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Journalists have consistently faced the threat of censorship — a danger that has only become more evident in the last several years. The recent murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi Arabian government demonstrates the challenges facing journalists worldwide. While this is a particularly gruesome example, censorship at the university level is pervasive and underlooked. At many universities, student newspapers receive funding from their administrations, which gives those administrators control over the papers’ editorial content. This relationship often conflicts with papers’ responsibility to critically analyze all relevant aspects of their stories — a task that can reveal distasteful aspects of all universities involved. To preserve the historical record created through student journalism and in support of the continued wellbeing of higher education communities, the Virginia General Assembly must prohibit universities’ ability to censor student media.
When University President Jim Ryan outlined the goals for his administration, he highlighted the “Ours to Shape” initiative to collect community input on ways to strengthen cultures of community, discovery and service at the University. Student, faculty, staff and other members of the University have contributed their suggestions through online essay submissions and through attendance at several events throughout the year. President Ryan and the University administration must continue to solicit input from the University community — and students must take their own initiative — to address areas of needed change to make such changes as effective as possible.
The University recently announced that it was considering a 2 to 3.5 percent tuition increase for the next academic year. While tuition hikes of this sort are not unusual — since 2012 there have been similar hikes — students still balk at the idea of paying more. Students and their families often become frustrated with tuition increases, especially if these increases fail to extensively improve their experience at the University. The administration, especially under University President Jim Ryan’s “Ours to Shape” initiative, should wisely allocate money to programs requested by a student body that prioritizes issues that directly affect students’ education experiences.
Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler — alongside three white supremacist groups — filed a joint lawsuit against the City of Charlottesville, former Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas and Virginia State Police Lt. Becky Crannis-Curl last week. In the suit, the plaintiffs — Jason Kessler, the National Socialist Movement, Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker’s Party — argue that their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated during the Unite the Right rally of August 2017. While the plaintiffs victimize their movement through a legal battle over constitutional rights, the irony of the lawsuit lies in its inherent hypocrisy. The beliefs espoused by Kessler and his co-plaintiffs — which constantly seeks justice for its self-proclaimed victimhood — is predicated on the victimization of others.
In the 2018 Midterm elections, Sen. Tim Kaine was reelected to a second term and Denver Riggleman was elected to the Fifth Congressional District. In their upcoming terms, Kaine and Riggleman should remember the University and Charlottesville communities in their legislative agendas. As one of the largest areas in the Fifth District, Riggleman has a responsibility to recognize the individual needs of our community as they contribute to the wellbeing of the entire district. On the statewide level, Kaine should recognize Charlottesville as a focal point throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. In terms of both legislative opportunity and symbolism, Charlottesville’s needs and history should influence the activity of recently elected officials.
When Carla Williams started her term as athletic director last December, she articulated a clear vision for the athletic department at the University. Her experience working in athletic administration at Florida State, Vanderbilt and most recently at the University of Georgia has guided her to determine that the University’s football program presents the most pressing challenge for the athletic department. The health of the football program affects the strength of the entire athletic program, so addressing the structural challenges in the University’s football program should remain Williams’s priority. The Board of Visitors and the University’s administration should support Williams’s vision for Virginia athletics and continue to address shortcomings with respect to the football team.
The open letter brought forward by Hispanic/Latinx students at the University has sent shockwaves through our community. The issues highlighted in the letter demonstrated how Hispanic/Latinx students experience undue burdens in living out their identities on Grounds. In particular, the students’ request for translated documents showcase the vast dearth in resources for families that do not speak English. Students from multicultural backgrounds should never have to jump through excessive hoops to acquire an education on account of their minority status. Because of this, the University should promptly translate all necessary documents into Spanish, as well as other languages demonstrating a representative need for accessibility purposes.
In recent years, the University has increasingly sought to diversify its student body in terms of race, ethnicity and national origin. This year’s class was considered the most diverse to ever matriculate into the University with 34 percent of the class identifying as a racial minority, which is more diverse than the Commonwealth of Virginia — where the minority population hovers around 32 percent.
Since the start of this Fall Semester, there have been several reported cases of attempted robbery, sexual assault and pickpocketing around Grounds, most of which have occurred during evening hours. These numerous safety threats have caused students to fear walking home at night, raising doubts about the effectiveness of the University’s commitment to student safety. While the University has implemented many measures to improve campus security in recent years, the fact that serious crimes are still regularly being perpetrated against students clearly indicates that the administration needs to do more to improve the safety of Grounds.
City of Charlottesville spokesman Brian Wheeler said Monday that former Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas will continue to receive his salary until July 15, 2018. Following the release of an independent report criticizing the Charlottesville Police Department’s performance surrounding the “Unite the Right” rally in August of 2017, Thomas announced his retirement. Yet over the past 10 months, he has continued to receive regular installments of his salary of $134,514, according to Wheeler’s comments to Rob Schilling, a conservative radio show host. Upon his decision to retire, Thomas entered into contract negotiations with the City, the result of which apparently included his continued payment.
The University’s mission statement articulates that the University “serves the Commonwealth of Virginia, the nation, and the world by developing responsible citizen leaders.” To this end, the University has recently hosted several forums and debates for elected politicians. This Friday, several University-affiliated organizations are co-hosting a debate between the Republican and Democratic candidates for the Fifth Congressional District, Denver Riggleman and Leslie Cockburn. What could otherwise serve as an informative event for hundreds of University students will instead be limited to select lottery winners, due to space limitations. Although large scale events such as these pose logistical challenges to the groups organizing them, the groups should strive to make them as accessible and accommodating as possible. These higher standards of accessibility and accommodation should apply not only to events of national significance, but also to events concerning local candidates and political figures. Raising these standards is important because it will allow students to engage with the politicians that most directly represent their concerns.
Every year, students clamor to find housing as early as September and October. In the competitive Charlottesville housing market, there’s an underlying pressure to find and sign a lease as soon as possible. However, in this scramble to sign leases, it’s easy to prioritize securing housing early over choosing compatible roommates. We encourage students, especially first-years, to pump the brakes when it comes to securing leases. Your roommates will impact your college years much more than the places you live.
Fred Scott Jr., a former member of the Governing Council of the Miller Center of Public Affairs, recently resigned after the University discovered several blatantly sexist emails he sent to fellow employees last year. In an alleged attempt to thank his female colleagues for their work at the Miller Center, Scott offered to take them on a “luxury shopping trip,” which was perceived by the women addressed in the email as discriminatory. Despite the offensive contents of Scott’s email, the scandal was handled internally and was not disclosed to the public until after POLITICO published a report detailing the email obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request last month.
While many businesses, government agencies and other universities cancelled classes on Labor Day, the University declined to do so. Instead, services continued as they would have on any regular weekday. The decision to continue nonessential services undermines the University’s relationship with its employees, and demonstrates a missed opportunity to unite the community in gratitude towards those who work to maintain and improve the school. As a public school, the University should be required to adhere to the national holiday calendar because of its close financial and managerial ties to the federal and state governments.
From Steve Jobs’ 2005 address at Stanford University, to Stephen Colbert’s 2011 speech at Northwestern University, speakers at college graduations send messages of motivation and accomplishment. At the University, graduation speakers have shared similar messages, with speakers such as William Rehnquist, John Grisham and Katie Couric taking the podium to implore students of their mission beyond the University — their responsibility to society and also their potential for success. During Final Exercises this year, University President Teresa Sullivan will give the commencement address. While these speeches often give students a sense of pride or determination, they fail to give students one important thing — a sense of community. In addition to offering valedictory and commencement speakers, the University should institute a student speaker at graduation to create continuity between the class itself and the speakers.
The Honor Committee is considering changes to its support officer system in an effort to make the Committee more representative of the entire student body. These changes present the Committee with an opportunity to shape their support officer pool into a body that represents a more diverse set of viewpoints and backgrounds, while still maintaining its quality. As the group most intimately involved with the Honor trial process, support officers must be informed and receptive to multiple points of view — implementing the proposed changes would help the body better accomplish this goal.
The City of Charlottesville's attempts to rename Emancipation and Justice Parks have been contentious. Controversy was again sparked this week when an analysis published by The Cavalier Daily revealed that individuals outside Charlottesville were attempting to influence the results of the initial community poll seeking input on the renaming process. These outside respondents accounted for nearly two-thirds of the poll’s respondents. This overwhelming proportion is troublesome, as the initial survey was meant to gather essential information from local residents on what names they would prefer for the parks. The renaming of the parks should remain a task and privilege of Charlottesville citizens, as they hold the most interest in the issue. City Council should take initiative to ensure that these surveys represent citizens' interests without outside interference.
At its upcoming general body meeting this Tuesday, Student Council will vote to approve the organization’s summer budget. In its current form, the budget allots $22,121 between committees and Executive and Administrative Operations costs. Funding for the budget comes from two sources, including the Student Activities Fee — which every University student must pay — and is used to fund the operations of Contracted Independent Organizations and other student groups on Grounds. Non-SAF funds are raised by Student Council by other means, such as the Activities Fair and the organization’s endowment.
The world of higher education is grappling with how to prevent and prosecute sexual assault on campuses. Two federal laws currently exist to protect individuals against discrimination on the basis of sex — Title IX — and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, which mandates that universities remain transparent about their crime statistics. While both laws intend to protect and empower survivors of violent crime, specifically survivors of sexual assault, the Clery Act has the potential to harm survivors.
With the Virginia Fifth District Democratic Convention fast approaching, candidates and elections officials are gearing up for a busy season. Four Democrats are running for the party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) — Leslie Cockburn, Ben Cullop, Roger Dean Huffstetler and Andrew Sneathern. The Virginia Fifth District Democratic Committee has opted for a convention process in which registered voters caucus throughout the month of April to choose delegates from their precinct, who will then attend a convention to nominate one candidate to take on Garrett in the general election. Despite the flaws of the caucus nominating system, students should make their voices heard and participate.