Alicia Moreland Learning Portfolio Reflective Essay
“In this whole conflict is how 2000 people showed up to these protests, and like, school wasn’t in session, you know, those were people who cared enough to get out of their houses or offices and be there at this rally, who aren’t students at this university, you know, and so who were they? They were townspeople, they were staff members, they were faculty, and so I think what I saw in all of this was this incredible moment where our community was a real community of everyone comprised of this university was very visible”
-Grace Aheron October 11th, 2012
As I contemplated the impact of the events of this summer, all I could think about was the reiteration of the word community. I found myself struggling with this idea of community and how that translates to the University of Virginia. A community, by definition, is characterized by “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society” (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary 1). Furthermore, a community is built on morals, values, honesty, and trust, and when that trust has been violated it is the responsibility of the community to hold those individuals accountable. As I read through my transcriptions, I came across the quote indicated above by Grace Aheron, and the ouster situation and the events that occurred afterwards all began to make sense. I immediately chose to interview Claudrena Harold because I respect her intellectual perspective, and she is a very socially active professor here at the university. Each class that I have taken with her, she continually pushes here students to think critically and question those around us about the state of public education and the role that students can play in changing many of the issues. After reading through all of my interviews, I felt she made so many great points during our interview referencing community and the issues of public education. Professor Harold’s reference to community and its relation to the student body hit home for me and made me question the way that I view community and where do I see myself here at the University of Virginia. I began to question, what is my community? Am I a part of the community at large? How has the community helped to change this crisis? With so many questions running through my head, I felt I needed to delve deep into these questions.
“I think at first people just wanted the truth. They wanted Transparency and here I’m working on my best memory. I feel like the call for her reinstatement came perhaps a little later, but I could be wrong in this, but I think most importantly people wanted answers. I think by the time on Sunday, people almost felt as if people in the College of Arts and Sciences, the college were being marginalized in some ways. The arts and sciences, the liberal arts were being marginalized and I think there was some general concern about that impetus and to also think it was one of those situations where someone’s alleged, where you mobilize not out of a deep or undying love for that person… there was a lot of frustrations and it came to a boil and they mobilized around her in that particular moment.”
-Professor Claudrena Harold November 12th, 2012
Professor Harold’s emphasis on community illustrated that the student body has a high stake in the community here at the university, and have a unique perspective that needs to be shared with the nation. The notion that if we all come together and demand change, then changes will inevitably come. This is an empowering stance for students to take because it shows a growth and power in the community that can sometimes be suppressed and the issue arises when students feel like their voices will not be heard and will be pushed aside. However, Professor Harold indicated that students have more power than they know and should utilize it and band together to see that justice is served. Professor Harold referenced the political and social movements held on campus to integrate the university during the 1970s. While many felt the students were being radical, their efforts helped to make the university integrated and become more equal in regards to race and gender. Additionally, she illustrated that there is strength and numbers and the events of this past summer were fueled by numbers. Numerous of amounts of people put their own issues and lives aside to ensure the integrity of the university remained the same.
In addition, Professor Harold had strong opinions about the state of public higher education across the nation. As a whole, the situation shed light upon the issues surrounding public higher education and its direct effects at the University of Virginia. In Karri Holley’s work Defining Governance for Public Higher Education in the Twenty- First Century, Holley indicates “the challenges that exist require colleges and universities to (1) respond creatively and decisively to declining social resources, increasing social demands, and conflicting expectations, while (2) simultaneously retaining elements of the core values of higher education”(Holley 199). As I re-read this passage it took me back to a slide we viewed in class that stated, “Governance enables institutional stability, includes multiple stakeholders(faculty, admin., public, students) in decision making, and allows for efficient and fair allocation of public resources for social needs” (Class slide 4). If this is what governance should be like, the board of visitors failed to include the community on their decision and this caused people to distrust and question their actions. This course has shown me that while this situation has occurred at the University of Virginia there are larger issues that plague public education across the nation. In the words of Claudrena Harold, “I mean there is just this notion to…that this is going to make money or this particular idea is going to make money or that certain entities within the University, be it business school, be it education, be it whatever, that they know best. I think our current market has taught us that what’s happened on Wall Street in the last four years sometimes the business community does not know best. One of the things we have to be attentive to is the University becoming sort of a play pin for certain entities, just like the housing market was a play pin for certain entities. That’s what I think we have to be very concerned about and very vigilant about” (Harold 4). These are the time as a community we must stand firm in our beliefs and speak up when we feel like our voices have been taken for granted. Most importantly, these circumstances illustrated a deviation from what a community truly stands for which is to promote and maintain morality, honesty, and trust. The Board of Visitors decision and actions around the forced the resignation of Teresa Sullivan was an act that violated the integrity of the Univeristy and the community we uphold so dearly. The university prides itself on its academic, intellectual, and moral high ground, and the actions of the board were simply unacceptable.
As I look back over the course of this semester, I ask myself “What is the meaning of the crisis?” and “What does it mean to me?” I believe this crisis means that public higher education has a long road to travel in regards to keeping the integrity of the university the same while adjusting to outside pressure. I believe this crisis illustrates that some of the best universities in nation are not exempt from this pressure and should work diligently to ensure that a situation like this does not occur again. Overall, this crisis meant a whole to me as a member of the University of Virginia. I felt proud that as a community we were able to stand up for what was right, and did not accept the many excuses and “politically correct” reasoning’s behind this unfair act. This crisis has made me closer to the beliefs held so dearly here at the university and have allowed me to view the community with fresh eyes. Prior to this course, I did not contemplate my position or role here at the university, but I know I can see things clearly, and I understand that my voice is valuable, my presence is valuable, and my mind is powerful. Prior to this course, I understood those qualities about myself and my fellow student body, but now I feel liberated. I feel like I am a part of a change that I can stand behind, and when people ask me years from now, I can proudly say “I made a difference, I took a stance, and my work is now a part of history”.
“I was proud of the rallies. I felt like there are people in this community who share the same sentiments as I do, and you know, just a simple fact of greed or whatever the differences were it could have been greed it could have been anything else. I was proud that there were people in the community who stood up and said you know what? what you’re doing is wrong, and we’re not gonna accept this behavior that may have passed at another school, and um, you know that moment, it just really made me proud. You know, I’m a wahoo, and um, the four years that I’ve been here, I feel like being at UVA has really taught me it is about the community, it’s about not just yourself but the people around you and making sure that you live up to a certain standard, and um, to a code of ethics, and the community held the Board of Visitors up to those standards, which I felt was you know necessary”
-Alicia Moreland October 13th, 2012
In closing, “we have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community” (Dorothy Day). Thus, my opinions about the crisis have changed simply because now I understand the importance of community. I have learned that the community has just as much power as the individuals who make decisions regarding our policies and practices here at the university. As a community member, I feel it is important for us to maintain our integrity and always push for equality, and to let our voices be heard. Overall, this course, my classmates, and professors have taught me that I have a voice that needs to be heard amongst my fellow community members. Classes like this do not come around very often, but when they do they make a difference, and I feel that I have changed. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my ideas with so many intellectual individuals, and I appreciate the opportunity to share my own ideas. I hope that in the future, our community and the world will see that we are making the difference to make our community a better place.
Below is the link for the interview Sarah conducted on Me:
Below is the link for the interview I conducted on Grace:
Below is the link for the interview I conducted on Claudrena Harold: