University of Virginia to Form a Commission to Examine Its Role in Racial Segregation

In 2013, the University of Virginia announced the formation of a commission that investigated the university’s historical relationship with slavery. The commission was made up of 27 faculty and staff, students, alumni, and members of the local community.

The research found the names of more than 1,000 slaves many of who were used to construct the earliest campus buildings. Once the university opened, slaves were used for manual labor on campus. Some faculty members owned slaves. The university estimates that as many of 5,000 slaves may have worked on campus. In 2017, the university unveiled plans for a memorial on campus to the enslaved people who worked on campus. (See earlier JBHE post.)

Now the university has announced the formation of the President’s Commission on the University in the Age of Segregation. The commission is being chartered for four years and will examine the university’s history during this period and make recommendations for appropriate action in recognition of this history.

Theresa Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, stated that “I hope we can shed a light on those parts of our history of which we are not proud. As with many universities and many states in that time, the University of Virginia and the Commonwealth of Virginia were involved in segregation and other practices related to racial inequality.”

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  1. Where is the value or the need to spend four more years plus the money and personal time to continue an effort that was sufficiently resolved in the original commission work? The continued effort seems to have the appearance of self-flagellation of some sort in search of justification and an unknown objective.

    I suggest a more disciplined statement than “I hope we can shed a light on those parts of our history of which we are not proud….” be objectively written to warrant an apparent open-ended resource expenditure with the risk of simply repeating the efforts of the first commission.

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