March 28-April 10, 2003
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Diversity: ‘It’s time to face facts’
Revolutionizing teacher ed
War — voices raised, alert high
‘Scrimmage’ previews affirmative action case
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Diversity: ‘It’s time to face facts’
Board members want special committee

Hundreds of concerned community members marched from several locations on Grounds March 12 and met on the steps of the Rotunda for a candlelight vigil to stress the need for greater diversity at the University.

Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Hundreds of concerned community members marched from several locations on Grounds March 12 and met on the steps of the Rotunda for a candlelight vigil to stress the need for greater diversity at the University.

Staff Report

From hundreds massed for a candlelight vigil to members of the Board of Visitors meeting in committee, voices around the University have continued the call to address U.Va.’s need for greater diversity.

Board members had discussed diversity before Feb. 26, when a candidate for Student Council reported a racially motivated assault. But the attack clearly provided the impetus for action at a special meeting on Monday, March 24.

“Mindful of recent events,” said Gordon F. Rainey Jr. “I believe it would be a good idea for the board to consider a special committee on diversity … that would promptly evaluate the effectiveness of University programs relating to diversity. I feel strongly that this needs to be done.”

Thomas F. Farrell II, chairman of the Special Committee of the Board of Governance, said the committee began discussing creation of a special committee on diversity at its Feb. 24 meeting, but that it was “now time to be proactive.”

In addition to the attack reported by second-year student Daisy Lundy, who has since been named president of Student Council, an incident on Halloween involving three University students dressed in blackface at a fraternity party brought diversity to the fore.

The responsibility of the board’s new committee, if approved by the full membership at its meeting April 4-5, would be to understand fully what the University is doing regarding diversity, to gather information from students, faculty and staff, and to make a comprehensive report in June.

Hundreds gathered to show their concern at a March 12 candlelight vigil.
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Hundreds gathered to show their concern at a March 12 candlelight vigil.

The idea received vigorous support from a number of members, including Warren M. Thompson. At January’s board meeting, he called for a resolution in the aftermath of the blackface incident.

“It’s time to face facts,” Thompson said Monday. “We are being challenged in ways that we have not been challenged before, and unless we take aggressive steps,
we will damage the reputation of our University and the power of our brand. … We as a board need to send a strong message that we’re doing something about
diversity.”

The measured discussion among board members was a stark contrast to the strident rally on the Rotunda steps March 12.

Speakers exhorted people who had marched from three points around the University to take personal and public steps to combat racism.

Kwesi Smith, president of Brothers United Celebrating Knowledge and Success, called for critical thinking to fight racism but warned that the marchers’ efforts would dissipate if they did not transmit their passion to succeeding generations of students.

“Inaction is an action that perpetuates the system,” he said.

Law student Scot Fishman, who was Student Council president in 1996-97, read a statement from seven former council presidents asking students to stand united in love and not to retaliate.

After the rally, Michael Signer, an organizer of the Committee for Progress on Race, a sponsor of the march, said he thought it went “spectacularly.” He said CPR would focus efforts to place race at the heart of the program at the Law School.

A few hours before the vigil, about 100 students, faculty and administrators met in Newcomb Hall Theater to exchange ideas ranging from requiring a mandatory course for first-year students to recruiting and retaining minority faculty.

Kazz Pinkard, a graduate student in the Curry School of Education, led the crowd through a 16-point plan of action drafted four years ago by African-American students. Many of the elements have been folded into a more recent plan called FORCE, emphasizing five points: Funding for diversity; an Office or officer dedicated to diversity; Recruiting and retaining minority faculty members and students; Climate of the University; and Education.

Several students questioned the faculty’s commitment to diversity because they had hoped for a larger turnout.

Lisa Woolfork, an English professor who is African American, said many faculty members did not know about the exchange since word went out only the day before.
“This idea that if I didn’t show up, I didn’t care is hurtful,” she said.

Michael J. Smith, chairman of the Faculty Senate, said, “There is a deep commitment on the part of the faculty to diversity. All of us know we can learn only more deeply in an environment of diversity.”


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