UVa to Examine Its Segregated Past
University of Virginia officials say it is time for incoming students to learn about their school’s segregated past and how to be sensitive to classmates of all backgrounds. Administration officials say they became aware of the need to do something more about race on campus after students came in blackface to a Halloween party thrown by White fraternities (see Black Issues, Dec. 19, 2002).
A meeting will be held to develop plans for the education that many have said must occur at UVa, which didn’t accept Blacks until 1950.
One option that will be discussed is requiring students to attend training sessions on multiculturalism or diversity. Another proposal involves having incoming freshmen discuss racial issues.
“The benefit here is we are able to … really help people think through them. In regular society, you might ignore them and move on, and that doesn’t help,” Patricia M. Lampkin, the university’s vice president for student affairs, told The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk.
Karen E. Holt, head of the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, said the university began mandating anti-discriminatory and harassment awareness classes for its faculty two years ago.
The department soon will begin offering a “Getting Beyond Just Getting Along” session, Holt says. A similar session could be offered to students.
The Kappa Alpha and Zeta Psi fraternities were cleared of disorderly conduct accusations stemming from the costumes at the party. The Inter-Fraternity Council determined they could not be punished because the partygoers’ actions were constitutionally protected speech.
The panel encouraged both organizations to conduct educational and internal discipline programs for their members, as well as condemning those attending for “an apparent historical blindness and lack of sensitivity.”
Dr. M. Rick Turner, dean of the university’s Office of African American Affairs, says the Halloween incident was hurtful and painful. A lot of work has been done to open the university’s doors to all students, he says.
“It’s bad whenever it occurs,” Turner says. “But being a Southern university and being born in segregation, it brings a little more controversy to the institution.”
While the fraternity incident highlighted issues of race on campus, other incidents have raised awareness about divisions. In October, for example, about 400 students protested what they called unfair coverage of Black events and issues in The Cavalier Daily, UVa’s student newspaper. The protest followed an editorial that criticized the Griot Society, a Black organization, for fostering racial tension.
UVa President Dr. John T. Casteen weighs in on the campus’s racial climate. See Faculty Club, pg. 32.
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