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The University is anything but an economically diverse institution. According to the New York Times College Access Index, the University ranks 248th for economic diversity out of the 286 most selective colleges in the country, as measured by Pell Grant recipients. Since the last time the New York Times released this index in 2017, the University has fallen even further behind regarding economic diversity — from the 50th percentile to the 25th percentile. Even more appalling, the University is dead last among state flagships, despite having the largest endowment per student. These are statistics with which the University, as an institution, and we, as students, should be very uncomfortable.
Today marks one year since Nov. 13, 2022. We remember this day.
Swords into Plowshares, an ongoing project by community leaders to melt down and repurpose the Robert E. Lee statue, has reached a major milestone — two weeks ago, the statue was cleaved and its parts were melted down. The metal will be transformed into a new piece of public art. The Lee statue has had a significant impact on Charlottesville — unveiled to honor the Confederate general in 1924, it served as a symbol for neo-Nazis and white supremacists to gather around in 2017 during the ‘Unite the Right’ rally. In fact, the rally was held to protect the statue, which the Charlottesville City Council had, at the time, considered removing from its place in Market Street Park. The Lee statue was eventually removed in 2021 and, after more than a year of litigation, it finally faced the flames just a couple of weeks ago.
As the leaves turn shades of red, yellow and orange around Grounds and temperatures begin to cool, it’s evident that autumn is here. And while we are still sorting our candy from Trick or Treating on the Lawn, we are looking forward to returning home in a few weeks to spend time with loved ones and indulge in a home-cooked meal. However exciting this anticipation is, planning for Thanksgiving Break is a strenuous task that the University has only made worse with its lack of flexibility and accommodations for students. The University’s current schedule for the holiday leaves faculty and students at both an economic and academic disadvantage. Leadership must consider changing this schedule in future years to support the geographically diverse student body while continuing to promote academic success.
Over 8,000 people have been killed, more than 17,400 people have been wounded and over one million people have been displaced since Hamas — a militant Islamist group that has controlled Gaza since 2006 — attacked Israel Oct. 7. This enormous loss of human life deserves our unequivocal condemnation. The deaths and endangerment of civilians is never permissible or justifiable. The scope of the humanitarian and moral crisis that not just Palestinians and Israelis who are directly impacted are experiencing but also that diasporic communities across the world are reckoning with is unfathomable. How does the world begin to deal with this abominable loss of life and livelihood? How do we, as a diverse and multicultural University community, think, feel and talk about such an emotional yet tangible tragedy?
As any student here could attest to, we are all too familiar with the words “community alert” popping up on our phones, so much so that we learn to tune it out. It becomes just another notification, often the butt of jokes on Yik Yak. But the attempted abduction earlier this month — which left one student hospitalized — cut through all of that. To the victim, the Editorial Board offers our support and empathy. For the rest of the University’s community, this incident has added to an ever-growing list of horrific crimes near Grounds. The University is home to north of 20,000 young adults — it is not just where we learn, but also where we live, work and are meant to feel safe. And if this most recent alert exemplified anything, it is that for many of us, we just don’t feel safe in our homes anymore.
The 134th Cavalier Daily Editorial Board affirms the importance of supporting transgender and LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff on Grounds, always and especially in the face of bigotry and anti-transgender rhetoric.
Few topics spark more contentious discourse than the issue of free speech, especially on college campuses. Schools across the country struggle to strike a balance between the free exchange of ideas and cultivating an environment where students from diverse backgrounds can live and learn. Here in Charlottesville, the University ranks number 6 in the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression’s free speech ranking, if such a thing can be ranked numerically. It’s a fairly high ranking, and a student published in the Jefferson Independent claims the ranking gives the false impression that “students of different mindsets are dancing around a campfire, holding hands and singing folk songs.” This statement underscores a failure to grasp what the purpose of free speech is — it is not about superficial harmony in the wake of conflicting viewpoints, but rather the use of reason and debate to learn, grow, build consensus and move society forward. Free speech, then, may entitle people to platform problematic individuals, but it does not entitle these people — or the controversial speakers they invite — to any sort of welcoming, campfire-dancing student body.
In the midst of a busy college move-in season at Tufts University, resident advisors took a stand for better benefits by orchestrating a strike. ULTRA, the union representing the school’s RAs, called for a stipend in addition to free housing. This is not an unreasonable ask — the majority of RAs at Tufts receive financial aid and work additional jobs all the while transforming dormitories into homes and providing twenty-four hour support to their residents. The same rings true here on Grounds, where RAs serve as the conduits that facilitate so much of University life. The University cannot continue to depend on student labor while inadequately compensating the students who make our great experiences possible. It is past time for the University to adequately recognize the crucial work that RAs do by providing RAs with a stipend.
Following last spring’s successful passing of an Honor referendum outlining a multi-sanction system, the Committee has been working to detail exactly how this new system will work. This year’s departure from the 180-year-old single-sanction has forced Committee members to fundamentally reimagine the way the Committee operates. This is no small task, and their work thus far has largely been admirable. The reality is, though, that the Committee is still thinking too small. Their recent conversations too closely mirror the problematic fixation on punitive measures that plagued the old system. The Committee must start addressing more systemic questions that engender a complete and total embrace of the case-specific and restorative mindset that the new constitution is supposed to reflect.
We have been here before. If you keep up with The Cavalier Daily’s coverage, then you know we are no stranger to covering the coronavirus. We had hoped our days of counting case numbers and crafting critical calls to action were behind us, but here we are. Both nationally and here in Charlottesville, we have seen a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases. But what has changed since our initial writing on this topic is the University’s reaction — or lack thereof — to rising case numbers. Where there used to be mask mandates and excused absences for those who missed class due to COVID-19, students are left to go to class sick or stay at home and risk falling behind in lectures and labs. It is the University’s responsibility to enact policy that prioritizes the health and safety of its students — but as it stands, the University is defaulting on this duty. Its failure to provide public health guidance that enables us to safely live and learn despite the continuing presence of the coronavirus has stripped many students of their ability to engage in the student experience. Instead of creating a “new normal,” students have been forced to return the old one, despite fundamentally different circumstances.
We didn’t want to write about this. Entering the week, we were preparing to write on a different topic, engaging with issues that concern the University and Charlottesville community. Then, students at UNC Chapel Hill were forced to hide in locker rooms and jump out of windows. Gun violence has marked another campus community.
In compliance with an executive order by Governor Glenn Youngkin, University employees — including student workers and representatives of special status organizations — may no longer access several Chinese-owned apps, including TikTok and WeChat, on their University-issued devices or University networks. The University policy does not prohibit other student use of the apps. This state ban mirrors moves made by several other states — all of which have cited concerns about data privacy or national security. If these apps do pose a threat to national security, then this ban is not the solution — policymakers must acknowledge the ineffectiveness of this new law and take practical steps to tackle the larger issue of American data security.
The Supreme Court continued to upend decades of precedent when it ruled in June that the race-conscious admissions practices at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina are unconstitutional. While many things are unclear regarding how institutions of higher education will attempt to recruit and retain diverse classes in this post-affirmative action era, one thing remains certain — our work is just beginning. Carefully crafted statements from University administrators are necessary, but they must be coupled with meaningful action that ensures the University looks and feels like the Commonwealth it is supposed to serve.
Diversity, equity and inclusion are three relatively straightforward words. We see them a lot here at the University. We hear them a lot in conversations with leadership and peers. More recently, they have appeared in articles about politics in higher education — last month, the New York Times published an article outlining the Jefferson Council’s campaign against diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives on Grounds. Even the Supreme Court is positioned to weigh in, as a decision to outlaw affirmative action could undermine diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the country. Today, what we argue is simple — diversity, equity and inclusion are fundamental to our success as a society. These efforts are not “anti-excellence” or "threatening.” They are necessary and must be practiced responsibly by the University to create a better future for students.
In case you forgot — as some of us on the Editorial Board did — Earth Day is coming up this Saturday. This year’s theme is “Invest in Our Planet,” and University sustainability partners have taken the message to heart. For the month of April, student and Charlottesville organizations have been hosting Earth Day Every Day, a multitude of workshops, career fairs, volunteer opportunities and more designed to promote the protection of our shared environment — now, and after the date has passed. To ensure that we continue to have a habitable earth to appreciate, the University must expand their climate goals to promote ongoing environmental awareness and create citizen leaders who lead climate-conscious lives even after they graduate.
During the brainstorming stage for this editorial, the Editorial Board thought that we might use artificial intelligence to write the first paragraph of this editorial. We gathered a few past editorials, fed them to the infamous chatbot and asked it to write the first paragraph of this editorial — just to see what would happen. The result? Not only did it give extremely detailed feedback on our past writing — thanks, ChatGPT — but in a few seconds, it wrote a paragraph shockingly similar to what the Editorial Board would have written. Needless to say, we all had existential crises. What this exercise proved, however, is that generative AI can be a useful tool for learning. Instead of fearing or ignoring this new wave of advancements, the University should embrace AI-based technology to move education forward and stay ahead of any problems that it may cause.
This month marked election season for students on Grounds, with the future of the Honor Committee, the University Judiciary Committee and Student Council on the ballot. Such organizations underpin our culture of student self-governance — a unique tradition that allows students to play an active role in steering the direction of our University. Student self-governance is deeply embedded in the fabric of the University, but its importance feels lost on the student body. In order to safeguard the tradition of self-governance, it is critical that more students engage in this collective project of sculpting our student experience. Students, your ability to make change at the University is a privilege, not a right. It is time we showed up and acted like it.
Amidst the brunt of the pandemic, many universities decided to waive their SAT and ACT testing requirements. Colleges recognized that access to testing was limited due to outbreaks and adjusted their policies to ensure students were not unfairly disadvantaged by testing cancellations and school closures. Earlier this month, Columbia University and the College of William & Mary announced they are adopting test-optional policies indefinitely. There is growing evidence that these tests are ineffective at properly evaluating applicants, in addition to perpetuating socioeconomic disparities and having a legacy of racism and bias against marginalized communities. The University has been test-optional for the past two years and will be test-optional for an additional two years. To promote a more equitable college admissions process, The Editorial Board calls on the University to extend its test-optional admissions policy indefinitely.
This week, the student body will choose its new Student Council President, Vice President for Administration and Vice President for Organizations. The individuals elected to serve in these roles must be able to both understand and address the concerns of the student body. This Editorial Board endorses third-year College student Tichara Robertson for Student Council President, fourth-year Batten student Holly Sims for Vice President for Administration and third-year Batten student Violette Cadet for Vice President for Organizations, respectively. Running on a ticket together, Robertson, Sims and Cadet have shared what they call the “Community Coalition, a platform centered around “solidarity, accessibility and uplift.” Each of them has the institutional experience to make mental health care more accessible to marginalized students, boost access to funding for Contracted Independent Organizations and positively impact the overall perception — and engagement — that the student body has of and with Student Council. We believe these three candidates have laid out a detailed and ambitious plan to leverage Student Council’s resources for the betterment of the entire student body — we look forward to seeing them accomplish what they have set out to do.