Date: Aug 2009
To: Parents of new students
From: John T. Casteen III, President
Subject: Welcome to U.Va.
Dear Parents of New Students:
This letter is to say welcome to U.Va. and to let you know that we are looking forward to getting to know your student and you also as the summer begins to wind down and the beginning of the fall semester approaches. It is also to offer some suggestions about how you can support your student as she or he takes this long step toward personal independence and how you yourselves can take part in University life.
Times have changed in many ways since you and I were the age of your daughters and sons. It may be partly an illusion, but the events of the last couple of decades make me think that today’s students have grown up in a world unlike the one in which we grew up. Modern communications have made the globe smaller. The evolving global economy has made it more complex, and in recent months perhaps also less secure. Members of this student generation are performing military service abroad and coping with threats at home. In these contexts, your student and hundreds of new classmates will begin their university educations.
At the same time, some aspects of the experience of being a student are probably timeless and more or less universal. Friendships that endure; the excitement of new learning and new skills, and new ways to think and reason; social challenges faced and met; and people, places, and events that become life-sustaining memories—these are the central ingredients of the collegiate life we all want for our students.
Students and faculty members here share values that are almost as old as the University itself. These include student self-governance and the Honor System. From their first day on the Grounds, students enter a community of trust where responsibility and opportunity go hand-in-hand. They confront many choices. Most encounter fewer restrictions than they knew at home. Responsibility for oneself and for one’s fellow students—that is, for the community itself—is fundamental. We expect students to treat one another with respect while seeking to understand and appreciate people different from themselves.
The challenges here are real and substantive. Opportunities for growth and adult freedoms can confuse a new student. Alcohol abuse, occasional instances of drug abuse, and assault, including sexual assault, and other forms of destructive conduct occur—even among students. I will talk with you about these issues at the meeting for parents in Old Cabell Hall at 1:00 p.m., on Saturday, August 22, and I will ask you to communicate your family’s values and expectations to your child before you head back home. No teaching about wholesome personal behavior works better than that delivered by candid, direct parents who state their expectations on the occasion of parting on the opening weekend. Every student needs to know that her or his family sees its child as a treasure, and at the same time that family members expect this human treasure to comply with laws and community standards, and to grow in good ways.
Help and guidance are available here. Faculty and faculty advisors, deans, and their colleagues help students make academic decisions. Faculty members are required to be easily accessible from the first day, and they are. The dean of students and many others provide personal support and (as needed) direction. Taken together, these efforts assure that new students’ first experiences at the University are academic in nature and intellectually focused.
Supervised peer advisors and trained professionals help new students cope with whatever issues they may face. These systems work uncommonly well. The student health center, special units for counseling and psychological services, intramural and recreation programs, and other institutional resources help students maintain physical and mental well-being. The Women’s Center, the International Center, the University Career Services office, and the Office of African-American Affairs, among others, provide services to the community.
Along with all of the nation’s major universities, we have reviewed and improved our emergency procedures, and revised plans and policies for student safety and security in the wake of violence on several campuses during recent years. A notification system that sends messages to flat-panel LCD screens in buildings and simultaneously distributes text, e-mail, and web messages to cell phones is up and running. In the event of threatening activity on or near the Grounds—a gunman, a fire, chemical spill, severe weather—messages go to the cell phones of students, faculty, and staff members who have registered with the system. I hope that you will make sure that your own student registers for the emergency-alert system. To register, visit www.virginia.edu/uvaalerts.
The new student’s life is and ought to be one of hard work, earned rewards, and accomplishment. Our business is academic. The faculty makes sure that the process of settling-in includes an honest, accurate introduction to the hard work that builds academic success. New friendships, social adjustment, and a certain amount of celebration are natural to the early days of the first year of college, but settling down to the business of learning to be a well-educated, successful, principled adult is the ultimate point.
Your student’s journey to maturity began long before your upcoming trip to Charlottesville. Through the years, you have shaped her or his temperament, intellect, and capacity to face hard challenges. Despite the distance from home, your influence will remain strong in your student’s intellectual and personal life.
I hope you will become involved in the numerous activities that are available to parents and family members, both on and off Grounds. You will have many opportunities to participate through the organization called UVaFamilies. Membership is automatic and free. The web site is http://uvaclubs.virginia.edu/site/c.lkIZKhMWIvF/b.4199081. News and information for parents appear at www.virginia.edu/parentsaspartners. Additional information family members appears at www.virginia.edu/families.
Best wishes as you prepare for the trip to Charlottesville and reflect on this important transition in your student’s life and in your own as well. I look forward to seeing you on Saturday, August 22, at 1:00 p.m., in Old Cabell Hall auditorium. I look forward also to seeing you often at family events, on special occasions when we cross paths on the Grounds, and eventually at the Final Exercises that will mark your student’s graduation from the University.
John T. Casteen III
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Last Modified: Thursday, 20-Aug-2009 16:47:06 EDT
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