(FreshAsFrankie) The University of Virginia became the focus of national attention before news of a violent march through its grounds by tiki-torch carrying white supremacists was eclipsed by the events of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville the next day. Many have expressed fears that the city and the university will now have to deal with a ‘scare’ that deters a number of African-Americans from continuing to diversify the 198-year-old institution. Which would be unfortunate news, considering the University is celebrating the incoming freshmen of 2017 as its most diverse class.
The percentage of African-American undergrads entering UVA is going up to 8.5% from 8.1% in 2016. Within the big picture, African-Americans make up an even 9% of all first-year students. But although the increase is much better than stagnancy, or even, a decrease in the statistics, many feel as though UVA is still underperforming in efforts to diversify, especially for a public university in a state where 22% of public high school graduates are Black. Recent events, and the lingering traces of racism that the graduating African-American student body has attested to certainly will not help expedite such endeavors either. It is reported that a group of Black alumni went so far as to issue an open letter to the class of 2021, in which students give testament to the racism he experienced in the UVA school community, all the while encouraging them to support one another as they carry the torch for future Black student bodies.
Last week Black student organizations within the university facilitated their own “March to Reclaim Our Grounds,” and followed it up by serving the administration a list of demands that include a plea for executives at UVA to do a better job of acknowledging its history of perpetuating slavery in its early days. The demand comes on the heels of UVA announcing that it is working on a $6 million memorial to slave laborers who built and for a period maintained the university’s grounds. The memorial is scheduled to be unveiled by 2019.