Rolling Stone response
I have felt compelled to send this letter for some time as I have followed the news about sexual assault at the University. I recently read an article in the Washington Post regarding former Dean Nicole Eramo’s defamation lawsuit against Rolling Stone, currently under litigation. It appears that the discussion of the conversation about rape at the University and how allegations of sexual assault are handled by the administration has centered on the article in Rolling Stone. It is important to keep in mind that, regardless how complete the truth behind the allegations in Jackie’s story—which have not been tested in a court of law in part due to the University’s apparent failure to pursue them—rape is a problem at UVA and at colleges and universities across the country. It has become very difficult to wear UVA gear with pride or encourage my wife to send our future daughter to UVA given the response of the University to complaints of rape and the culture of rape at our school.
I cannot help but think about my time as a member of the black student community in the early 2000s and the series of acts of racial harassment against black or multiracial students—from the attack on Daisy Lundy (Com ’05, Educ ’12) during her run for Student Council president my first year, to the hate-filled message posted on the door of my neighbor on the Lawn my fourth year. One of the greatest challenges was maintaining the focus on implementing institutional changes after the media attention from an incident had faded. The problem is not about that act of hate committed against one person—but about the culture at UVA, that, despite many people’s best efforts, supports a power dynamic that marginalizes certain disempowered groups and does not penalize the behavior.
The University of Virginia is one of the finest schools in the world, a “bulwark of the human mind in this hemisphere,” according to its father, Thomas Jefferson. It should stand up as a leader and vigorously pursue allegations of rape and provide advocates for victims. UVA should ensure that students who engage in these acts are punished severely and should use every amount of weight it has to insist that they be criminally prosecuted and forced to respond to the allegations in a court of law.
Jade Craig (Col ’06)
After reading “In the Name of God,” it’s hard to believe that a sustainable remedy to religiously motivated violence could be to promote a modified way of interpreting scripture. We can appreciate the role of scripture within cultural and societal traditions without catering to those who believe in its timeless and unquestioned applicability. Continuing to view 21st-century global issues through the lens of first- or seventh-century scriptural passages does little to encourage or empower people of faith to appeal to their own rationality and sensibility in response to these issues.
Mark Strout (Engr ’08)
I was amazed to see the Winter 2015 article about Jerry White and Peter Ochs in their efforts to bring religious leaders to peaceful agreement. Many historical conflicts have been based on religious differences. “If you don’t believe the way I do, it’s OK for me to kill you.” Military and diplomatic solutions haven’t worked. Ever since 9/11 I’ve been waiting for someone to bring all the world’s religious leaders together to discuss and reach one agreement—that all religions should be free to practice in “peaceful coexistence” with one primary rule, that no one can attack or kill another because of their faith.
To be honest, I had never heard of the efforts Mr. White and Mr. Ochs are making, and I think that’s a problem. I think this needs to be publicized widely so that many more people can get on board. UVA has the resources and the moral responsibility to reprint this article in as many worldwide media outlets as possible, including social media. Also, are there any copyright restrictions to prevent alumni from reprinting the article widely, too? Since nothing else has worked, maybe this will.
Michael Looker (Darden ’71)
Lakewood, New York
I read with interest Bill Vogt’s “challenge” to Batten Dean Allan Stam’s inclusion of President Ronald Reagan among the top 10 leaders since 1870 for “risk acceptance” (Letters, Winter 2015). Mr. Vogt counters that Reagan withdrew our troops from Beirut after the 1983 terrorist bombing. As someone who followed the issue closely from the White House at the time, and later served (1984-85) as acting assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, I cast my vote with the distinguished Batten School dean. Our multinational peacekeeping presence in Lebanon was undermined by (to quote the Washington Post) a “highly partisan” Congress, with only two Senate Democrats supporting the president. The debate led Syria’s Foreign Minister Abdel Halim Khaddam to announce the Americans were “short of breath,” and we intercepted a communication between two pro-Iranian terrorist units in Beirut declaring: “If we kill 15 Marines, the rest will leave.” Ignoring a plea from Marine Corps Commandant General P.X. Kelley that the partisan debate was endangering the lives of his Marines, Congress had unintentionally incentivized the Oct. 23 terrorist attack that killed 241 sleeping Marines—leaving President Reagan with no alternative but to withdraw the survivors. Obviously, political partisanship is an equal-opportunity malady determined at any given time by the party that is not in the White House. Whether done by Republicans or Democrats, it ought not be tolerated. Politics should stop at the water’s edge.
Robert F. Turner (Law ’81, ’96)
Your Winter magazine has an excellent letter from Richardson Smith (Col ’61) about the Honor Code (or lack of it, these days). Bravo to Mr. Smith for saying what has had me simmering for many years. I lament the apparent disregard for a rigorous enforcement of the Honor Code, as was the case when I attended the University (1955-59). Is the value of attending UVA now diminished by only a cursory enforcement of the Honor Code?
C. Walter Nichols III (Col ’59)
South Dartmouth, Massachusetts
Virginia Magazine’s Winter 2015 article “Funding Academic Excellence” made for a jarring contrast with a Dec. 1 story in the Washington Post that revealed that the University charges its students a higher mandatory athletics fee than any comparable public university in the nation. Specifically, the University’s $657 per-student annual athletics fee is more than 150 percent of the next-highest such fee ($406), and more than double the third-highest mandatory athletics fee in the nation ($326).
The magazine article included some wonderful priorities for the University to maintain its world-class academic status while lowering costs for the students with the most financial need. Unfortunately, it appears that the cost of achieving this goal is a $1,000 tuition increase for all students for each of the next two years.
I enjoy supporting UVA athletics, but I am alarmed at what it says about our University’s priorities that students are required to pay such a significant sum of money directly to the athletics program in exchange for a UVA education. Let those of us who love the sports teams support them voluntarily, and let students who attend UVA for an education do so in the most affordable way possible. I urge the administration to reduce the mandatory student athletics fee to offset these upcoming tuition increases.
Steven Giballa (Col ’06)
It is ironic that the same week that the Winter issue arrived in the mail, the Washington Post completed its “exposé” on college sports and published a column by Steven Pearlstein: “College costs too much. We can make it cheaper.” In the Magazine, Virginia looks terrific and is supporting a low-debt strategy for its (poor?) students. For out-of-state students, there is a different story: high tuition and no relief reported. My fear is that UVA is driving away the out-of-state student, who traditionally has helped maintain the excellence (and likely financial solvency via tuition and giving) of the University.
The Post stories tell a less-flattering story: one of ongoing losses from college athletics, which has become a big business. UVA is losing millions of dollars. Virginia spends 43 percent of its budget on instruction, below the national average for public schools, let alone private schools. (Given the 9.5 percent support by the state, Virginia is more like a private than public institution.) Greater amounts of money are going to “research.” Pearlstein writes that little of this research is ever cited and should be defunded. Schools should go back to the six-day-a-week schedule (I remember Saturday classes), which apparently has shrunk to three- or four-. There are more ways to cut expenses without cutting quality.
The reader needs to know on which end of the spectrum UVA falls. Perhaps someone has the unvarnished truth.
I have been a lifelong supporter, financial contributor and mentor. I look for only the best for the students.
Ken Harkavy (Col ’67)
I read with interest your article on University financing, but to me the math just does not add up. About 100 years ago my grandfather donated the funds for the Leander McCormick Observatory. Since then my family, including myself, has provided financial support to the University for its perpetuation. When I attended the University in the early 1970s, the College was about one-third out-of-state students and two thirds in-state. Now this ratio is probably close to nine-tenths in-state. This was never the intent of Thomas Jefferson when he founded the University.
If you look at the money today, it makes no sense. The Commonwealth of Virginia gives $8,554 in support to UVA for undergraduates. In-state students pay only $14,468, versus $43,772 for out-of-state. The obvious solution is to break away from the Commonwealth of Virginia and let them keep their funds. Then the University could admit the most qualified students from across the globe at a much higher tuition. Jefferson’s dream was to create a universal community of higher learning, not a State U! UVA needs to go back to its roots as the University, not UVA, and its alumni will be proud to support it fully going forward.
Tony McCormick (Col ’75)