To say that this semester has been eventful is an understatement. During student elections in March, University students voted to change the guilty Honor sanction from expulsion to a two-semester suspension and elected fourth-year College student Ceci Cain as Student Council president. The Queer Student Union celebrated its 50th anniversary, while many of the University community’s favorite events — like the Organization of African Students’ Africa Day — made remarkable in-person comebacks. In-person Days on the Lawn brought admitted high schoolers to Grounds for the first time since 2019, and Trippie Redd brought students together for a concert at John Paul Jones Arena. This semester, there was finally a hint of normalcy and an inspiring dose of history in the air — and maybe a little pollen too.
Two years ago, we — as either high schoolers or college students — were finishing up our first semesters during the COVID-19 pandemic. The in-person events listed above and the endless others affected by the pandemic quickly became things we lost that year. More specifically, they became yet another box on our computer screen, as so-called Zoom University began for students across the globe. COVID-19 has affected all University students differently, but for those reading and writing this article, we can at least say that we are still here. COVID-19 is not in the past, but there’s a sense for many of us that now we can say this — we made it.
The hurdles students had to jump this semester did not make this journey easier. Greek organizations — but especially fraternities — have continually violated public health guidelines. Students have witnessed ineffective leadership in the Honor Committee. Shifting policies around mask mandates have left many students and faculty confused and some even feeling unsafe in classroom settings. Yet, in a semester defined by debate that tested the limits of student self-governance, we are disappointed to remember instances in which Virginia state policy makers pushed legislation based on myths surrounding critical race theory and made decisions without consulting those whom those very decisions would affect. We would be remiss not to acknowledge all these challenges, especially as they leave students frustrated and confused. Whether it be fraternities jeopardizing the health of the student body or Honor refusing to do its elected job, this semester has had its share of unique bumps in the road.
But today, we want to make one thing clear — we are proud of students for making it to the end of this semester. It is never a small feat to complete another challenging academic term, especially when academics are accompanied by shifting public health situations and University operations.
To graduating students in particular — you made it to the end of your undergraduate career despite a pandemic that took so much away from you. Whether having to step away from the communities you joined early in your academic journey or returning to Grounds feeling like a first year who’s really a fourth year, you’re about to receive your diploma in May. With in-person Final Exercises returning, you’ll cascade the Lawn in your gowns and accomplishments. Do not let anybody take away the pride you should feel next month. You are incredible for making it here — undeniably incredible.
The University community faced a myriad of challenges over the past few years, and this last semester in particular. Repeated conflict has undoubtedly taken a toll on students on Grounds through burnout and crisis fatigue. This summer, we encourage all of you to prioritize your mental and physical health — you deserve it. Remember, however, that this coming fall there will still be work to be done. From putting an end to the exploitation of unpaid student leaders to increasing the buy-in to student self-governance, to pushing for a rehabilitative Honor system and to taking down the racist symbols around Grounds — we have a lot of work to do. With the graduation of the Class of 2022 and lessening of pandemic restrictions, this summer provides a unique opportunity for younger students to make this University their own. What’s left is to rise to the occasion.
The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associate and an Opinion Columnist. The board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.