Letter from Delegate David L. Bulova (D-Fairfax) to President Teresa Sullivan

David L. Bulova, who represents the 37th district in the Virginia House of Delegates, sent the following letter to President Sullivan yesterday regarding transparency in the Board of Visitors. The letter is reproduced here with permission from Delegate Bulova.

April 20, 2015

President Teresa A. Sullivan

Office of the President

University of Virginia

Post Office Box 400224

Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4224

Dear President Sullivan:

This past week I was delighted to meet with three of your students, led by Ms. Laura Cross, in Richmond during the Reconvened Session.  They had emailed me to express concern over the Affordable Excellence model recently adopted by the Board of Visitors and asked if I could meet with them as a member of the General Assembly.  We had a productive conversation and discussed the difficult challenges faced by the University of Virginia and all of Virginia’s public institutions of higher learning.

 

While recognizing that difficult decisions must often be made, their primary concern was with the process by which the model was adopted.  The students had a number of questions and suggestions that I thought had merit and I encouraged them to reach out to you.  I know that you share my commitment to openness and accountability, especially in a university setting where these values are both learned and tested. I hope that you will accept their request for a meeting.

 

Thank you in advance for your consideration and to providing these students a forum for discussing their concerns.

Sincerely,

David L. Bulova

Ashley Blackwell’s Casteen Diversity Award Acceptance Speech

Ashley Blackwell

Acceptance Speech Given by UVa 4th Year Ashley Blackwell, 2015 Recipient of John Casteen III,  Diversity – Equity – Inclusion Leadership Award

This is the complete, annotated transcript of Ashley’s acceptance speech at the award ceremony on March 27th, 2015.

Special thanks to Professor Walter Heinecke for transcribing.

See the full video here, via UVa Students United.

[Ashley Blackwell]:

I’m deeply honored and just shocked to have received this award.  And I really want to thank the Office of Diversity and Equity and my friends and mentors and colleagues who put together this nomination.  I’m really shocked to be up here and standing in front of you today because I just would’ve never imagined having this opportunity and this recognition just considering the work that I do with communities that are often deemed peripheral to the university community, like low-income populations, communities of color, as well as Charlottesville residents.

And it’s really difficult for me to ignore the fact that this award is being provided to me during a time in which these values of diversity, equity, and inclusion are being called into question across our community due to the issues of gender, race, and class that have been made prevalent through national media attention in the recent months, but also throughout our history as President Sullivan outlined at the start of this recognition luncheon.  And these issues, especially those of race and class, have been central to my experience as a low-income student, as a biracial black and Hispanic woman at this university.

And while I was going through the college application process, my family was experiencing housing instability.  We were unable to afford a home.  And as a result, we were living in friends and family’s spare rooms and basements.  And so as I was receiving offers from universities outlining what the tuition and loans package would look like, at times that were two or three times the amount of my annual income that my family was receiving.  I knew as soon as I saw AccessUVA’s full aid grant guarantee that I was going to be able to be a college student and break the poverty cycle because of this opportunity.  And I can’t thank John T. Casteen enough for it. [Applause.] And the fact that he’s been so active in really promoting diversity and increasing diversity exponentially over time has really changed the landscape of what the University of Virginia represents to a lot of students from this background.

However, I had this romantic notion that as soon as I entered college, I would automatically break the poverty cycle and that my family’s financial circumstances would no longer be an issue.

However, we were continuing to experience housing instability.  And I was helping my mother navigate through workforce and housing opportunities here in Charlottesville and found that that’s my first – had my first orientation to how the university impacts the Charlottesville community in terms of raising the cost of housing and encroaching upon low income and African American communities through the student housing developments as well as the wages, of course, that are provided to workers that push many of our workers across our community to take on two to three jobs just to be able to afford the basic necessities of life [1].  And so this is something that I’ve been grappling with as a student here.

The fact that I’m standing before you today, trying to break this poverty cycle, as part of an institution that perpetuates, this cycle in our communities of color and low income populations across the Charlottesville community and the region.  So this is what’s inspired me to really develop programs, yes, for students through United For Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity (UFUSED) to address some of the gaps in the support structure for low-income students, but also to work with the Charlottesville community with the local Office of Economic Development to address barriers to employment for low-income residents.  As well as with Piedmont Housing Alliance to advocate for affordable housing in our community because it’s essential that we understand the effects that the university has on the Charlottesville community because it’s not just – these people are central to really making this university thrive and run effectively on a daily basis.  And so something else that I realized was that there were a lot of cultures and traditions that were offsetting to myself as well as many of my peers who also came from similar backgrounds.

We tend to put on a pedestal this southern white elite culture through traditions like Girls in Pearls and Guys in Ties, as well as Foxfield where students get dressed up in really nice clothes and go to these horse races, as well as our whole entire Rugby Road where we have mansions that are devoted to predominantly white, predominantly affluent students in our community.  And changing and challenging these cultures and traditions is central to the work that UFUSED does in order to create a space and create new traditions so that students from a variety of backgrounds can really create a sense of belonging here and be connected to this community.

And so with that, I think it’s important to fully manifest this vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion by making diversity more than a buzzword and an actual lived experience here and by making inclusion and equity reflective in our policies as well as our cultures and traditions.  And we can do this through a number of key kinds of policy changes as well as traditional and cultural changes.  And so I think that it’s central to recognize the role that history has in shaping this university.  I do think the President’s Commission on Slavery is incredible for trying to make this history central.

However, I encourage them to move beyond just creating static memorialization structures through buildings and plaques and really understand how our policies, cultures, and traditions today continue to disenfranchise many of the communities of color and low income populations in our community, sure, as students, faculty, and staff, but also as Charlottesville residents.  And this disenfranchisement is further evident through the lack and decreasing student enrollment rates for racial ethnic minorities as well as the lack of faculty members who are black, who are Hispanic, who represent communities of color.  And we must also reevaluate what our budget priorities are.

I know that the Board of Visitors recently approved the Affordable Excellence model [2].  And as I said to you, I really was offset as a college applicant and a prospective student, by many of the tuition prices and the loans I was expected to take out.  And it would not have been an option without  the AccessUVA Full Grant Aid Guarantee.  So I think it’s important to, yes, restore AccessUVA  full grant aid guarantee [3] to ensure that we are making low income populations central to this university and communities of color, but I also think it’s important to lower tuition and really reevaluate our priorities as they’re reflected in our budget at this university [4].

We must also advocate for transparency, accountability, and representation on the University’s Board of Visitors to include student, faculty, staff, local Charlottesville residents, and as UVa Students United, a local student group here, have advocated  for a public comment period to ensure that residents and all of the different members who are part of our community are able to provide input into the plans that are being made because I know recently, there was a lot of lack of transparency in terms of this Affordable Excellence model being passed where students were locked out of the buildings where these meetings were being held.  So I think it’s really important to make sure that this is truly accessible, truly transparent, and it’s inclusive of all community members’ comments and thoughts about how we can move forward and reevaluate our priorities here.  So I wanted to reiterate that these are all policies and cultural and traditional changes that many student organizations, from Black Student Alliance to Latino Student Alliance, United For Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity as well as the Minority Rights Coalition and just a bunch of community members in our local Charlottesville community have been advocating for for years, and most recently in these past months.

And I wanted to simulate what representation on the Board would look like and what passing these policies would look like right now today.

And so I move to reframe the President’s Commission on Slavery in order to, yes, ensure that we create memorials, but also to ensure that we are critically examining the policies, cultures, and traditions that we have today that continue to disenfranchise low income and communities of colors.  Does anyone second this motion?

[Audience]: Second.

[Ashley Blackwell]: All in favor say, “Aye.”

[Audience]: Aye.

[Ashley Blackwell]: All opposed say, “Nay.”  All right, we have approved to move forward with reevaluating our policies and priorities here to make sure that we are not disenfranchising low-income populations and communities of color.  I also move to conduct active recruitment efforts of students who come from communities of color and are from low-income populations, as well as actively recruiting communities of faculty and staff who represent historically marginalized populations.  Does anybody second this motion?

[Audience]: Second.

[Ashley Blackwell]: All in favor say, “Aye.”

[Audience]: Aye.

[Ashley Blackwell]: All opposed say, “Nay.”  All right, we will move forward with this plan.  I also would like to move to reevaluate our budget priorities and restore Access UVa Full Grant Aid Guarantee to show our commitment and reinvestment in the low-income populations as well as lowering tuition and maybe next time we’ll consider completely free tuition in higher education here at the University of Virginia.  Does anybody second this motion?

[Audience]: Second.

[Ashley Blackwell]: All in favor say, “Aye.”

[Audience]: Aye.

[Ashley Blackwell]: All opposed say, “Nay.”  We will move forward with this.  I look forward to our next meeting where we’ll discuss free tuition at the university.  I think that these are policies that need to be considered as we really reevaluate what it means to be diverse, equitable, and inclusive at the University of Virginia.  And I hope that we consider innovative models and reallocation of resources to make sure that these communities that are often deemed peripheral are made central to what it means to be a part of this university’s community of trust.  Thank you so much, again, for selecting me for this incredible honor.

[End of Audio]

Duration: 13 minutes

 

Annotations

  1. Keeping Our Promises, The Living Wage Campaign at the University of Virginia. This is an excellent, thorough report updated in 2012 that documents the University’s relationship with direct and contracted non-academic employees and the consequences of paying poverty wages.
  2. Affordable Excellence presentation, University of Virginia Board of Visitors Finance Subcommittee. This proposal was introduced and passed at their meeting on March 24th, 2015.
  3. What Is AccessUVa?, Restore AccessUVa campaign. “AccessUVa is the University of Virginia’s financial aid program. Originally, the program replaced ‘need-based loans with grants in the financial aid packages of lowest-income students – those students who are Pell eligible and whose family income is equivalent to 200 percent of the federal poverty line or less and whose family assets do not exceed $75,000.’ Changes made [by] the Board of Visitors in the summer of 2013 removed this component of the program. Students admitted in the 2014-2015 academic year will not receive all-grant packages, and will instead be required to take out loans to meet financial need.”
  4. Anything but Affordable and Excellent, Point-by-Point Refutation of the Affordable Excellence Model, UVa Students United. These two pieces highlight the perils of a high tuition, high aid financial model and provide additional data and resources on tuition rates and accessibility.

 

About Ashley Blackwell – Anne E. Bromley, for UVaToday

In her second year, Ashley Blackwell, who is majoring in urban and environmental planning in the School of Architecture, founded the group United for Undergraduate Socioeconomic Diversity, which “has changed the landscape for low-income students at U.Va.,” wrote her nominator, fellow student Cierra Brooks. UFUSED works to generate dialogue about socioeconomic issues and encourage greater comprehensive support of students from low-income backgrounds.

Blackwell, a Rainey Scholar and an AccessUVa financial aid recipient, also created the Rainey Scholars Mentorship Network with the goal of connecting first-year students to academic, organizational and professional opportunities, Brooks wrote. The Rainey Academic Program brings a cohort of first-year AccessUVa students to the Grounds for the third summer session to take courses and workshops aimed at easing their transition to academic life. Among her many activities, Blackwell is raising funds to create a $2,000 scholarship for low-income students that would enable them to pursue unpaid summer internships and have access to otherwise-unavailable professional opportunities, Brooks said.

Carol Anne Spreen, a former associate professor in the Curry School of Education and faculty adviser to UFUSED, wrote in her supporting letter that she had the opportunity to closely observe Blackwell’s leadership. “She is exceptional at understanding and working within and across diverse environments,” Spreen wrote, including class, race, gender and politics.

Blackwell has also worked to address gaps in support services offered to local populations, including homeless and low-income people and even in Appalachia, where she organized a book drive for a school. “In these organizations Ashley’s contributions have been significant – representing and advocating for affordable housing, transportation, social services, child care and other needs for the truly disenfranchised,” Spreen wrote. During an internship at the Piedmont Housing Alliance, Blackwell researched best practices for housing counseling and asset-building programs. While working at the Office of Economic Development, she addressed barriers to employment for low-income residents in Charlottesville and recruited more than 300 residents to take advantage of the office’s transportation assistance to get to job opportunities. She also participated as the youngest fellow in Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Leadership Institute, seeking to understand and improve the impacts U.Va. has on surrounding neighborhoods.

“Her leadership in these issues extends beyond our own community into all aspects of her academic and professional life,” Brooks said. “Her passion and her work have improved the lives of people within and beyond our own community.”

Point-By-Point Refutation Of The Affordable Excellence Model

10463875_434541993387510_4204258857897914385_n

A growing number of people — from students, to faculty members, to parents, to legislators — have expressed firm opposition to the disastrous Affordable Excellence model, including Board of Visitors (BOV) members Helen Dragas and Edward Miller.

Despite persistent attempts by some BOV members and the administration to mislead the UVA community and obscure the negative impact of the new model, the story is becoming clear: we face yet another crisis in governance at UVA.

Here is a point-by-point refutation of the Affordable Excellence model:

Point 1: The Affordable Excellence model “will make a UVA education more affordable for 70% of Virginia families.” (Statement from Pres. Sullivan)

The 70% statistic does not describe students currently attending UVA —  it applies to the general population of Virginia In other words, 70% of Virginia households have an annual income of less than $100,000. The UVA population does not reflect households across the state or country. In fact, the average UVA household income is two to three times that of the average national household income.

This statistic also obscures the fact that only 13% of UVA students are Pell grant recipients. As the New America Foundation said in a recent report describing high tuition/high aid models, “The fact that UVA continues to be one of the least socioeconomically diverse public colleges in the country should serve as a cautionary tale in the debate over the privatization of public higher education.”

Point 2: The Affordable Excellence model will enable UVA to “make only moderate increases tied to inflation each year, both for in-state and out-of-state students.” (Statement from Pres. Sullivan)

“Moderate increases” means the Board of Visitors is anticipating that they will raise tuition by 2.5% (predicted inflation) plus 1% each year for the next several years. That’s a minimum 3.5% annual increase (see slide 10). And remember: these increases are compounded each year. After the second $1,000 step increase kicks in for Affordable Excellence for the class of 2020, tuition and fees for in-state students will be close to $16,000. It will only be a few years before tuition and fees hits $20,000 — with no end in sight.

Point 3: The Affordable Excellence model will ensure tuition predictability. (Finance Subcommittee, Slide 10)

True, for those who can pay. UVA states that tuition guarantees are available for students at a “reasonable premium” (slide 10). Wealthy students who are able to afford the premium will have a fixed price for four years, but what about the rest of us?

Also, this premium doesn’t cover all schools. If you enroll in UVA and decide to transfer to Batten, let’s hope they don’t jack up tuition 38% like they did in March.

Point 4: The Affordable Excellence model will increase socioeconomic diversity. (VP Marcus Martin)

False. Sticker shock is a huge factor in students’ decision to attend college and which college they will attend. If tuition keeps going up, it will deter more and more low and middle-income students from applying to UVA. Students don’t want to go to a school where high tuition is a given but financial aid isn’t. As we saw with the massive cuts to AccessUVA in 2013, aid can be eroded at the whims of the BOV.

At the University of Michigan, a high tuition/high aid model was implemented and low-income enrollment plummeted while wealthy enrollment skyrocketed. The same happened at Miami University of Ohio. Higher ed expert Thomas Kane estimates that each $1,000 increase in tuition decreases the attendance rate of low income students by an estimated 5.2 percentage points more than middle-income and wealthy students.

Point 5: An endowment of $1 billion will fund the current level of grant aid to low-income students. (Finance Subcommittee, Slide 11)

This endowment has not been established. And if the BOV plans to raise that much money, why wouldn’t they apply it to lowering the cost of attendance (or even making UVA free)? High tuition/high aid is an arms race where the ‘aid’ component will never be able to keep up.

Because UVA invests its endowment in the stock market, the next economic crash could cause UVA to cut any aid it would have provided. This was one of the BOV’s stated reasons for cutting AccessUVA in 2013.

Point 6: The Affordable Excellence model will work because UVA has need-blind admissions and meets 100% of financial need. (Affordable Excellence Website)

False. Because the theory behind Affordable Excellence is that wealthy students will foot the bill for increased aid, that means aid is dependent on having a consistent number of wealthy students in attendance. If fewer wealthy students enroll, aid will dry up.

And though UVA does technically meet 100% of need, it meets a significant amount of this need with loans. Allowing students to accrue thousands of dollars in debt is not “meeting need.”

In conclusion:

Increasing affordability and decreasing debt is an admirable goal. However, the mechanism that the BOV has established to reach that goal does not work. Rather than further pursue a failed policy, the BOV could increase affordability for everyone by lowering tuition. It’s that simple.

Here’s what needs to happen to increase affordability:

  • UVA needs to lower tuition. Period.
  • UVA needs to reprioritize its budget, putting affordability and quality education first. This means swanky new dorms, private jets and bloated administrator salaries have to go.
  • The Virginia General Assembly needs to allocate more funding to higher education. Students and families need a commitment from the state.
  • The Virginia General Assembly needs to close tax loopholes for corporations. Virginia has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the country — it hasn’t been raised in 43 years. This money could be applied to higher education.

Ed Miller Blasts UVA Leadership And Affordable Excellence Model

ed-miller

Photo: JHU Gazette

Dr. Edward Miller recently announced his resignation from the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors, citing steep tuition hikes and declining research dollars as reasons. He distributed a statement on his resignation, which you can read below.

Washington Post, Medical executive quits U-Va. governing board, blasts administration on way out

“Though I have enjoyed the people I met and applaud the good work of many, I can no longer support the direction the University of Virginia’s leadership continues to pursue.  On March 15, 2015 I submitted a letter of resignation from The Board of Visitors to the Governor of Virginia, effective June 30, 2015.  It has been accepted.

I do not believe I have been able to bring any of my expertise in academia, health care, or research to the University.

Since I joined the Board, I have questioned the research funding declines that occur year after year. Since 2010 we have seen a $90 million decrease.  The University has fallen out of the top 50 institutions in NIH funding from number 21 several years ago.  And we have experienced a precipitous slide in specialty clinical rankings–but this information is kept hidden from the Board.  How can a University call itself a great research University when it ranks so low in the nation?  To date, no concrete action has been taken to address this issue.

And year after year, I have implored the administration to put an end to tuition increases that mire Virginia’s students and families in a mountain of unnecessary debt.  And no matter what anyone says, the latest decision to increase tuition by 23 percent over two years was not done in a transparent manner.  To have such a colossal tuition hike and the plan behind it presented at the very last moment to the entire Board and the public was totally unacceptable. I don’t understand why the faculty isn’t protesting this time.

Looking at tuition alone without addressing other issues is simply poor business management. A long-range plan is vital in order to understand the true financial status of the University, but the administration has failed to provide a viable one.

With a nearly $6 billion dollar endowment and a faculty that can and should bring in more research dollars, we could have kept tuition and student aid at responsible levels.  Sadly, that did not happen, and the only thing the administration has done during my time on the Board of Visitors is mortgage a significant part of the Commonwealth’s academic future.

I join my colleague, Helen Dragas, and student groups in calling for the General Assembly to demand a reversal of this decision.

Higher education continues to believe it does not need to live in the real world.  For the sake of Virginians, it must.”

Open Letter to the Virginia General Assembly

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Below is a letter distributed to the entire Virginia General Assembly by UVA Students United.

On Mar. 29, the University of Virginia’s Rector, George Keith Martin, and its president, Teresa A. Sullivan, sent a letter to the Virginia General Assembly regarding the new Affordable Excellence model. What they failed to mention, however, was the abhorrent lack of transparency in how this model was passed, reminiscent of 2012’s crisis in governance in which the Board unilaterally ousted Sullivan from her presidency.

On Mar. 24, UVA’s Board of Visitors maneuvered back-door dealings to force through a secret proposal. In only one meeting, the BOV introduced, discussed and voted on an unannounced proposal to raise tuition for incoming in-state students by an unprecedented amount over the next two years, expanding the “high-tuition, high-aid” model. Despite objections where Board members Allison DiNardo and Helen Dragas abstained and voted against the model respectively, the Board decided to move forward with this proposal. We have serious concerns about the Affordable Excellence model. Most of all, we are furious at the lack of transparency and the Board’s deliberate efforts to exclude the student voice.

Catching wind of this proposal less than 48 hours before the BOV meeting, students from the organization UVA Students United organized a rally of over 150 students outside of the Special Collections library, where the Board met. At the rally, students held their own hearing to discuss rising tuition, since there is no opportunity for public comment during any BOV meetings. Following the rally, the students entered the library to attend the meeting, where the proposal in question was being discussed. However, all but about eight students were denied access. When students asked the administration to move the meeting to a larger room to accommodate the students, they said it was not possible because any changes to meetings in time or location must be made 10 days in advance, according to the Board’s manual. Yet when students returned to attend the next day of meetings on Mar. 25, the schedule was rearranged so that the open meeting during which the Board passed a tuition hike actually occurred several hours before it was scheduled. During the closed session of the BOV in the afternoon, the whole building was put under lockdown. There were armed police guarding all entrances and exits, and administration entered and exited through alternative doors to avoid students desperate for answers. Sources say Rector Martin deliberately moved the open meeting in order to circumvent concerned students. Whether the BOV has permission to change the meeting schedule or not, what matters is that Rector Martin changed the schedule with the purpose of keeping students and the public from attending. This library lockdown is indicative of the Board’s ongoing trend of obfuscation.

The purpose of UVA has always been to create an active and engaged citizenry to uphold democratic freedom while equipping its students with the knowledge and power to fight tyranny and corruption.  So long as UVA is ruled by an oligarchy of Virginia’s wealthy elite, this university fails to uphold values of self-governance. The Board’s attempt to model our University after private institutions and Ivy League schools is overshadowing our fundamental commitment to the public. They conducted business behind locked doors guarded by armed officers in order to intimidate and threatened students with arrest for trying to peacefully participate in democratic discourse. We as students ultimately failed because we tried to work in a democratic way with what is fundamentally a non-democratic body.

Below are our proposals for how to make the Board of Visitors more transparent and democratic.

  1. Demand that the UVA Board of Visitors re-evaluate the Affordable Excellence Model.
  2. Implement a public comment period of at least one hour during the Board’s regular meeting, open to all constituents of the University.
  3. Establish several elected student representatives to the Board who have voting power.
  4. Mandate student and faculty representation on the Governor’s Advisory Board for Board of Visitors’ Appointments.

Human Rights Violator Is Patrolling The Corner

G4S,Västberga_2009x

The University of Virginia administration announced early this semester that global private security firm G4S would be providing security for the Corner, in response to public outcry over UVA’s rape culture.

The University is beginning to implement a new “ambassadors” program with staff from the international security firm G4S providing additional support in the area near the University where many students live and spend time. After U.Va. representatives visited several other institutions this fall to learn about similar programs, the University selected G4S to implement the ambassadors program to escort members of the University community who might otherwise be walking alone at night and to increase a security presence in areas that students frequent after dark. (UVA Today, University Unveils Additional Safety Initiatives)

In late March, the Board of Visitors approved a 3.6% tuition and fees increase (in addition to the 11% “Affordable Excellence” hike), part of which funds the $1.6 million contract with G4S (see slide 14).

G4S is known around the world as a flagrant violator of human rights.

Vanity Fair, The Chaos Company:

G4S is based near London and is traded on the stock exchange there. Though it remains generally unknown to the public, it has operations in 120 countries and more than 620,000 employees. In recent years it has become the third-largest private employer in the world, after Walmart and the Taiwanese manufacturing conglomerate Foxconn. The fact that such a huge private entity is a security company is a symptom of our times … Critics worry about the divisive effects of an industry that isolates the rich from the consequences of greed and at the extreme allows certain multi-national companies, particularly in oil and mining, to run roughshod over the poor.

The Guardian, G4S must end its complicity in Israel’s abuse of child prisoners:

G4S helps the Israeli prison service to run prisons inside Israel that hold prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory, despite the fourth Geneva convention prohibition of the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier. Through its involvement in Israel’s prison system, G4S is complicit in violations of international law and participates in Israel’s use of mass incarceration as a means by which to dissuade Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s systematic human rights abuses.

The Independent, Activists report security company G4S to police over its ‘illegal’ work at Guantanamo Bay:

A complaint lodged with police by the human-rights group Reprieve alleges that G4S may be liable for prosecution in Britain under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 if it has profited from human-rights abuses at the prison, such as the use of force-feeding techniques.

RT, G4S posts £148mn profit despite ‘countless’ human rights scandals:

British private security giant G4S has announced a pre-tax profit of £148 million for 2014, owning to its growing foreign expansion … G4S remains a controversial player in the security sector. Activists accuse it of turning a blind eye to over-charging, cost-cutting, negligence and human rights abuses. While G4S has an ethical policy framework in place, evidence suggests a significant gap between its commitments on paper and its practices.

It’s baffling that the BOV and administration think more security on the Corner will help UVA’s sexual assault epidemic, considering most assaults involve acquaintances or intimate partners and occur behind closed doors. It’s scary that they signed G4S.

Why are our tuition dollars funding this?

As the Martese Johnson incident demonstrated, increased law enforcement on the Corner does way more harm than good.

Anything But Affordable And Excellent

10922590_434501483391561_4285369163505246910_o

As criticism of the Affordable Excellence model has intensified, Rector George Martin and Pres. Teresa Sullivan have kicked their PR machine into high gear. The pair wrote an open letter to the General Assembly pitching the new model. Sullivan sent out a vague, buzzword-packed email to the entire UVA community touting its supposed affordances. And administrators rolled out a slick new explainer website full of smiling faces. All of this obscures the damage this model will do and the outrageous lack of transparency behind its passing.

The BOV’s rushed attempts to approve the model signal that the body was anticipating student outrage. The proposed model was made available to the public during the same meeting it was introduced and voted on. When students tried to voice concerns the next day, they found themselves locked out of a public building and face-to-face with armed law enforcement officers.

Board member John Griffin claims the high tuition/high aid model represents a hybrid plan that maintains UVA’s ‘elite’ status while simultaneously helping low-income students. However, experts have thoroughly debunked the model, showing that it does little to lower the net cost of attendance or increase socioeconomic diversity (see the resources below). In addition, financial aid at UVA has not kept up with skyrocketing tuition, as evidenced by recent AccessUVA cuts. High tuition/high aid just absolves UVA from making a commitment to low-income students by forcing other students to bear the burden.

Indeed, as Chris Newfield writes the following in the blog Remaking the University:

High tuition does not fight inequality — it feeds inequality. High tuition does this by keeping college proportionately more expensive for low-income students — who are disproportionately students of color. Since college is relatively more expensive for them, they are less likely to finish college. High tuition is not worth keeping for its high financial aid. The aid system is a debt system. It makes inequality worse.

Sullivan and others have tried to play with numbers to hide how the new high tuition/high aid model will only serve to further privatize UVA and exclude low-income students. Already, only 13% of UVA’s student body are Pell Grant recipients, one of the lowest rates of any public university in the country. As a recent New America Foundation report notes, “The fact that UVA continues to be one of the least socioeconomically diverse public colleges in the country should serve as a cautionary tale in the debate over the privatization of public higher education.”

We are told that high tuition is necessary and inevitable to fund UVA’s operating costs. State and federal cuts to higher education have contributed to continued increases in tuition. But UVA is to blame as well. UVA doesn’t spend its money well — we’re not getting a better education each year tuition goes up. That money goes to unnecessary, extraneous costs like administrative bloat. A reprioritization of the budget must happen and it must result in lower tuition for all.

There’s a better way forward. It starts with the BOV rolling back their harmful plan. Student debt will only be eliminated when UVA truly prioritizes affordability and lowers tuition. A public university should be a public good. Stop pushing private models on us.

Resources: