Correction to This Article
A Sept. 22 Metro article about racial issues at the University of Virginia incorrectly described the details of the admission of the first black undergraduate to the university. Amos Leroy Willis entered the university in 1958 through the School of Engineering, an undergraduate professional school. In 1961, he transferred to the College of Arts and Sciences, becoming the first black student admitted to the college.
Page 2 of 3   <       >

Slurs at U-Va. Undermine Efforts to Thwart Racism

A University of Virginia student said he found ethnic and racist slurs last month on a dry-erase board outside his dorm room.
A University of Virginia student said he found ethnic and racist slurs last month on a dry-erase board outside his dorm room. (By Andrew Shurtleff -- The Daily Progress Via Associated Press)

No one has been physically harmed in the incidents, and black students said the acts have not diminished their affection for the school. They, however, are considering anew where they fit into the community.

"When these things happen, we feel we are obviously not fully welcome and we need support," said Jade Craig, 21, a senior from Hattiesburg, Miss. "We need the community and the administration saying: 'We will stand on the front line with you.' "

The school last week announced the appointment of its first chief officer for diversity and equity and has seen its undergraduate black population climb to 9 percent after that figure slipped for several years. This year's freshman class is 10 percent black. Twenty percent of the state's population is black.

On campus this week, there was almost no visible sign of the turmoil within the campus's black community. Casteen's request that people wear black ribbons in solidarity was all but ignored.

"The frustration for us is the lack of urgency" on campus, said Gregory Jackson, 20, a junior from Roanoke who is black. "I would have said things were getting better before this year." Some students said they knew little about the incidents. Others were disgusted but seemed unsure how to express it.

"I just feel like the president isn't doing anything," said Leah Whiteside, 20, a junior from Charlottesville who is white, as she played pool Monday at the student center.

Her pool partner, Eli Adler, 20, a white New York native, was more subdued. "I don't think it's anything out of the ordinary here," he said.

"But I don't think that makes it any less important," Whiteside said. Asked whether they wore black shirts to a recent football game -- something black students requested as a show of solidarity -- the pair turned self-conscious.

"Of course, no one wants to do that," Adler said, "because they want to wear orange shirts" -- the school's color.

"I wore a black skirt," said Whiteside, apologetically. "I'm sort of bad at that sort of thing."

To some, the issue is not about the university but about the national culture.

"There is nothing at all unusual about what's happened. It's regrettable, just like the hundreds of thousands of things that happen every day that human beings do," said Larry Sabato, a political science professor who has been on campus since he was an undergraduate in the 1970s. "This place is a relative oasis compared to much of America."

<       2        >

© 2005 The Washington Post Company