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Have you ever read an article in the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, read a few lines in, and are suddenly blocked by a message telling you to subscribe now for full access? Or maybe you’ve needed to read a research paper to finish a midterm essay, only to find out accessing it will cost an arm and a leg from an obscure journal you will never need again. These features are called paywalls, which bar access to online content without some exchange of value — often a paid subscription. Restriction-based efforts to monetize websites have become more standard after the decline of physical media, such as magazines and newspapers. While paywalls provide an additional revenue stream for news companies, they are detrimental to accessible educational content for consumers.
Young America’s Foundation is a national conservative political organization with a chapter of Young Americans for Freedom at the University. According to their chapter Instagram page, they are “Pro-Freedom, Pro-Constitution, and Pro-America.” Yet, it seems like the only America they wish to promote is one that upholds the legacies of white supremacists. YAF will hold an event Thursday titled “In Defense of Mr. Jefferson.” Apparently, this event intends to preserve American history and the legacy of Thomas Jefferson. Not only is Jefferson one of the last figures in need of defense, it is dangerously ignorant to act like he has been inappropriately criticized.
The pandemic perpetuated and exacerbated mental health conditions. Isolation, loss of stability and anxiety resulting from an international crisis are bound to affect students. However, it is the University’s job to provide a productive, safe and supportive environment for students to succeed. They continued to announce a commitment to student wellbeing while consistently making decisions that neglected student mental health and failed to acknowledge their position in the pandemic.
Lack of engagement in state politics is a widespread and debilitating issue throughout the Commonwealth. National politics — like Supreme Court cases, congressional and presidential elections — are more widely advertised, discussed and participated in, even though state and local politics are more impactful to citizens’ lives. In order to maximize the effects of our advocacy and exercise our right to vote to the fullest extent, students should be as involved and engaged in state and local elections as they are in national elections — especially with the upcoming statewide elections.
There has been recent buzz in The Cavalier Daily’s Opinion section about free speech, discrimination and bigoted rhetoric. Discussion has centered on condemning attempts to shut down free speech and also advocating for the University to take a stand against bigotry and deny platforms to prejudiced groups and individuals. Free speech is a fundamental right and a public university cannot legally deny space to those who have minority — or bigoted — opinions. However, the University’s lack of action in cases of discrimination is concerning and makes Grounds unsafe. These goals do not have to be opposed to one another — they can be reconciled. The University can preserve freedom of speech while exercising their right to ban outright discrimination on Grounds.
The Unite the Right Rally might have been three years ago, but its hate and violence have left lifelong impacts on Charlottesville and its victims. The rally was organized in 2017 by several white supremacist groups protesting the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate States Army. At the demonstration, a white nationalist struck a crowd of peaceful counter protesters with his car, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and severely injuring others. But since then, little has changed in the way of justice for victims and combating domestic terrorism. University students, constituents and the government need to put forth the effort to erase remaining ties to white supremacy and reaffirm our commitment to anti-racism.
The University has applications for student organizations, internships and even residential housing experiences. While overwhelming at times, these extracurricular applications foster unique communities and positions, and there is always something for everyone. But one place where applications don’t belong is in the College, where many majors have a limited capacity, and thus, a strict application process. Many colleges and universities have potential students apply to their major along with the application to the school itself, allowing students to start pursuing their majors and other potential programs in their first year or two. At U.Va., however, many students stress about applying to some of the many programs within the College of Arts and Sciences alone. These application-based majors incite stress and restrict opportunities for students paying tens of thousands of dollars to pursue an education in their interest.
The recent presidential transition is putting President Joe Biden’s priorities in the spotlight. He has already reversed some of the previous administration’s homophobic, environmentally destructive and transphobic policies. However, this new executive office needs to take a firm stance to defend the separation of church and state. Donald Trump consistently breached that separation — as such, it is Biden’s job to reaffirm that preferential treatment of religious groups is unconstitutional and dividing our country.
This fall semester, I virtually mentored 8th grade students at Albemarle County’s Walton Middle School through a non-profit organization called Rise Together. The experience was incredibly rewarding, inspiring and eye-opening. Every Monday and Wednesday, I would join a Zoom meeting with Advancement Via Individual Determination students — a program that supports students in preparing for college by teaching them important skills through social-emotional learning and tutoring. However, as the weeks wore on, I noticed that the pandemic was taking a toll on the students and their learning. They were studying and attending online classes from their homes, where distractions were rampant and educational support scarce. While Walton Middle School and Albemarle County Public Schools supported their students in every way they could, the pandemic challenged students in ways beyond the reach of the school system. My experiences mentoring students this fall revealed a country that struggled to support their most vulnerable students due to the inherent challenges in remote learning.
Every fall, incoming students at the University are required to complete a short training module on sexual assault prevention. Sexual assault is an extremely prevalent issue throughout the country, especially on college campuses, where 13 percent of students will experience non-consensual sexual contact. Unfortunately, students at the University also deal with sexual assault at similar rates — for the 2018-2019 school year, the University’s sexual assault and harrassment survey indicated that roughly 13.4 percent of female respondents and 4.2 percent of male respondents reported experiencing sexual assault by physical force. Educational training on these issues can provide students with the tools needed to adequately address sexual harassment and violence. However, the University fails to effectively provide these resources.
First-year students have enough to worry about as they try to make friends, adjust to Grounds and adapt to online classes. As a first year myself, all these stressors have been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving onto Grounds was amazing — it was the first taste of socializing and freedom I had experienced since Virginia’s lockdown. But the excitement of starting the next four years of my life faded when my dorm — Balz-Dobie — underwent lockdown and testing. COVID-19 became a tangible reality for me and many of my peers, and my dorm was the first to experience it. However, the chaos and incrimination of my peers that followed was nothing short of surprising, and I urge all of my fellow first years to continue to respect one another, especially during the pandemic.
The University’s latest update to the SEC-045 policy addressing COVID-19 public health measures does not restrict attendance to places of worship. Those regulations are instead deferred to ordinances from the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. Neither ordinance classifies religious ceremonies or attendance as “gatherings,” and are thus not subject to the standard 50 person limit. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a gathering of more than 50 people would be classified as a “highest risk” gathering. Nevertheless, the irresponsible policies don’t stop there, as wedding receptions and ceremonies are exempt from gathering limits under the City and County because of their religious connotations.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes is a Christian non-profit organization with a branch at the University pursuing a “world transformed by Jesus Christ through the influence of coaches and athletes.” This international religious sports institution is founded on explicitly homophobic policies and beliefs that prevent LGBTQ+ individuals from holding leadership roles while enjoying the same rights as their heterosexual peers. The FCA and their homophobia should not be welcome on Grounds as they conflict with the values and inclusivity we strive for at the University.