Category Archives: Student health, safety, welfare

BoV Meets in Special Closed Session, Takes No Action

The University of Virginia Board of Visitors met in a special closed session today for a briefing by law enforcement, administration and legal counsel on security-related issues relating to the UVA Encampment for Palestine and final exercises. Upon coming out of closed session, the Board held no discussion or took any action except to confirm by unanimous vote that no other topic was addressed. — JAB

Jones Trial Scheduled for Early 2025

We’re a bit late, but this development in UVA’s triple-homicide tragedy has just come to our attention….

The trial of Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr., charged with killing three and wounding two University of Virginia students in a 2022 shooting, has been scheduled for trial — in January 2025. Albermarle County Circuit Court has set aside more than a month for the proceeding, WSET-TV reported earlier this month.

University officials have refused to release the Attorney General-ordered report into the university’s failure to avert the tragedy until after the trial. Thus, it could be two-and-a-half years after the slayings until members of the UVA community will be allowed to see the report and assess whether the university has taken meaningful corrective action to prevent another incident.

University officials say they don’t want the report to prejudice the result of the trial.

UVA Needs an Honest Assessment of Its Covid Response

by Walter Smith

In late 2019, I spent 65 nights in the VCU hospital – first to beat leukemia, then to undergo a bone marrow transplant. I was dismissed to a post-hospital protocol of isolation, except for trips to the hospital. So, I was doing seclusion well before Covid made it “cool.” I found the hospital experience fascinating, along with “the science” of what was done to me.

When Covid first appeared, I was willing to trust “the experts,” but I lost trust pretty quickly. When Dr. Anthony Fauci was asked about hydroxychloroquine, touted by a French physician as useful in fighting Covid, he dismissed the study as “anecdotal.” The beneficial effects, he said, were never demonstrated in randomized double-blind, clinical trials. The very next questioner asked him about masking and social distancing. He responded he had no doubt those strategies were working — no need for randomized double-blind trials. My lawyer BS detector went through the roof. Continue reading

Time for Moral Clarity, Mr. Ryan

Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends!

It is particularly ironic on the first night of the “Festival of Lights” that I feel compelled to address the rampant antisemitism existing at our American college campuses. I am writing this email expressing my personal views, not necessarily speaking for all of our Board since this was not reviewed by them.

Jim Bacon has already chronicled the “Students for Justice in Palestine” horrific October 8 statement and their marches on the Lawn afterwards. For those of you who missed it, please take a moment to read the articles and view the video links I provide below of the congressional testimony from the Harvard, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania presidents this past Tuesday. Each one of them steadfastly refused to unequivocally condemn the Hamas genocide or their students’ protests praising the “intifada” while chanting “from the river to the sea.” That is the terrorist Islamist euphemism for the eradication of Israel and Jews worldwide.

Recall that the Penn president is Liz Magill, former UVA EVP and Provost. As you will see below, she is now facing mounting pressure to resign over her comments last Tuesday, as are the presidents of Harvard and MIT. All have attempted to walk back their statements given alumni blowback, but the damage is done. Continue reading

Jefferson Council Resolution on the Safety and Rights of Jews at UVa

Jefferson Council President Tom Neale has delivered the following resolution of the Council to University of Virginia president Jim Ryan and the Board of Visitors. — JAB

The Jefferson Council, by unanimous agreement of the Officers, Committee Chairs and Board of Advisors, hereby issues the following RESOLUTION supporting the rights of the Jewish students, faculty and staff at the University of Virginia to study, teach and work in safety and in an environment conducive to the free and civil exchange of ideas.

WHEREAS, the Jefferson Council was founded to promote an academic environment based on open dialogue throughout the University;

WHEREAS, on October 7, 2023, military units of Hamas, the de facto governing body of Gaza, invaded the sovereign state of Israel and intentionally targeted, murdered, tortured and/or captured approximately 1400 innocent civilians including but not limited to women, children and the elderly, all in violation of international law and the moral norms of every civilized country in the world; Continue reading

Tragedies in Charlottesville

by Loren Lomasky

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

UVa’s Killjoys at Work

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

The Perry Family Lawyers Up

Happy and Sean Perry

by James A. Bacon

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

How UVa Responded to Grief

Pop up memorial. Photo credit: WTOP

by James A. Bacon

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

How UVa Addresses Student Loneliness, Depression

A federal survey shows a 63% increase in depressive symptoms in teens and young adults in the 10 years prior to COVID. Source: “Hoos Connected: Enhancing Social belonging & Support Among UVa Students

by James A. Bacon

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