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Student self-governance is at a watershed moment. Amid the fallout of the murder of George Floyd and ensuing global protests, many student organizations have been raising awareness for police brutality, collecting or matching donations for racial justice organizations and instituting internal reforms to increase equity in their ranks. Despite a swift and positive response from many organizations, other historically white and wealthy organizations have remained relatively silent or inactive. Given the context of the University’s history, such organizations have no choice but to be actively anti-racist and use their monetary and physical resources such as alumni networks, social media and educational materials to promote equity in society.
June 1 marks the annual start of pride — a month dedicated to the celebration of queer culture, consciousness raising for queer issues and a solemn remembrance for the thousands of lives lost to anti-queer violence around the world. Pride events around the country — parades, street festivals, benefit concerts and more — invoke memories of the Stonewall riots of June 1969, where Black trans women rioted against police brutality. These events create safe, welcoming spaces for queer people to express themselves.
The country is facing an unemployment crisis of unprecedented proportions. Rent strikes are gaining momentum in communities around the country, and students are pressuring the University to implement equitable responses with a petition and Student Council resolution. Amid the chaos, classist language in the Honor Committee’s definition of stealing is getting new attention. Landlords and property companies have begun to threaten to report students to Honor for failure to pay their rent — despite students losing wages, jobs and facing unparalleled changes to their daily lives. Student self-governance is being weaponized against students by outside forces — the Community of Trust is under threat, and Honor must defend it.
Last week, Viewpoint Writer Adam Grim published a column advocating for the Honor Committee’s removal of expulsion as a sanction for Honor offenses. Grim questions if and why expulsion is ever merited, and if the Informed Retraction actually does anything to preserve the University’s Community of Trust. The argument is plagued by a spectacular misunderstanding of the Honor Committee, its procedures and its sanctions. Grim mistakenly flattens the nuances of the system and misattributes blame for inequity in sanctions. Many — if not all — of the issues Grim cites can be traced back not to the consideration of expulsion as a sanction, but expulsion as the single sanction.
Two months ago, C-ville Weekly published a review of the University’s years-long response to the now-infamous Rolling Stone article of 2014. The article detailed the original Rolling Stone piece, the University’s short- and long-term responses, the cultural shifts on Grounds and current student concerns over work that has yet to be done. C-ville Weekly asks the question, “What has (or hasn’t) changed at UVA since Rolling Stone?” I have an answer — not enough.
Student self-governance — the right of students to govern their own academic affairs, adjudicate violations of our community values, enact change at the University and hold administrators accountable — is under threat. It’s been repeatedly violated by University administrators and has been called a sham and broadley dysfunctional by prominent student journalists.
The Virginia General Assembly has convened for its annual legislative session this year today. Both chambers of the oldest governing body in the Western Hemisphere — for the first time since 1995 — are under Democratic control. Already, countless pieces of progressive legislation have been proposed in the General Assembly, including bills to raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour, ban housing discrimination against queer people, introduce stronger gun control measures, pass a version of the Green New Deal and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s an agenda unparalleled in the Commonwealth’s history, and an awe-inspiring opportunity to stimulate economic growth, implement groundbreaking social policies and strengthen our democracy.
Earlier this month, the secret SABLE Society painted a message of solidarity with black transgender women on Beta Bridge as part of a wider campaign across Grounds to raise awareness about the disproportionate rate of violence black transgender women face. Since the start of 2019, black transgender women represent 91 percent of known victims of anti-transgender fatalities, and at least 24 individuals have been killed or have gone missing so far, including a Charlottesville native.
Virginia Blood Services — a regional affiliate of the American Red Cross — hosts regular blood drives on the plaza outside of Clark Hall. About twice per month, a massive donation truck rolls onto the sidewalk and is flanked with balloons, signs and volunteers encouraging people to donate. No matter what time of day, there’s always a line of students at the registration table, eager to donate their blood and help alleviate a seemingly omnipresent shortage across the Commonwealth. But not all blood is equal.
In the landmark 1973 ruling Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion in all 50 states. Prior to the ruling, as many as 1.2 million unsafe abortions took place each year, and 17 percent of deaths during pregnancy were attributed to such procedures — and that’s only what was reported, the real statistics were likely much higher. Almost immediately after Roe, the number of unsafe abortions plummetted as women were able to access safe and legal abortion services. No longer did women have to travel hundreds of miles and pay thousands of dollars to have abortions in unsanitary conditions from medically unlicensed — and often sexually predatory — physicians. Roe was, and still is, a major victory in the fight for gender equity in the United States, but its clock is ticking.
Last semester I wrote a column in ardent defense of the College’s New College Curriculum. I argued the criticisms of the New Curriculum “could not be further from the truth” and I highlighted the importance of the curriculum, its faculty, its courses, and its benefits not only to U.Va., but to higher education itself. Additionally, I expressed my belief the New Curriculum frees first-year students’ minds from the confines of traditional secondary education and engages students and faculty in innovative ways.
It’s no secret that the University is all about rankings. As the flagship university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the number four public university in the nation, U.Va. frequently flaunts its high-achieving schools and programs. The rankings list on US News and World Reports is extensive — 7 of the 11 schools are ranked in the top-50, and each boasts numerous ranked programs. However, there is one notable gap — U.Va. Arts.
Earlier this summer, Joe Biden, garnering criticism from nearly every other Democratic primary candidate, made a splash with his declaration of support for the Hyde Amendment — a ban on federal funds for abortion care. In the middle of a fierce battle over abortion rights — with nine states currently attempting to ban access to safe and legal abortion care — Biden’s “middle ground” approach couldn’t have been more tone deaf and out of touch. The utter lack of respect for the people suffering because of Hyde, and the complete insincerity he showed when he flipped positions less than 36 hours later, highlight his inability to identify with low-income women and people of color and the systemic inequalities they face on a daily basis in nearly every aspect of our society.
Viewpoint Writer Hunter Hess argued earlier this week that the New College Curriculum fails to deliver on its promises and falls short of expectations. While this view is shared by many students of the Curriculum, it cannot be further from the truth. The disenchantment some students feel with the New College Curriculum is not due to a failure on the Curriculum’s part but rather on the part of the students. There is a fundamental misunderstanding among students regarding the intent of the New College Curriculum — specifically the role of Engagements and their affiliated discussion sections. Fresh out of high school, students have been taught to expect courses with strict structures and guidelines, as well as a neat conclusion to the topic explored. The New College Curriculum inherently does not offer this, but that’s the whole point.
Despite massive outcry from the American people and against the recommendation of the American Medical Association, the Trump administration just published its final draft of rule changes to Title X — the government’s family planning program. First established in 1970, Title X serves as both a funding mechanism for healthcare providers and as a set of guidelines which providers should follow with regards to informing patients about all their healthcare options. Funding goes towards contraceptive care, pregnancy prevention, STI testing and lifesaving cancer screenings — funding does not go to abortion services. In fact, Title X specifically forbids that. Title X is an essential part of the structure of reproductive healthcare in this country, and these new attacks from the Trump administration serve no purpose other than to punish providers and the women they care for.