As we head home from exams and finals, I wonder if my fellow Hoos are, like me, wondering how we will respond to the ubiquitous holiday questions that relatives always ask at big family gatherings. “How is school going?” “Have you chosen a major?” These are the kinds of questions you can always expect to hear. It’s easy to formulate a few stock answers that will satisfy grannies, uncles, aunts and cousins. “School is going well. I love my Anthropology of Food class. Cell Biology is killer.” And so on.
What is harder to say is “My semester was rough. We lost three students.” Or, “ The semester was hard. The Rolling Stone article was very triggering for my roommate, who is also a survivor of sexual assault.” These aren’t the kinds of things relatives expect as they pass the Christmas cookies, and they may or may not be prepared to hear them. Regardless, I suspect that they are on the minds of most UVA students.
It has been a challenging fall for the entire UVA community; perhaps the most challenging that we can remember. We suffered three heartbreaking losses, and the Rolling Stone article and its fallout continue to shake our student body. Amidst a near constant swirl of messages and emails from administrators, student groups, secret societies, and media outlets, it is hard to know what to think, how to feel, and where to being picking up pieces and putting them together.
There has been quite a lot of talk about tradition, a word that has always been important at UVA. In light of recent events, many have begun to think critically about it, and rightly so. However, there’s one tradition that is especially important at this time: self-government. UVA students are incredibly involved and engaged with their community on every level. Every aspect of university life incorporates student input and points of view. As we near the end of a trying semester, it is of utmost importance that we don’t give up, shut down, or become apathetic. The events of this semester have been awful, but because of them and the spotlight brought by them, we have the opportunity to enact real change.
That is why I urge you now to take the time to look over the school’s Sexual Misconduct Policy and submit your comments on it by December 20. This is an important opportunity to not only make your voice heard but to make your voice count. The more suggestions that are submitted, the more likely it is that the final product will be strong and effective. We need a policy that is accessible to students, especially survivors. We need a policy that will support those Hoos who have been made vulnerable. Ultimately, the people who will be most affected by this policy are UVA students, so it is only right that UVA students try to shape it as much they can. That being said, the policy comment period is not closed to UVA students only, so feel free to share this information with any friends, parents, teachers, or other community members who want to make a difference.
To make this process more approachable, the Feminist Majority Foundation has created some fantastic tools. Click here to take action and spread the word: feministcampus.org/uva.