Date: Oct 21, 2010
Re: News and Updates for Parents: Safety Concerns, Family Weekend, Dome Room Dinner, and More
Students are now halfway through first semester. In the past few months, we have welcomed our new president, Teresa A. Sullivan, along with more than 4,000 new first-year and transfer students. The Grounds are alive with activity as fall comes into full swing. The following is an update on topics that we know will be of interest to you.
As you may have read or heard, several criminal incidents involving students have occurred in recent weeks. Most of these incidents have occurred between midnight and daybreak in the Corner area or in the areas off Grounds where numerous students live. We are concerned by the number of incidents, by the proximity to the Grounds, and by the tendencies of some students to put themselves at risk (walking alone late at night, for example). Although most incidents have not occurred on the Grounds, we continue to urge students to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to call 911 if they see suspicious activity or if they need help.
The University is taking several steps to address the situation and to increase safety efforts. As described by Chief of University Police Michael A. Gibson in a recent interview, University Police and the city of Charlottesville jointly patrol the areas that are contiguous to the Grounds where many students live. Patrols of both uniformed and plainclothes police have increased in recent weeks, especially on the weekends.
The University's Security and General Safety Committee, which reports to Executive Vice President Leonard Sandridge, works proactively to improve safety on the Grounds and in surrounding areas. Any concerns brought to the committee chair, Marjorie Sidebottom (who serves as director of emergency preparedness), are reviewed immediately and acted upon as appropriate. The committee recently took steps to improve lighting around Kellogg Residence Hall, where students had reported darkened areas.
We regularly send safety reminders to students, and recent Police Alerts (which are posted on the University's homepage for several days after they are distributed) have included reminders about ways to help ensure personal safety. A recent notice included information on how to sign up for self-defense classes. The police have reported a very positive response from students to the availability of such classes.
Parents are encouraged to discuss personal safety with their sons and daughters and to reinforce the measures that help promote safety in whatever environment they may be. Locking doors and windows, not walking alone late at night, paying attention to traffic when crossing the street and not being distracted by a cell phone conversation or music – these are some of the reminders that we continually convey to students. A message from me to students last week outlined safety information and the continuing investigation into the murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who was last seen alive shortly after leaving a concert at U.Va.'s John Paul Jones Arena approximately a year ago.
Many young people come to college with a sense of invulnerability. We also know that continual reminders from us can grow boring after a while. Your reinforcement of these messages helps in our partnership to build a safe environment.
The safety and health of our students is our top priority. We will continue to do everything possible to create a safe, healthy environment.
Some parents have asked why they are not receiving messages from the Police about recent incidents involving students. Our practice at the University is to send these messages to the immediate community who live and work here: students, faculty, and staff. These messages, known as Police Alerts, are then posted on the University's homepage for parents and any other readers to view.
U.Va. Alerts are a different form of communication, designed to alert the same community as above (students, faculty, and staff) about an imminent danger in the area of the Grounds. A tornado sighted in the area, for example, might be the subject of an alert. Alerts are quite rare, very brief (one or two sentences), and give recipients guidance on specific, immediate measures to take (shelter in place, for example). Messages are sent in both text and e-mail form. Only students or others with a U.Va. ID can sign up for U.Va. Alerts, but they have the capability of adding additional cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses. Please ask your student if he or she has added your contact information to his or her U.Va. Alert account. Students can sign up for U.Va. Alerts at any time, but special emphasis is placed on signing up during Summer Orientation, so you likely remember hearing about the alert system at that time.
News updates, such as this one, are sent to parents periodically throughout the semester. The information pertains specifically to parents. Online sign-up for parent communications is available during Summer Orientation and throughout the year. If you have suggestions about this or future communications, please e-mail me. We welcome your comments.
We hope you and your family are planning to come to the Grounds for Family Weekend Nov. 5-7. You will be able to choose from among dozens of informational, cultural, performance, and school-related events. Highlights include:
Thursday, Nov. 4, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Newcomb Ballroom.
All students are encouraged to come to the fall Immunization Clinic, administered by Student Health through Intravene. Flu shots will be available, as will other immunizations required by the University. Students and parents will receive more information soon. The Web site includes further details about costs and available vaccines.
Deciding where to live is an important decision for undergraduate students. Living on Grounds offers a number of advantages, including a sense of community; convenience; proximity to classes, the libraries, dining halls, and other centers of student life; one fixed cost for the year; the ability to cancel an on-Grounds lease while studying abroad; and more.
On-Grounds options for students include three residential college programs, 10 language house programs, four apartment-style complexes that offer the additional support of the Resident Staff, and one upperclass facility consisting of primarily single rooms.
The on-Grounds housing application process begins Nov.15, which is the deadline for students who want to apply to live in a residential college or a language house. An Open House on Nov. 6 during Family Weekend will give you the opportunity to tour different upperclass rooms. To learn more about your student's options for housing and upcoming deadlines, see the Housing Web site.
If your student decides to live off Grounds, it important to remember that plenty of options exist – often well into the spring semester. Parents and students are advised to take their time in signing a lease for next year. There is no shortage of student housing in the Charlottesville area. The Off-Grounds Housing Office welcomes questions from students and can be a major resource and guide as your student explores options off Grounds. An Off-Grounds Housing Fair will take place on Nov. 5 during Family Weekend.
Several important things to know about living off Grounds:
Student Council sponsors convenient bus travel for students to and from the Richmond, Va., airport around the times of University breaks (Fall Break, Thanksgiving, Winter Break, Spring Break). Council's program, called UVAir Bus, costs only $20 each way, and tickets can be purchased in several ways, including online.
Amtrak also offers service to locations in the Northeast. Amtrak Virginia originates in Lynchburg, with destinations in Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., BWI, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and as far north as Boston. Virginia college students can save 15 percent on Northeast Regional service if booked prior to October 31 for travel until December 31, 2010.
The parents' handbook also details several travel options (see page 53 of the printed copy or view the online version).
In closing, I hope to see many of you at Family Weekend in November. Thank you for your support as parents, and please do not hesitate to let us know how we can be of assistance.
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Last Modified: Friday, 22-Oct-2010 11:12:57 EDT
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