Below are thoughts shared with us by Charlottesville resident and activist Donna Gasapo. Her comments have been lightly edited.
A lot of what was said during planning meetings yesterday had to do with city residents expressing concern that their voices are only just now being engaged by UVA students because something happened to a UVA student. This kind of brutality has been happening to city/non-UVA folks for a long time. Though they’re really glad to see all of the work that’s being done right now at UVA and hope that the today’s movement will lead to much, much greater involvement by UVA students and faculty in all of the work that has been happening in the community.
During one of yesterday’s meetings, it was announced that there will be a 13% tuition increase for next year (rather than the previously reported 3.9% increase) and the room was suddenly abuzz. There was a reminder that there will be Board of Visitor meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. So I just want to put something out there.
The increase on student tuition isn’t just another isolated issue to deal with. The attack on Martese Johnson outside of Trinity’s last week was an act of physical violence against a black student. These kinds of attacks by law enforcement happen in the area at a much greater frequency. This tuition increase is an act of economic violence against black students. It is yet another tool by the powers that be at UVA to reduce the number of non-white, non-affluent students on Grounds, thereby increasing the number of white, wealthy students.
But while the decrease in the black population at UVA will create certain burdens for students, the burden on the community — particularly the already marginalized — will certainly be greater. An increase in wealthier white students who can afford the increase in tuition will mean a need for more student housing, which will mean an increase in the pushing out of city residents from their homes to make room for that student housing. Which will mean an increase in DSS involvement with black families — because a historical and surefire way to destabilize black communities so as to support a narrative of ‘dangerous’ and ‘unworthy’ is to break up families. This makes it easier to create policies that push those families out of their homes.
An increase of wealthier white students will also mean an increase in the policing of black bodies — on the Corner, on West Main St. where the University is continually encroaching more and more, on the Downtown Mall, which competes with the Corner for student business, etc.
While the eyes of the world are on UVA due to the unacceptable brutality against Martese, it is imperative that these connections remain in focus and that students join up with community members in the fights against the housing authority, against policing of black residents, against the DSS’ racial policies which break up black families and against the gentrification of low-income, predominantly black neighborhoods.