The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

YOWELL: You are not alone with your disenchantment of U.Va.

The University's prestige does not make it faultless, nor should its faults prevent you from being proud of your time here

<p>&nbsp;So, when looking back at my experience as a fourth year student, it may seem surprising that I am actually disenchanted with the University.</p>

 So, when looking back at my experience as a fourth year student, it may seem surprising that I am actually disenchanted with the University.

The University carries an indisputable level of prestige. It possesses the status of a “public Ivy” and consistently ranks in the top five among public schools in the U.S., coming in fourth for three straight years. It also boasts top ranking graduate programs, earning U.Va. a respectable reputation in all regards. This reputation led me to hear that a degree from the University would take me anywhere I wanted in life long before I even started elementary school. Ever since, I have looked forward to being able to say the coveted line — “I have worn the honors of Honor. I graduated from Virginia.” I essentially placed the University on a fixed pedestal, as many of those around me had done and continue to do. So, when looking back at my experience as a fourth year student, it may seem surprising that I am actually disenchanted with the University. I feel let down and betrayed by a school I was taught to view as an infallible institution capable of making my dreams come true.

Growing up in and around Charlottesville, there was no question that the University had to be my top choice. From athletics to academics, the University dominated the nation — at least that is what ten-year-old me would come to believe. And to a degree, that is true. I cherish many of the memories I have made here, met my lifelong best friends, obtained a phenomenal education and had an unequivocal amount of fun. But it would be the parts of the University that I did not know existed until I arrived here that I would come to resent. 

From the inaccessibility of Counseling and Psychological Services to the disheartening glorification of Thomas Jefferson, much about the University has pushed my emotional capacity to its limits. It has left me feeling as if the fight for change, equity and acceptance at this institution is a useless cause. I have watched demands of sexual assualt survivors and advocates go unment. Meanwhile, the University handed a degree to a student found responsible in a Title IX case. Honor still functions on a faulty single-sanction system despite pleas of students. The removal or recontextualization of many monuments and statues has yet to happen. I have watched employees get mistreated by Aramark. I have seen mediocre responses to the ongoing pandemic concern students and faculty alike. I have seen apparent hate crimes go unpunished and tuition increase during a period of economic duress for many. Financial aid, affordable housing and unreliable transportation are worries of many of my peers. I have watched students fight against University administration for their right to free speech. I have watched racial discrimination continue to be highlighted by the names of our buildings. And this list does not even scratch the surface. 

In my three and a half years at this institution, I have seen University administration miss the mark more times than I ever thought conceivable. The more I experienced only seemed to taint my image of the University further. I did not understand how I could love something so unimaginably flawed. I began to question if I even loved it here. Nearly three years ago, at the height of some of these feelings, I wrote an article about the elitism of the University, calling on it to recognize the place it has in the community, the damage it is capable of causing and the increased duty it has to hold itself accountable as a result. I was not at all surprised by the overwhelming response to the piece, labeling me as arrogant, wrong and unworthy of attending such a prestigious university. I did not understand why I did not feel the same pride about being a student of the beloved University of Virginia that others seemed to feel. 

Coming full circle, I now know the answer. I did love this school — I do love this school. However, loving this school does not mean existing behind a rose-colored lens, blinded by the prestige of national championship titles and nationally ranked academic programs. I cannot deny the harm perpetuated and allowed, intentionally or inadvertently, by this University, and in fact, I try to call attention to it as much as I possibly can. I have exhausted myself trying to make this institution a better place, and I have watched student activists and organizers do the same. 

Along the way, however, I have recognized that nothing has to be all bad or all good. This University remains systematically flawed in so many of its practices and policies. That cannot be overstated. I have had some of the worst experiences of my life here. Yet, I have simultaneously had some of the best. That cognitive dissonance has not been fully eradicated, and that is okay. I love this University, and I am proud to be a part of it — not despite its flaws, but because I know there are students relentlessly working to change them even when University administration won’t. Disenchantment has been a part of my personal growth at the University. But it doesn't change the fact that I have grown over the past four years, nor the fact that students who are also disillusioned will grow during their time here. We are more than parts of some prestigious whole — and we should never be ashamed of our time here. 

Hailey Yowell is an Opinion Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at

The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.


Latest Podcast

From her love of Taylor Swift to a late-night Yik Yak post, Olivia Beam describes how Swifties at U.Va. was born. In this week's episode, Olivia details the thin line Swifties at U.Va. successfully walk to share their love of Taylor Swift while also fostering an inclusive and welcoming community.