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Thousands packed into the Concert for Charlotteville held at Scott Stadium on Sunday evening. The event was intended to show unity in the aftermath of the events of Aug. 11 and 12, as well as to raise money for charity. The concert offered the Charlottesville community an opportunity to heal after these horrific events and demonstrated that students and residents of this community can come together to show unity in the face of hate. For that night, students and townspeople were united as a community. It is essential that the sense of unity and optimism felt in that stadium be translated to students’ everyday lives at this University. That means students should assume a more active role in Charlottesville beyond the University. Despite what one might think after witnessing the concert, students do not usually interact with the greater Charlottesville community. Especially after the white supremacists rallies — along with City Council and the University’s ineffective preparation — it is incumbent upon us to assume a larger role in advancing the city we live in.
In the aftermath of the August white supremacist rallies, the Black Student Alliance took the opportunity to present a list of policy demands aimed at achieving racial justice in the University community. Among these demands was a call to the University administration to ensure black student enrollment — which currently sits around six percent — more accurately reflects state demographics, at 20 percent. This specific demand has sparked a debate over what exactly this process would look like. While the University should explore a variety of avenues to promote minority presence on Grounds, the first step in the process has to be making the application process more accessible to underrepresented applicants. In order to open up the application process to applicants from a more diverse set of backgrounds, the University administration should consider instituting a test-optional policy.
University President Teresa Sullivan sent an email on Sept. 13 to University alumni regarding the protests which resulted in the enshroudment of the Thomas Jefferson statue north of the Rotunda. In the email, Sullivan voiced her disapproval of the covering of the statue, described Jefferson’s legacy as both a founding father and a slave owner and outlined the steps that the University has taken to acknowledge its history. While perhaps a well-intentioned means of communicating her thoughts on the protest, Sullivan’s email is riddled with false statements. In this time of controversy, it is important to be accurate, particularly while one is leading the University.
Last March, the editorial board wrote an editorial against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park, arguing that it would set a dangerous precedent for erasing darker aspects of Charlottesville’s history. What the board failed to acknowledge at the time was that this dangerous precedent would also apply to erasing the darker aspects of our University’s history. On Tuesday night, a statue of our University’s founder became a new target in the movement to do away with statues thought to be symbolic of white supremacy when a group of student protesters shrouded the Thomas Jefferson statue north of the Rotunda. Demonstrators, carrying signs which read “Thomas Jefferson is a racist and a rapist,” demanded justice and called for the removal of the Jefferson statue.
On Thursday night, U.Va. Students United dispatched a group of about 20 students in attempt to shut down a party at the Delta Psi fraternity, also known as “The Hall.” The group of students took issue with the “cops and robbers” theme, specifically the orange jumpsuits and teardrop tattoos worn by some of the attendees. In a Facebook post, U.Va. Students United charged that the party theme and costumes “make a joke of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex, systems that disproportionately brutalize people of color.” While the demonstrators may have had their hearts in the right place, this kind of triviality distracts from the real social issues that they are purportedly more inclined to address.
In 2012, President Barack Obama launched a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. While the program does not grant citizenship, it affords protections from deportation to immigrants brought into the United States illegally as young children if they register with the federal government. On Tuesday, these undocumented individuals — commonly referred to as Dreamers — became the victims of an inhumane, short-sighted and potentially devastating rollback by the Trump administration. As early as March, some of the 800,000 Dreamers will become eligible for deportation.
Shortly after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, City Council leaders were quick to point fingers. A series of leaked memorandum — which blamed poor communication between city officials for the chaos of the rally — show the mayor and city leaders bickering with each other, with none of them assuming responsibility. This debacle has created a divisive environment within City Council, with officials blaming each other instead of showing solidarity in the wake of tragedy. Moving forward, City Council should do away with this childish behavior and begin to show unity in times of crises.
Each Fall semester, housing becomes a prominent concern for students at the University as they begin to explore housing options both on and off Grounds. Fortunately for some, The Standard, a newly constructed apartment complex on West Main Street, will begin offering leases in less than a month. The fully-furnished complex will feature restaurants, retail shops and other luxurious amenities to appeal to University students. Unfortunately, these new housing options often carry with them hidden costs borne by the community. As students, it’s time for us to question what sacrifices are made when Charlottesville makes such accommodations on our behalf.
On Monday, the Black Student Alliance, in partnership with other University groups, presented and read a list of demands to hundreds of students and community members who gathered to protest the recent white nationalist demonstrations. The list of demands includes specific initiatives, such as the removal of Confederate plaques on the Rotunda and the enactment of a “strategic and actionable diversity plan.” Much of the pressure to initiate these changes has fallen on Student Council, which has remained predictably inactive and irresolute toward the list of demands. As the primary embodiment of student self-governance on Grounds, it is frustrating that Student Council has failed to address — much less come to a decision on — such a prominent concern for students.
Because the University was founded by Thomas Jefferson, a lot of weight has traditionally been afforded to his legacy. While Jefferson may have founded the University, he does not own it. If it were up to him, the vast majority of current students wouldn’t be allowed to apply, much less attend the University. When Jefferson penned the words “all men are created equal,” we know it was meant exclusively for white men. Whether or not you are an admirer of his, the University and the country he helped build were intended to solely benefit white men. Yet, here we are — 40 percent of the undergraduate student body is comprised of nonwhite students, and over half are women. In light of the recent racial tensions in Charlottesville, it is essential for the University community to recognize that Jefferson does not define the University — students do. Just as we imbue meaning to his words in the Declaration of Independence which he surely did not originally intend, many of us, simply by being here, imbue new meaning to his most treasured institution. It is up to each class to decide for themselves what direction they hope to take the University.
The Echols Review Committee recently submitted a report to Rachel Most, Assoc. Dean for Undergraduate Academic Programs, recommending multiple changes to the Echols honors program. The committee, comprised of one current student, five College professors, one representative from the admissions office and an Academic Programs Manager, convened last fall semester to consider how the Echols Scholar Program could be re-envisioned for the 21st century. The report included several proposals, such as creating an Echols fellowship program, discontinuing housing first-year Echols Scholars in only the Balz-Dobie and Tuttle-Dunnington residence halls and diversifying the class of scholars. Although this redefining set of proposals is still in its early stages, it presents a solid groundwork for transforming Echols into a real, modern honors program.
Last Friday, absentee voting for the primary elections in Virginia officially opened, enabling anyone unable to visit local polling stations on June 13 to participate in the election. The primary elections are an opportunity for Virginia residents to nominate Democratic and Republican candidates for state and local races in November. As the academic year comes to an end, students should vote absentee in the primary election this June.
Last Wednesday, the University’s Systems and Informations Engineering department held its first meeting with undergraduate students to discuss a potential merger with the Civil and Environmental Engineering department. The discussion provided roughly 75 students an opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns on the potential merger. Student opinion was overwhelmingly opposed to the idea, and some undergraduates expressed concerns regarding student involvement in the process.
Student Council released a report last week on allegations that the University’s admissions process offers preferential treatment to applicants tied to major donors. The nine-page document by second-year College student and Representative Ian Ware neither discredits nor fully explains the claims originally made by author Jeff Thomas. According to Ware’s report, which is explicitly labeled as his own views and not those of Student Council, the University significantly limited the investigation. The administration’s overall lack of transparency in responding to this issue is made all the more concerning by their lack of cooperation with student representatives.
The Board of Visitors approved increases in tuition for undergraduate students at the University last Thursday afternoon. The new rates, which will take effect in the next academic year, will increase tuition by just over two percent for in-state students and over three percent for out-of-state students. Given that this tuition increase will only worsen the already excessive financial burden on students, the University administration should actively search for ways to help students save money in other areas — starting with textbooks.
On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Pat Hogan, University executive vice president and chief operating officer, unveiled the University’s action plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions during an Earth Week Expo at the Newcomb Hall Ballroom. The plan consists of directly powering University buildings with solar energy and making University employees and students more aware of sustainable practices and programs — an important milestone in the University’s work on sustainability. It is important to recognize the contributions our University is making in the renewable energy movement, and to encourage a move to more sustainable practices throughout Virginia.
The University launched its Humanities Week April 17 with a poetry workshop, roundtable discussion on hunger and a kick-off celebration. The theme of the week, “Living (In)Equality,” offers community members a chance to engage with social issues through artistic expression and interpersonal dialogue — an opportunity seldom granted in an environment which often dismisses the applicability of humanities. Humanities Week demonstrates the significance of these areas of study in understanding and addressing social issues, and the University’s Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures should be commended for its work.
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. The tragic event, which claimed the lives of 32 people, was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time. A decade later, victims and their families are still healing and actively working to prevent future mass shootings. In this time of reflection and remembrance, our University community should discuss emergency preparedness and campus security.
Today, the University community comes together to celebrate Thomas Jefferson’s 274th birthday. This commemoration offers a valuable opportunity to reflect on an issue that surrounds many facets of our lives: information. Throughout the past year, the country has witnessed an unprecedented proliferation of misinformation and propaganda, often for the sake of political gain. This trend poses a great danger to our community’s ability to make decisions based on verified information.