April 23-May 27, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 8
Back Issues
‘We want to see results!’
Board of Visitors calls for progress on diversity issues
Adams sees program review as an engine of progress
Senate to students: Reject lying and cheating in your midst
Headlines @ U.Va.
Faculty Actions
U.Va. digital history center reaches out to Virginia schools
It’s Personal: An aspiring group of teachers makes learning meaningful
Casteen: Budget stalemate won’t close University
Wise leadership
WHTJ marks Brown anniversary
Feast for the soul: Sufi devotional music of Pakistan
Talk to cover Health System’s master plan
Bowen urges ‘class-based affirmative action’
Casteen: Budget stalemate won’t close University
John T. Casteen III
Courtesy of the Daily Progress
Casteen assures staff and faculty of University’s financial stability.

By Dan Heuchert

As the state staggered toward a possible budgetary shutdown, U.Va. President John T. Casteen III used the occasion of his annual State of the University address April 14 to vow that the University will operate as usual.

“It is my intention and the [Board of Visitors’] intention to not participate” in any shutdown, Casteen declared. “We will deal with this.”

At press time, the General Assembly remained deadlocked on a two-year state budget, more than a month into a special session called by Gov. Mark Warner when legislators failed to pass a budget during the 60-day regular session.

Experts, legislators and state officials disagree on what will happen if the stalemate persists until the July 1 beginning of the next fiscal year.
The University’s budget office has been planning for such an eventuality, Casteen said, and will present a plan to remain operating to the Board of Visitors in June.

The assurance came early in Casteen’s wide-ranging, 70-minute address, which touched on several other financial matters, the University’s new “Access UVa” student financial aid plan, faculty and student research, the upcoming capital campaign, enrollment profiles, faculty achievements and building plans.

Casteen reserved his most pointed words, however, for an issue that he has recently brought to the fore: student housing, and in particular, the off-Grounds rental market.

“I am becoming increasingly concerned about the safety and well-being of students in rental housing,” Casteen said. While he acknowledged that student renters are often at fault for safety hazards — removing batteries from smoke detectors, for instance, and leaving doors and windows unlocked — he suggested that some rental housing does not meet safety codes.

In addition, he noted that there is no local governmental entity that safeguards tenants, and declared that the balance of power is squarely in favor of landlords. As an example, he asserted that landlords may legally alter leases merely by posting a notice on a Web site. “It is time for a balance to be re-established,” he said.

Casteen also decried what he called “the predatory nature of the local rental market.” First-year students, he said, are often pressured into signing leases for off-Grounds housing for their second years — just weeks after settling into their dorms, “when they don’t yet know how to shop, and have no history of signing leases,” Casteen said. “It’s a practice I cannot identify in any other market,” he said.

(The University later announced a new housing policy designed to reduce the pressure on students. )

The University is planning to build more upper-class housing — perhaps in front of the new Ivy-Emmet parking garage, he said. Plans also are under way to address, and likely replace, the Alderman Road first-year dorms, which were constructed in the 1960s with an estimated 20-year lifespan.

In other matters, Casteen discussed the upcoming capital campaign, forecasting that its public launch could occur in fall 2005 or spring 2006. Already, some $400 million has been raised during the “silent phase,” he said, toward an eventual goal of at least $3 billion, which he labeled a “conservative number.” Approximately two-thirds of that total would go toward budgetary support, particularly for areas that received less support during the most recent $1.4 billion campaign, and not toward bricks and mortar, he said.

Turning to admissions, Casteen noted an increase in African-American and Hispanic applicants. He attributed the up-tick to the Supreme Court’s decision last summer to uphold affirmative action in admissions, plus increased recruitment efforts.

The Grounds are undergoing a dramatic change, he said, with more than $500 million to be invested into capital projects over the next three years.

Casteen also touched on a few controversies that have been raised by others. He declared himself sympathetic to the cause of securing a “living wage” for employees of University contractors, but said the University lacks the legal authority to write such a requirement into contracts.

Similarly, he said that state requirements prevent extending employment benefits to same-sex partners, and added that recent attention to so-called “soft benefits” like gym memberships has been counter-productive, drawing the attention of those who are opposed to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.


© Copyright 2004 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

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