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Casteen Challenges Professors to Teach ‘Unvarnished’ History of University’s Racial Past
President John T. Casteen III
Photo by Ian Bradshaw

December 9, 2002

By Matt Kelly

University President John T. Casteen III is urging faculty members to teach the "unvarnished" history of the University to students who might be unaware of the state’s problems over the years integrating schools.

Casteen, speaking to the Faculty Senate Wednesday, addressed an incident in which two fraternities hosted a Halloween party where three students wore "blackface"makeup. He said the students committed no violations of law but displayed ignorance of history and how the University community was built.

"We have an obligation to take an aggressive role in teaching the extent to which how far we have come has been hard-earned and critical to our success," he said.

Casteen stressed that a federal court order was needed to set aside state statutes and integrate the University in the 1950s, and that this took place in the era of massive resistance in the state to school integration. He said in the recent incident, both the offended and the aggrieved students were ignorant of this history, which he said was only one generation removed from them.

"This is not a matter of preaching to the students, but bearing witness to history," Casteen said.
While students on both sides of the Halloween incident did not seem pitted against each other, Casteen said, black students can list similar incidents over the past several years.

"Few of these [incidents] have had to do with violations of law, but they were violations of human dignity," he said.

Casteen also praised physics professor Louis Bloomfield for his actions in uncovering plagiarism in his class. Bloomfield used a computer program to detect plagiarism and filed honor code charges against the offenders, resulting in 48 students being dismissed from the University. The student’s Honor Committee recently announced that all the cases have been resolved.

"Both Professor Bloomfield and the Honor Committee did extraordinary service to the community," Casteen said. "What we are celebrating here is not cheating, but that the system works."

Casteen’s remarks were the first public comments he has made on the Bloomfield case, which came to light in May 2001. He explained that he waited until it was over because of the litigious atmosphere.

"These events may be a good reason to convene discussions between faculty and the Honor Committee," he said, noting reluctance on the part of some to avoid direct engagement in the student process.

"It was a lonely campaign for Bloomfield, but he performed a public service in pursuing it," Casteen said.

In two other matters, the Faculty Senate threw its weight behind a tuition increase and called for more money to be used to help graduate students.

Senate members backed a resolution, originally approved at the Assembly of Professors, calling for a "phased and fair rise in tuition fees," to October’s level of "peer institutions such as the University of Michigan," which charges more than $7,000 for in-state students. The U.Va. Board of Visitors recently authorized a $385 surcharge for the spring semester, bringing in-state undergraduate tuition and fees to $4,980.

The increase, the resolution stated, should come directly to the University instead of going to the state, with no further reductions in state funding. Also, financial aid to students should be increased, and the additional funds from the tuition hike should be apportioned by the provost for the greatest impact on the core academic mission. Some faculty members fear that the legislature will set tuition caps, and others said the Board of Visitors needs to schedule tuition hikes so families can budget.

In another step, the Faculty Senate approved a report, written by a committee of faculty and students, calling for more funding for graduate students. Saying the graduate students are key to the University's mission, the report seeks about $10 million a year to cover all tuition for graduate students and provide stipends.

"Public funds drawn from undergraduate tuition and the legislative appropriation will need to be the foundation for graduate finance restructuring," the report stated.

About 65 percent of 3,300 graduate students pay higher out-of-state tuition, which the report says puts U.Va. at a competitive disadvantage. Senate members said research grants cannot be used toward tuition, forcing the University to come up with $13,000 per graduate student to underwrite the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuitions. In-state graduate students pay $5,672 a year, while out-of-state graduate students pay $18,760 for the 2002-03 school year (these amounts do not include the surcharge, and rates are different for Darden and the medical and law schools).

The report also suggested targeting private donors among alumni with doctoral degrees and in technology-based businesses.

"We need to build this into the [pending] capital campaign," said Faculty Senate President Michael J. Smith. "Support for graduate fellowships helps the whole university."

Edward Ayers, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said that while graduate funding should be a high priority, faculty members should not depend on philanthropy.

"The $10 million shortfall will not come from donors," he said.

Faculty members discussed charging about $830 per undergraduate student to generate the required money, which they said would be less than current fees for athletics and other auxiliary enterprises.

Casteen recommended that Smith make the case to the Board for Visitors for more graduate funding.

The senate also endorsed a new master of public health degree, in response to student demand and interest in such topics as bioterrorism and ethics in the health care profession. The plan will now be presented to the Board of Visitors. Smith said after the meeting that he hopes it could be offered to students next fall in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.

In other business, Casteen warned of impending state budget revisions, which he predicted will call for additional cuts of 1 to 2 percent for the current fiscal year. Gov. Mark R. Warner is scheduled to present a revised spending plan on Dec. 20. Casteen said the Board of Visitors faces cutting operations or using the $6 million set-aside fund originally earmarked for faculty retention and new initiatives. He believes the board will choose to spend the set-aside fund to close the gap.

Casteen said the legislature may also cut some special centers and "pass-through" payments in the University budget, which could have a direct impact on some ancillary programs, such as the State Climatology Office. He said there also could be some long-term changes in how education is funded.

He said the University is a driving engine of the local economy and must maintain momentum. About 2,500 jobs have been lost in the regional economy recently.

The current state budget problems come from poor planning, such as over-estimating state revenues by about one-third, and from long-term problems that have been building over years, Casteen said. He added that the proposed tax increases on the ballot in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads last month failed because people no longer trust the state to solve problems with more tax money.

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