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This fall semester, University students across a variety of organizations — largely the History of Enslaved African American Laborers and the University Guide Service — organized historical tours and info-sessions about the University’s history of enslaved labor for the Class of 2025 and onward. This is an admirable display of students self-governing by encouraging first years to understand and contextualize the University’s history of white supremacy and its enslavement of African Americans. Tours are administered by members of the University Guide Service, who lead groups of 30 people every day of the week. The student organized tours are mapped by the History of Enslaved African American Laborers, a group of seven BIPOC third-year women inspired to increase awareness of the University's racist history. Following the historical tours, students can engage with Bringing Race Into Dialogue with Group Engagement, an organization trained in having conversations regarding race.
Over the past year, Lawn room doors have been a site of heavy tension on Grounds. Last fall, several Lawn residents put up signs criticizing the University. Since then, the University has imposed stringent regulations. Now, Lawn residents are limited to signage within the four corners of the boards on their Lawn doors, which is sometimes smaller than the size of a standard piece of paper. These restrictions were defensively adopted in response to a series of highly publicized incidents and are a direct threat to students’ right to free speech and free expression. The restrictions introduced have the potential to deter students from criticizing the University at all, for fear of increased sanctioning. For this reason, the administration must reconsider the current excessive Lawn signage restrictions.
Weekends in Charlottesville are starting to resemble a time before COVID-19 — students are taking beloved trips to Carter’s Mountain Orchard, the Corner is packed with business and Scott Stadium is filling the hill with hardly a mask in sight. The caveat, of course, is we are not back to a time without COVID-19 — the University’s case numbers and hospital admissions this semester clearly demonstrate the threat of the pandemic is not over. Even without universal testing and a near fully vaccinated student body, the University has seen 522 COVID-19 cases this semester. More alarming, though, is the University’s hospital admissions data — less than two weeks ago, we saw 16 hospital admissions related to COVID-19, a number equal to the peak we saw at the beginning of this year. Still, the University seems to be operating under the idea that COVID-19 will not spread at large gatherings in Scott Stadium.
Over the past few weeks, University students have become grimly familiar with the multitude of community alert emails indicating a crime or potential crime on or around Grounds has occurred. We’ve been alerted of three incidents in the past week alone and six since the start of the semester. Less than two weeks ago, a University student was shot at Boylan Heights — one of the many incidents of shots fired around Grounds this year alone. While this incident was unintentional, the fact remains that this individual was able to bring a gun into a bar filled with students and community members. It is clear that safety protocols in place are entirely inadequate.
When looking at a photo of the Corner from 1987, current students at the University will quickly recognize two business names — College Inn and Littlejohns Deli. Now, as students return to Charlottesville this semester, they will note how little remains besides the structures from that photo taken 34 years ago. The Corner has seen a variety of changes in recent years. Over this past summer alone, College Inn and Sheetz were both closed permanently — Littlejohn’s, Michael’s and Armando’s shut their doors last year during the pandemic. Many of these places served as Charlottesville staples for decades, allowing consumers easy access to flourishing small businesses in the Charlottesville community. Few of the original businesses on the Corner still exist — while some have been replaced by other local businesses, many are now large chains.
We are now entering our fourth semester shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccination rates rose rapidly this past spring, and the number of new cases dropped drastically. Many of us — including University administration — hoped this fall would look as “normal” as possible. However, we are seeing a stark reversal of the numbers of just a few months ago. New daily cases are nearing the peaks of January as the Delta variant proves more transmissible than its original.
Just over a year ago, activity on Grounds seemingly came to a screeching halt after the first COVID-19 cases were reported in Virginia. The University’s administration moved swiftly to transition thousands of in-person classes to online instruction, with most students not returning to Grounds after spring break. While at the time there were still a lot of unknowns about the virus and its impact, one year later, not only have we become intimately familiar with mask-wearing and social distancing, but there is now the potential to return to a more normal life.
Recommendations by the Committee on Naming and Memorials were supported by the Board of Visitors on April 13. The recommendations include digitally contextualizing statutes and memorials at the University to create a “digital historical stratigraphy.” This aims to compile a complete, “informed perspective” of monuments for students, visitors and community members. University President Jim Ryan said he “couldn’t be happier” about this recommendation, with the committee ruling digital contextualization the most “practicable option.” According to the decision, digital contextualization of the historic landscape allows more detail and flexibility given the limited space around Grounds that physical markers would intrude upon.
Over the past five years, the Charlotteville community has reckoned with the presence of Confederate statues — a conversation that gained traction in 2016 with a petition by then-high school student and current second-year College student Zyahna Bryant and led to a vote by Charlottesville City Council on removing the Lee statue. After opponents of the decision filed lawsuits to contest the vote — saying it violated Virginia state law — this conversation reached an inflection point with the protests from white supremacists Aug. 11-12, 2017. This painful — and even deadly — fight has finally reaped tangible change. In late 2020, the Johnny Reb statue was taken down from outside the Albemarle County Circuit Courthouse, and the Supreme Court of Virginia recently ruled that the Lee and Jackson statues are not protected by the state’s previous ban on removing statues. These decisions are good news — each statue represents a history of racism and fosters continued discrimination today.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association recently faced backlash as its annual March Madness basketball tournament began. As both the men’s and women’s basketball teams arrived in their tournament cities, coaches and players noticed a discrepancy between amenities offered to the men’s teams versus women’s teams. Unsurprisingly, the backlash was swift, as collegiate coaches and players, alongside players from the National Basketball Association and Women’s National Basketball Association slammed the NCAA for its actions.
This year, students have a choice between two candidates running for Student Council president — third-year College students Gavin Oxley and Abel Liu. This is an incredibly important election — students are selecting a candidate to represent the voices of the entire student body. As such, Student Council needs a leader like Liu. The Cavalier Daily endorses Liu for Student Council president, along with second-year College students Ryan Cieslukowski for vice president of organizations and Cecilia Cain for vice president of administration. The Editorial Board welcomes a New Era of student self-governance.
This year, The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is endorsing nine candidates running for Student Council College of Arts and Sciences representative and one running for Student Council Representative from the Frank Batten School of Public Policy. Each of these candidates has advocated for increased diversity and a more accessible Student Council. We endorse two incumbent College representatives — second-year Gabriela Hernandez and third-year Ryan Alcorn — as well as first-years Violette Cadet, Nina Santana and Lillian Rojas, second-years Booker Johnson and Ella Tynch and third-years Amelia Delphos and Noah Strike. The Cavalier Daily also endorses third-year Rand Perry for Student Council Representative for Batten.
This year, The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board endorses four candidates running for University Judiciary Committee representative. We are endorsing three from the College of Arts and Sciences — second-year Madeleine Frank and incumbent third-years Lauren Kim and Slade Sinak — along with Adam Younger from the School of Law. All of these candidates demonstrated strong institutional knowledge and presented bold, progressive platforms that we believe will serve to create a fairer and more just forum for student accountability.
This year, The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board endorses four candidates running for College Representatives for Honor — second-year Gabrielle Bray and third-years Christian Smith, Andy Chambers and Charlotte Paulussen. The Editorial Board is also endorsing two candidates running for Commerce Representatives for Honor — third-years Jack Stone and Maggie Regnery, who are running on a joint platform.
At a recent meeting, the Board of Visitors opened the floor for comments on a proposed tuition increase, which will be voted on at their meeting March 5. They cited many factors, including the increased cost of online classes and lost revenue from dining, housing and athletics. In addition, they mentioned concerns over the current hiring freeze and forced staff and faculty pay cuts. To this, the Board stated that its ultimate desire is not to raise tuition — but with a caveat. Should Virginia state legislators fail to provide adequate budget changes for public universities or should the University decide to increase faculty and staff wages, then the money has to come from somewhere. While all of these are valid concerns — and University faculty and staff absolutely deserve higher wages — it is not the responsibility of students and their families, particularly in these uncertain times, to pick up the tab.
The Editorial Board — along with most of the student body — is tired. We are tired of the lack of accountability certain students and groups are facing for continually disregarding COVID-19 policies. We are tired of the University constantly attempting to evade any responsibility in their actions. We are tired of University administration’s refusal to listen to its students’ fears and concerns and condemn the chapters of the Inter-Fraternity Council and Inter-Sorority Council that have put lives at risk with their privilege and ignorance of the dangers of the virus. We are, quite simply, tired of waiting for the University to care about us.
In the two months that students were away from Grounds over winter break, the COVID-19 pandemic took a sharp new turn. Not only did the number of cases shoot up — both nationally and in the Blue Ridge Health District — but the very nature of the virus itself also changed with a more-contagious variant expected to become the dominant strain in the country by March. Despite this, a series of recent incidents suggests that students are not being any safer this semester — a period traditionally characterized by large social gatherings, sporting events, fraternity and sorority rush. Students have continued to display a lack of empathy towards those around them and a total disregard for all University-implemented policies intended to slow the spread of the virus.
As we approach the beginning of yet another uncertain semester, it is important that we all keep one important fact in mind — the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. While the prospect of newly introduced vaccines has left many hopeful that the end is near, the country is still seeing daily new cases consistently exceeding 100,000. The Blue Ridge Health District — which covers over 250,000 people across Charlottesville, Albemarle County and other surrounding counties — reported a peak in new daily cases as recent as Jan. 4 of this year. The Centers for Disease Control predicts that a new strain of the virus — one with higher transmission rates — will become the dominant strain of COVID-19 by March. This is particularly worrisome here at U.Va. as students live in close proximity with one another both in dorms and off-Grounds housing, where we know disease has the potential to spread even faster.
The world watched as mobs fueled by President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building yesterday to contest the results of a free and fair election. This is an unprecedented assault on our democracy that violates U.S. law and must be denounced by all Americans — including the elected officials who were chosen to uphold the values of a fair and inclusive democracy. All members of the House and Senate who were complicit in this violent insurrection must be held accountable for their role in encouraging an ongoing coup attempt that counters our democratic values. Here in Virginia, we call on state senator Amanda Chase to step down and suspend her campaign for governor for her role in encouraging this attack on democracy. We also urge Rep. Bob Good of Virginia’s Fifth District to withdraw his support of baseless allegations of voter fraud that harms our democracy and to start representing Virginians instead of pandering to party politics.
This past weekend, Dean of Students Allen Groves sent an email to the entire student body about the COVID-19 pandemic and the approaching extended winter break. In the email, Groves correctly conveys that “it’s clear the pandemic will continue to be a backdrop to our lives for the rest of 2020 and well into 2021.” This email comes to us during a time in which students at the University continue to gather in large groups — even as we enter a new wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in our country. With a vaccine possibly on the horizon, the University must remain steadfast in its commitment to keeping students and Charlottesville safe.