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In March, Governor Glenn Youngkin made the decision to alter Virginia’s policy which restored voting rights to ex-felons who finished serving their sentences. This regression in policy means Virginia and Kentucky are the only two states where this draconian disenfranchisement of ex-felons occurs. This decision on the Governor’s part is an egregious example of penalizing those who have already paid their debt to society. The policy should not only be reversed but an amendment to the Virginia constitution should be made doing away with the disenfranchisement rule.
The situation in Florida is dire. There is an ongoing assault on education and the banning of AP African American Studies is just one front in this war. What was a bold new step for American education is now a watered down version of real history. Learning from the great Black historian W.E.B. Du Bois, we can see clearly the danger of allowing these situations to develop and continue. If educational giants like College Board continue to bow down, the very problem that Du Bois highlighted in his work “Black Reconstruction in America” will become realized at the level of state education. Florida wants to avoid dealing with history in full, but only by reconciling with thinkers in their totalities can we begin to understand history.
Here in Charlottesville, the fight against climate change has recently faced a setback. At the last meeting of the Charlottesville Board of Architectural Review Jan. 18, the committee voted four to three to deny a request to install solar panels by First United Methodist Church. The solar panels, the church said, would save them a great deal of money, as “electrical costs would be reduced by approximately 50 percent at a savings of about $11,000 per year” — they’d also be invisible, ensuring the historic charm of the church would remain intact. The decision to deny First United Methodist Church their solar panels is a mistake that highlights shortcomings in the city’s regulatory guidelines. In order to encourage a greener Charlottesville, approving this measure is the best path forward.
City Council has been fast at work lately, as it recently approved an amended collective bargaining ordinance that will create new labor organizing options for police, fire, transit and more. Collective bargaining is a key aspect of labor rights, yet there concerns have been raised about the inclusion of the police in the ordinance. Community members have every right to be concerned, as history has shown that police unions can quickly become dangerous institutions. The City should act in the interest of its citizens and rescind the collective bargaining agreement for police units and instead, should strengthen the Police Civilian Oversight Board instead, as it has faced problems with properly changing law enforcement for the better in Charlottesville.
Governor Glenn Youngkin has been incredibly busy these past few months campaigning for a number of Republican candidates in different races around the U.S. In his own words, “it’s just very easy for me to really very candidly say we’re not thinking about 2024, we’re focused on 2022.” With 2022 in mind, Youngkin has continued his dangerous rhetoric from his own campaign when it comes to the candidates he is stumping for. Be it fueling more conspiracies surrounding K-12 education to supporting openly racist or homophobic candidates, the governor seems to have no shame. Youngkin’s campaign choices show a lack of character, leading me to question his commitment to dealing with issues actually facing Virginia.
LGBTQ+ youth are once again under attack. The culture war has evolved from restricting their ability to use restrooms in line with their gender identity to now erasing any trace of the LGBTQ+ experience from schools. Bathroom policies — advocated for by hate groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom — that restrict queer kids from using their preferred restroom are an unjust attack that does nothing other than to intimidate them from expressing themselves and alienate them from their peers. On top of this, parents obsessed with removing any mature content from schools have put their sights on queer literature, continuing the erasure of any LGBTQ+ narrative. These policies are harmful and infantilizing to young adults — Virginia should take action to protect the free speech and right to privacy of LGBTQ+ students.
Young Americans for Freedom at U.Va. has made quite the name for itself. From last fall’s controversial 9/11 sign featuring a plane flying into the twin towers to their hosting of Mike Pence this past spring, as well as this semester’s event with Kellyanne Conway, YAF at U.Va. has consistently caused drama and raised tensions on Grounds. As one of the loudest right-wing voices at the University, YAF at U.Va. is a stark testament to the decay of conservatism. Gone are the days of conservatives striving to generate a deeper understanding of politics. Instead, YAF at U.Va. seeks only to divide students of differing political perspectives. Its choices of speakers show its true colors — a hollow commitment to free speech solely motivated by a desire to cause controversy. The only way to effectively create an environment productive to free speech is through students organizing together and effectively ignoring YAF at U.Va.’s antics.
Charlottesville is facing a crisis in housing and rent. Since 2012, costs have been on the rise, while gentrification, financial strain and weak infrastructure have only exacerbated the problem. As one of the highest ranked cities for wage gaps, residents, especially Black residents, have struggled to make ends meet when it comes to housing. To combat this issue, Charlottesville and the University must go further than they currently have to control the rising cost of living in the City for the sake of all residents and with equity in mind. I believe implementing a more rapid plan than the 2030 Plan to create on-Grounds affordable housing for students and setting up a rent control board for the City are key to fixing Charlottesville’s crisis.
Rector Whitt Clement reaffirmed the University’s commitment to its founder Thomas Jefferson at a recent meeting of the Board of Visitors, stating that “honoring his legacy and his contributions to our nation has, and will always be, an indelible part of what it means to live, learn and work here.” This statement stood out to me due to the way it conceives of what it means to honor someone. This is complicated, and Clement is right to admit that “Jefferson’s legacy is not so fragile that it cannot withstand an honest reflection on the fullness of his life.” To me, honoring someone means to revere them — inherently deflecting criticism. While practicing a critical history is no easy task, I find it necessary all the same. With respect to Jefferson, those who seek to complicate a glorified view of the University’s founder are not seeking to disassociate entirely from Jefferson, but instead, to meet him head on. Contextualizing the history of Jefferson is a good start, but reckoning with the past requires making amends with history. Intellectual diversity requires an abundance of views on Jefferson, not solely rose-tinted ones. A greater reflection on what honor truly means is necessary before progress can be made.
Early this month was Valentine’s Day and love was in the air on Grounds. From clubs advertising candy grams to couples strolling the Lawn together, it seems impossible to escape the boundless displays of affection this time of year. As such, it is quite natural for us to think about our relationship with love — regardless of whether you are happily in a relationship, content with the single life or somewhere in between. We often use gifts as expressions of our love, yet it has become increasingly common for the two to become confused. Valentine’s Day exemplifies how the subject of commercialization can corrupt any sense of pure intention the holiday might have had.
With students back on Grounds and the spring semester in full swing, cases quickly shot up to their highest numbers since last spring’s fiasco. Certain decisions seemed like necessary precautions to ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff on Grounds, such as the moving up of the deadline to submit booster proof. Others felt like half-hearted measures that likely won’t do much to stop case numbers — like the food and drink policy that has already been rescinded and acted more as a gesture of caring than a meaningful policy. Even worse, Gov. Youngkin’s new executive order means that even with our high employee vaccination rates the University now has to step back and will only “strongly encourage anyone who has not done so already to get vaccinated or boosted as soon as possible.” And after a legal decision issued by Attorney General Miyares, students are no longer required to be vaccinated either. A much better approach is necessary if the administration is serious about stopping cases. By requiring professors to record classes, students and faculty could both minimize the possibility of asymptomatic spread while simultaneously broadening accessibility for all students.
Last November, the organizers of the “Unite the Right” rally were found guilty on four out of six counts. Earlier that month, Glenn Youngkin was elected as the next Governor of Virginia. These two events may not seem linked — one being a federal trial of violent white supremacists and the other an election in a contentious swing state. However, each of these events are points of conflict in the broader war of ideology and hegemony that occurs everyday in the U.S.
Few universities in the world have the same devotion to their founder as the University has to Thomas Jefferson. While it would be easy to write about how Jefferson’s love of classical architecture influenced the construction of the Lawn and the Rotunda, I instead examine the idea of the Academical Village as opposed to its physical structure. The University has quite a bit of love for this concept — it shows up in the advertising of U.Va. to prospective students and was the cornerstone for the foundation of the residential colleges. Even today, Housing and Residence Life’s website on the residential colleges echoes this message with the tagline of “unique on-Grounds living-learning communities, residential colleges mirror the ideals of Jefferson's Academical Village, where ‘shared learning infuses daily life.’” Even with all the talk about continuing the legacy of Jefferson in the way the University is administered, we do not truly meet the standard the Academical Village intended to set.