drew Kiser is a Humor writer.


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