2020 will go down in history as one of the University’s most defining years. Although we could undoubtedly publish several books with all the material we have, I will try to sum up the past year with the stories that made 2020 so unrelenting and challenging.
January 27, 2020 China study abroad programs canceled — students in China for University-related purposes were advised to depart after the CDC upgraded its coronavirus warning to level 3, its highest warning.
February 6, 2020 New student spaces open — the University celebrated the grand opening of four new student centers in Newcomb Hall, including the relocated Multicultural Student Center and LGBTQ Center and new Latinx Student Center and Interfaith Center.
February 12, 2020 Backlash against MSC — after a viral video emerged of a student stating that there were "too many white people" using the new Multicultural Student Center, the University released a statement affirming that all members of the community are welcome in the space — drawing sharp criticism from students who felt the University failed to support its multicultural communities.
February 19, 2020 President Ryan responds to backlash — following national media attention and threats expressed towards the student in the video, University President Jim Ryan attempted to bring the University community together with an open letter in The Cavalier Daily urging students to foster a shared sense of purpose. He condemned the violence expressed toward the student and affirmed that no student should be denied access to a University space because of race.
February 20, 2020 Coronavirus fears alienate Asian American students — our first story on COVID-19 focused on its impact on the Asian American community at the University before its eventual spread to the United States. With growing animosity towards those of East Asian descent, a Life columnist wrote about her observations and experience with discrimination as an Asian American student at the University.
March 5, 2020 Italy study abroad programs canceled — students studying in Italy through the University were informed that they must depart due to the increased presence of COVID-19 in the country. All outbound study abroad programs for spring break were also canceled.
March 11, 2020 Spring semester turned upside down — with nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia, the University suspended all classes for the “foreseeable future” and advised all students to return home due to the threat of coronavirus exposure.
March 12, 2020 Athletics activities suspended — Virginia Athletics and the Atlantic Coast Conference suspended all practice and competition until further notice due to the outbreak of COVID-19, ending hopes that the Virginia men’s basketball team would defend its national championship during March Madness.
March 16, 2020 First case of COVID-19 reported in Charlottesville — a University employee tested positive for COVID-19 following travel. The following day, the University moved classes online for the remainder of the spring semester and canceled Final Exercises as planned.
March 18, 2020 Student gatherings continue — despite repeated warnings from health experts and the University, several students continued to congregate in large groups in Madison Bowl, fraternity houses and bars, drawing criticism from the local Charlottesville community.
March 19, 2020 Online instruction begins — the first day of virtual classes on Zoom was met with technical difficulties and challenges for students and professors alike.
March 26, 2020 Graduating students react to cancellation of Final Exercises — The Cavalier Daily spoke to first-generation college students and others about the significance of walking the Lawn.
March 30, 2020 Virginia passes two-month stay-at-home order — With 1,020 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam issued a mandatory statewide stay-at-home order that prohibited residents from leaving their homes until June 10, with exceptions for essential errands. It was the longest-lasting stay-at-home statewide order in the country.
March 30, 2020 Admitted students navigate an uncertain future — The Cavalier Daily interviewed high school seniors who were admitted to the University about the challenges inflicted by the pandemic, such as not being able to visit.
April 6, 2020 University dining employees laid off — a week after The Cavalier Daily interviewed University dining staff who were laid off by Aramark without severance, the University pledged $3 million in funding for furloughed workers and community relief.
April 21, 2020 Virginia Athletics launches a new brand identity that ignites controversy — for the first time in over 20 years, Virginia Athletics revealed new branding in an attempt to excite the community until sports activities resumed. This surprise announcement included an updated V-Sabre mark, two new secondary marks and a revised color scheme, among other changes. However, much of the University community expressed discontent with the new look and felt fan input was lacking. The community also brought attention to the sabre handles designed to mimic the serpentine walls on Grounds, which were originally structured to hide enslaved laborers from view — considered insensitive to put on a logo. The sabre handles were later modified in June.
April 28, 2020 Health System faces $85 million deficit — with a significant decline in surgeries and clinic visits due to COVID-19, the University’s Health System furloughed non-patient care staff to make up for an $85 million deficit per month.
May 16, 2020 Virtual degree conferral — the University hosted an online ceremony to virtually confer degrees to the Class of 2020. Although different from the norm, the ceremony featured surprise performances from renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and singer-songwriter Dave Matthews.
May 28, 2020 Fall semester to begin on time — President Ryan announced plans to begin fall semester classes on-time and partially in-person until Thanksgiving break in order to minimize travel.
May 30, 2020 Charlottesville community protests killing of George Floyd — hundreds of people marched to peacefully protest police brutality after a white officer in Minneapolis knelt on the neck of a Black man for over eight minutes, resulting in his death. Protesters also sought to remember the lives of Breonna Taylor — a Black woman who was killed in her apartment in March by Louisville Police during a no-knock warrant — and Sage Smith, a Black transgender woman who went missing in Charlottesville in 2012 and whose case remains unsolved.
May 31, 2020 President Ryan comments on protests — in a social media post, Ryan criticized the violence that erupted in many cities across the nation during protests for racial equality, which many felt detracted from the core issues being expressed through the protests. The following week, Ryan clarified his comments and introduced a racial equality task force in response.
June 4, 2020 Ruffner Hall renamed — the Board of Visitors voted to rename Ruffer Hall to honor Walter Ridley, the first Black student to earn a doctoral degree at the University.
June 16, 2020 U.Va. changes matriculation policy — following years of advocacy by undocumented students and allies, all students, regardless of citizenship or immigration status, were deemed eligible for admission and enrollment at the University — including undocumented students without DACA status.
July 11, 2020 Annual midsummers celebration condemned — a weekend of students partying during the midsummers tradition at the University, many without masks and disregarding social distancing guidelines, drew concern from the local community about the prospect of students returning in the fall. Dean of Students Allen Groves called the partying amid a pandemic “reckless behavior.”
August 4, 2020 Fall semester delayed two weeks — the University delayed the start of undergraduate in-person instruction and the opening of residence halls by two weeks in response to an increase in local and national coronavirus cases.
August 29, 2020 Additional quarantine housing forced students to relocate — hundreds of on-Grounds residents were forced to relocate just days before the semester began in order to allow the University to convert their housing for quarantine use. Residents were given 24 hours to choose a new housing assignment.
September 11, 2020 BOV votes to contextualize TJ statue — the Board of Visitors voted to rename the Curry School of Education and Human Development, contextualize the statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the Rotunda, rededicate or remove the Frank Hume Memorial Wall, remove and relocate the George Rogers Clark statue and rename Withers-Brown Hall at the School of Law.
September 16, 2020 First dorm outbreak — after five students living in the Balz-Dobie dorm tested positive for COVID-19 and wastewater testing of the dorm provided positive indicators of a possible outbreak, all residents were quarantined and immediately tested — revealing 10 additional cases. Several other dorm outbreaks soon followed in similar fashion.
September 16-18, 2020 COVID-19 cases surge — the University reported over 160 positive cases within the three-day span.
September 22, 2020 Gatherings limited to five people — with 569 COVID-19 cases reported at the University, new policies were enforced that prohibited gatherings of more than five people, reinforced constant use of face coverings and banned travel and visitors for at least the next two weeks.
October 2, 2020 President Ryan addresses “f—k UVA” Lawn room signs — after a Lawn resident put up a sign on their door containing profanity and criticism of the University’s history of enslavement and inaccessibility, some alumni and community members called for its removal. Ryan called the sign “disappointing” and said the University will consider imposing regulations on Lawn room residents as early as next year.
November 3, 2020 Election Day — although some races were declared soon after polls closed, the results of others — such as the presidential election — remained up in the air. Dr. Cameron Webb conceded the race for Virginia’s Fifth Congressional district to Republican candidate Bob Good, and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claimed victory in Virginia.
November 24, 2020 Students return home for break — the University provided COVID-19 tests to all students prior to returning home for Thanksgiving and winter break.
December 15, 2020 First dose of COVID-19 vaccine administered at U.Va. — after receiving around 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, the University Health System began administering the vaccine to frontline staff, a positive step towards neutralizing the virus.