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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document by second-year College student and Representative Ian Ware neither discredits nor fully explains the claims originally made by author Jeff Thomas.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.
Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) proposed last week to declare April 23 “Barbara Johns Day,” in honor of the Virginian and her contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. On that day in 1951, Johns initiated a student walkout at Robert Russa Moton High School to protest separate and unequal facilities for black students. If passed, the proposed bill would recognize the contributions Virginians have made toward promoting inclusion in the United States.
Two years ago, the University renewed its dining services partnership with Aramark. Under the 20-year contract, Aramark will invest over $20 million in upgrading dining facilities and provide a wider variety of local products. Aramark will also continue to provide contracted workers to operate the University’s dining halls for the next two decades. Although the University works closely with Aramark, the administration has refused to gather information on contracted workers’ wages. This lack of information prevents the University from ensuring contracted employees are paid wages comparable to those of direct employees.
A group of state lawmakers held a closed meeting yesterday in which they decided the Virginia State Crime Commission will study marijuana decriminalization. While a state-sponsored study does not guarantee the decriminalization of marijuana, it will serve as a strong foundation upon which state legislators can discuss a potential policy change.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) on March 27 proposed an amendment to the state’s budget which would expand Medicaid coverage across Virginia. The proposal follows Congress’s failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act, though McAuliffe has pushed for the Medicaid expansion in the past. Expanding Medicaid would bring health care to a large number of Virginians who currently do not have it, and would make Virginia a model for effectively utilizing federal health care funds.
The Washington Post recently obtained documents showing that the University’s advancement office has helped prospective students related to prominent donors and alumni who apply for admission by flagging their applications for special handling. Although not surprising, the uncovering of this practice serves to show how admissions at the University are not based solely on merit. Instead of providing further advantage to students with privileged backgrounds, the University should be actively leveling the playing field for all prospective students.
When President Donald Trump signed his first executive order on immigration in January, which was subsequently frozen by a Federal judge in Washington state, university officials around the country became fearful of the policy’s immediate and long-term impact on higher education. The revised order, frozen by another Federal judge in Hawaii, included a 120-day suspension of the refugee program and a temporary ban on the issuance of new visas for people from six countries. Although concerns at this point are mostly anecdotal due to the speed of legal challenges, such a policy could have widespread consequences for higher education in the United States.
College campuses around the country have witnessed a disturbing rise in anti-Semitic acts. During a worship service on March 18, over 100 leaflets with hand-drawn swastikas were found on the lawn of the Chabad Librescu Jewish Student Center at Virginia Tech. Last October, the GrandMarc apartment complex on 15th Street in Charlottesville was spray-painted with an orange Star of David and the word “Juden,” a clear act of hate meant to intimidate and threaten the University’s Jewish community. We decry all acts of hate, and urge the University community to fight anti-Semitism.
The University recently celebrated the opening of the Lighthouse, a repurposed storage room in Thornton Hall. The Lighthouse will serve as the new home of Works in Progress, a program backed by the Department of Engineering and Society which aims to bring undergraduate student entrepreneurs together and support their business endeavors. The program, which dedicates the room to “those who are seriously working on their [entrepreneurial] project,” is a demonstration of the University’s commitment to promoting a strong entrepreneurial environment for students regardless of their majors.
Charlottesville City Council voted on Feb. 6 to remove and subsequently relocate the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Lee Park. Last Monday, two organizations and 11 community members filed a lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville over the decision. While the Council's decision to move the statue is justified, it also sets a dangerous precedent for erasing darker aspects of Charlottesville’s history.
The University held the first Global Black Girlhood Conference last Friday and Saturday, bringing together students and scholars in a series of panels, lectures and a film screening. This conference was inspired by the History of Black Girlhood Network, a forum for the discussion and promotion of black girl history. One of the panels featured four political organizers, each of whom stressed the importance of permanent, structured movements in political change. In an age of social media and information technology, this type of structuring has become easier than ever.
The Trump administration recently released its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget outlines $200 million in cuts for educational aid programs which support the progress of low-income, first-generation and disabled students. The implementation of these cuts would adversely affect public school students both locally and across the nation.