We collected 50 years of documents written by students, faculty, staff, and working groups, all addressing racial inequity at the University of Virginia. Our team of qualitative researchers analyzed each document, generated codes representing specific calls to action, and grouped those items into themes to identify concrete domains for institutional change.
These categories or themes range from specific actions like Minority Student Recruitment or a Living Wage for Staff Members to more general recommendations focused on outcomes such as School Climate . For a closer look at the categories and their meanings, take a look at our Methodology page.
As we developed this project, we recognized that repeated recommendations, longer documents, and louder voices are not always indicative of the most urgent or important actions. While a statement with a single demand does not take up as much space as a ten-point plan, it can be just as powerful. Some calls to action are pragmatic, reflecting beliefs about what is feasible, while other demands give voice to our deepest hopes and dreams.
As you engage with our work, we encourage you to think of this as a conversation. This project is not an exclusive or exhaustive list of the work to be done nor a comprehensive survey of opinion. Instead, it is a record of history to honor those who envisioned what the University could be long before it started to accept that vision for itself.
School Climate Minority Student Recruitment Living Wage Abolition/ Defunding
"We demand that the University of Virginia publicly commit itself to accepting 20% as a goal for the enrollment of black students throughout the University, and further, that $100,000.00 be allocated for black admissions programs"
- Student Body Referendum (1970)
- "Merit-based scholarships should be increased from a level of $50,000 per year (or $200,000 for four classes) for black Virginian to at least $100,000 per year (or $400,000 for four classes) and extended to black non-Virginians. With respect to need-based aid, a $150,000 fund for emergency scholarships for black students should be established by the University to ensure retention of those students who are suffering extreme financial hardship."
- "Development of sustained links between the university and target school systems to increase the pool of black students in Virginia who wish to attend college in general and the University of Virginia in particular and to enhance the academic preparation of those students."
- "We demand that University President, Edgar Shannon, prohibit University police from carrying firearms, and the University not allow any outside law enforcement officers on its property- FBI, CIA, National Guard, Va. State Police, Charlottesville-Albemarle County Police, etc."
- "We demand that President Shannon immediately initiate action to sever any contractual obligations presently maintained with the Judge Advocate General Corps."
- "We demand that the University terminate all research sponsored by, or related to the Department of Defense, and that no classified research be countenanced any longer."
- "CPD, UPD, and APD should introduce stricter and more uniform regulations informing during what situations a police officer can make any physical contact with a citizen. These regulations should be easily accessible to the public, by way of each department‚ a website, and promotional educational tools for community members and students."
- "University Police Department, Charlottesville Police Department, and Albemarle Police Department should implement additional, thorough implicit biases and discrimination training."
- "Governor McAuliffe and the VA State Legislature abolish the law enforcement mandate of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC)."
Above, we looked at when specific topics enter the conversation. But we also need to consider who said them. Which groups speak on which issues? Who speaks together? So we grouped the documents by six author categories: (1) Faculty/Staff, (2) University Offices & Commissions, (3) Black Students at UVA, (4) Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Students at UVA, (5) Latinx Students at UVA, & (6) Groups of students who do not specify demographic affiliation – these groups are primarily interracial coalitions of students and student-body wide petitions. We made these classifications using the authors' self-identification in the documents themselves. We then summed the number of recommendations made in each category by each group over time.
Tabulating these recommendations by authors, we were struck by the number of times the University spoke about itself through working groups and Presidential commissions. Excluding recommendations recorded in the 2017 Index of Diversity Recommendations (a University document summarizing prior student documents), we recorded 330 discrete actions recommended to the University by itself. You can explore those items more through our Interactive Timeline.
Below, we present the breakdown of contributors for each category. Each wedge's size represents the proportion of the conversation in our dataset occupied by that voice. Hover over a slice to get the exact count of calls to action made about a topic.
Questions to ask as you look include:
- Which groups speak together, and on which topics?
- To what themes have all of the groups contributed?
- For groups that have not submitted many written recommendations, what have they spoken about?
- In what ways does our focus here on the number of times a theme has been raised minimize other important factors?
Thought (& Action) Leaders: Did you see that Black students at the University have spoken as an identity group on every key topic here but one (Reparations)? Next to the University, they are the most prolific group in this set. In particular, Black students have led the conversation on UVA's relationship with the Charlottesville Community. Take a look at Community Labor or Partnership Current Initiatives and Working Groups & Living Wage.
Money Matters: The University speaks frequently, but not on Abolition/ Defunding, a category that includes police abolition and decarceration. That said, faculty groups have broached the topic before.
Precision, Not Breadth: There is quite a bit of literature here. As we noted at the start, forcing comparisons based on the quantity of discrete and written calls to action may overlook the important contribution of pithy documents or activism outside of the written word. For example, visually looking at the graphic above, you might not have spent much time examining APIDA and Latinx contributions. And yet, the #We Are Not Invisible and Our University To Shape documents sparked so much conversation among other groups represented in this analysis. They made precise and actionable asks. Use the Visual Library to look for other instances of poignant and powerful speech.
Conversational Consensus: All groups have spoken on the need for Minority Faculty / Staff Recruitment and Retention and restructuring of Research or Coursework to more fully embrace anti-racism and inclusion.
After seeing who spoke on which topics, we wanted to get a sense for what types of words were used in each category. Specifically, we wanted to know what key terms and actions were distinctive or most unique to each category. To do that, we used a metric called keyness.
Keyness compares the distribution of words in one set of texts to the distribution of those same words in another set of documents. It is a comparative measure of occurrence. If a word occurs more frequently on average in calls to action for a particular theme, we think it tells us something about the substantive content of that theme. If you are interested, you can read more about keyness here.
We calculated keyness and chose the top ten most distinctive words in each category. We display those distinctive words in the circular bar chart below. Bars are ordered from highest to lowest keyness. You can hover over each bar to see the key word as well as the number of times that word was used in the calls to action within the category.
Questions to ask as you look include:
- Are there any words that you want a broader context for? (Hint: Remember them, that's coming next!)
- How do key words give you a sense for the category as a whole?
- Are there any words that surprise you?
- Find the adjectives. What kinds of people and systems are being discussed?
Access & Progression Did you see the key term Graduate in the Minority Student Recruitment section? While calls to action in this category certainly do address UVA's undergraduate enrollment of minority students, there is a particular focus on providing access to higher education to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) beyond the undergraduate level.
Responsible Contracting: Both Contracted and Attorney are keywords in the Living Wage category alongside Living, Worker, Benefit & Employee. These terms are in reference to the Attorney General of Virginia's 2006 opinion that there is "No authority granted to University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors to require that minimum or living wage be paid by private contractors and vendors to their employees. Virginia Public Procurement Act does not authorize requirement of living wage in public procurement process." [citation] This is an opinion many ask the university to challenge to ensure that all those who work on Grounds are justly compsensated.
Supportive Networks & Resources: The category School Climate comments on how to make the University of Virginia more culturally welcoming to BIPOC. And yet, we know that following recommendations in all the other categories would also contribute to that goal. So how is this category different? Looking at the key words, we see topics such as increasing Mentorship, considering students' relationship with Alcohol, routing services to those who most Need them regardless of demographic factors, and requesting that the administration make firm Statements in support of BIPOC, particularly during activating local, state, and national events. These are all concrete actions directly targeted and creating a more inclusive Climate at UVA.
Did you find some key words above that you wanted to explore further? Or maybe keywords do not give you as clear a picture into the content as you would like. It is true, they can sometimes be vague. When we saw the word Need in School Climate, for example, we had to get more context before we could understand what it was talking about. Keywords are a 10,000 foot view into the richness of these documents.
So below, we provide a keyword in context (KWIC) search platform for you to take a bit deeper of a dive. If you are like us, maybe you will get lost for an hour exploring all of the references to the Latinx and APIDA communities. Or maybe you just want to see how people have historically addressed the Board of Visitors. That said, if you want even more context and direct access to the texts, it is definitely time to head over to our Interactive Timeline.
At this point, we hope you have discovered with us just how sustained, impactful, and collaborative these calls for racial equity have been at UVA. This is not a new phenomenon, nor is it an isolated one. Any policies recommended by the Racial Equity Task Force are the next voice in this long-term story.
Thank you for taking a first step to enter into this conversation with us. Let's continue it beyond this page. Tweet us @EquityCenterUVA #VoicesForEquity with reactions, things you learned, or any questions about the project.