Poor University of Virginia, the bad luck just kept coming. In 2014 the campus was rocked by the story of a vicious gang rape perpetrated at one of the fraternities. “Story” is is the operative word; it transpired that the Rolling Stone expose was entirely fabricated. Three years later the alt right came to town. Although to the best of my knowledge no actual member of the university community took part in its marches, the image of troglodytic wielders ot tiki torches spreading their menace across grounds was indelibly etched into the American imagination. And then came Covid.
These were external inflictions, but on Nov. 13, 2022, the University experienced an unexpected trauma. On a bus returning from a cultural outing to Washington, DC, one student gunned down three others. UVA responded by sending teams of counselors across the campus to respond to the pain of those who had lost friends or classmates. The university has no special expertise in psychological healing, but to its credit it did what it could.
Entirely different were alterations made to the academic mission. Backed by university president James Ryan, provost Ian Baucom decreed that no graded assignments be required from students until after the Thanksgiving break, that is, the close of term. What if periodic writing papers is necessary to the integrity of the particular course? The question did not arise; upholding academic standards had no place on the administration’s priority list.
In case these measures were insufficient to calm the atmosphere, Baucom also decreed that all Fall semester classes were now Pass-No Pass. At first glance this may not seem especially radical. Almost all colleges offer an option for students to take an occasional ungraded class. Typically that option will be elected so that one can try out a subject distant from one’s major without undue risk to the gradepoint average. That, however, is not at all like what the administration imposed. First, Pass-No Pass was not an option available to some students for some courses; everyone in every course was summarily included. Second, it was not a choice between a graded or ungraded course. Rather, all students would complete the class, find out in the fullness of time what grade had been assigned to them, and only at that point choose whether to keep the grade or simply receive credit for the course. Presumably the idea behind the policy – I say “presumably” because the administration is not often inclined to spell out its reasoning – is to minimize potential anxiety. Students need not worry about receiving an undesired grade because they can simply make it go away. Continue reading →
Girls just want to have fun? Credit: UVa Club Gymnastics Instagram site
by James A. Bacon
Over on the Bacon’s Rebellion blog earlier this afternoon, I criticized Virginia’s colleges and universities for nurturing campus cultures that turn students into snowflakes unprepared for the adversity of the modern-day workplace and life as adults. A big contributor to the snowflake phenomenon is what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls “safetyism” — essentially, protecting students from the risks of undergoing a bad experience.
Reporting on the Hazing Misconduct Report, today’s Cavalier Daily describes two cases of safetyism in which the university referred the Women’s Club Gymnastics and the University Guide Service student groups to the University Judiciary Committee for adjudication.
The kind of hazing that most people think of as requiring suppression usually results in wandering around stoned and naked, passing out blind drunk, or jumping out of windows. Everyone agrees that such outcomes are to be discouraged. But how bad is the following?
On Sept. 16, according to the bill of particulars, the Women’s Club Gymnastics instructed initiates to arrive at an event location precisely at 9:16 p.m…. “without information on the nature or purpose of the gathering.” (Gasp!) They were divided into groups divided by colors: blue, yellow, pink and orange. (Ew. Bad taste.) Then they were instructed to do “wall sits” until they succeeded in making a current club member laugh. The consequence of failure to induce laughter led to taking “a shot or alcohol or water.” Continue reading →
In a news conference yesterday the parents of D’Sean Perry, one of three University of Virginia football players slain in a mass shooting last month, called for changes to gun laws and faulted UVa for failing to boot their son’s killer off campus. Said D’Sean’s father Sean Perry: “(We want) to make sure another family will never, never go through this again.”
According to CNN, the Perrys said they wanted unspecified reforms to “gun laws” (CNN’s words), although it was unclear from the article what remedies they sought. “The red flags were there, and (the suspect) was still able to purchase a firearm,” said D’Sean’s mother Happy Perry. Here’s the background provided by CNN: Continue reading →
The shooting of five University of Virginia students Nov. 13 on a bus back from a field trip in Washington, D.C., was understandably traumatic for the young people who witnessed the horror, as it was for family and close friends of the victims, three of whom died.
Indeed, the event was a trauma for the entire UVa community, and the administration treated it as such. The University responded by launching into full therapeutic mode: canceling events and classes, giving students a pass/fail option in their courses, mobilizing counselors, and creating safe spaces.
“There is still profound sorrow and loss that we’re all feeling,” President Jim Ryan said Friday in briefing the Board of Visitors about the administration’s response to the shooting. The horror impacted far more than the homicide victims and those who witnessed the shootings, he said. The circle of those affected included medical professionals who responded to the shooting, football teammates, friends, roommates and students who sheltered in place during the search for the killer. “This had a large ripple.”
Ryan listed key actions the administration took. Classes were canceled for two days. Events were canceled or rescheduled. Gathering spaces were set up where students could commiserate. Walk-in counseling was made available along with therapy dogs to comfort those in grieving. A basketball game was canceled, as was the remainder of the football season.
Provost Ian Baucom explained that the administration was concerned that the impact might linger and affect students’ ability to function academically. He asked faculty to provide maximum flexibility to allow students to deal with their grief and get them through the exam season, which wound up last week. Continue reading →
A new preoccupation of college administrators across the United States is how to give students a sense of “belonging.” The concern is understandable. There is increasing awareness that America is experiencing a “loneliness” epidemic, as reflected by a 40% rate nationally of anxiety, depression and other diagnosed mental illnesses among college students. If students fail to connect with classes, professors, or other students — to feel part of a community — they are more likely to fall into a state of anxiety, depression and self-destructive behavior.
The University of Virginia is trying to address the problem of loneliness and isolation with a program called Hoos Connected. Psychology Professor Joseph P. Allen, executive director, will brief the Board of Visitors tomorrow about the program.
Hoos Connected organizes weekly small-group discussions and activities for first-year and transfer students. In a pilot program, according to a PowerPoint presentation posted on the Board website, Hoos Connected participants and a control group of non-participating students started out roughly equivalent in a measure of student loneliness. Among the goals was to get students to make inter-personal connections and recognize “how much we all have in common beneath the surface.” By the end of the semester, the Hoos Connected cohort showed a decline in loneliness, while the control group exhibited an increase, according to Allen. Continue reading →
D’Sean Perry (l) Devin Chandler (m) Lavel Davis Jr. (r)
The Jefferson Council joins the University of Virginia community in mourning the deaths of Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry in a shooting last night. While knowing that no words can salve the pain of such tragic loss, we extend our condolences to the families of the three young men and pray for a quick recovery of the two UVa students still in the hospital.
This letter to University of Virginia alumni and parents appears in a change.org petition. As of 11:00 p.m., March 18, it had racked up 1,769 signatures. — JAB
As students at the University of Virginia during a time of crisis, we are reaching out for alumni and parent support. Unfortunately, we are writing this letter anonymously because we have seen a violent backlash at the University toward people who speak up against COVID restrictions. As for Alumni, during your time at the University, voices that spoke in favor of freedom and the student experience did not receive the same treatment, and were likely hailed as leaders and protectors of the invaluable traditions that have been crucial aspects of student life here for generations. As for parents, you undoubtedly sent your child to this University under the impression that the principles stated above would be represented by our leaders, but we must apologize to the many parents of first years. This has been an abysmal year, and we can say first hand that the experience of first years has been worse than we could have ever imagined. Continue reading →
Parents Petition to the University of Virginia Administration
Dear UVA Administrators and Board of Visitors
We write to you today as a large, rapidly expanding coalition of UVA stakeholders including parents, students, and alumni who are increasingly concerned about the current living/learning conditions at the University of Virginia.
We fully appreciate the complexities involved in navigating operations during this pandemic and acknowledge the difficulties the Administration has faced keeping students, staff, faculty and the community safe. We placed our trust in your decision making over the past year but have become increasingly alarmed at the negative impacts your decisions are having on the environment that now exists. We can no longer stay silent and expect better efforts be made to improve the conditions under which students attending the university are now living and learning.
The Jefferson Council, formed by University of Virginia alumni and other stakeholders, is dedicated to preserving the legacy of Thomas Jefferson, the Lawn, the Honor Code, and the intellectual diversity one would expect from Mr. Jefferson’s university.
Pompeo to Speak Sept. 25
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