September 25, 2020

Podcasts on UMW Activism Spell ‘Good Trouble’ for Students

Eliza Vegas marched in her first protest this summer for Black Lives Matter. The University of Mary Washington is inspiring her to do more. “An overwhelming sense of home and community brought me here,” said Vegas, a Mary Washington first-year student who learned of the University’s long history of student activism when she listened to […]

James Farmer Multicultural Center Thanks #UMWRun4Justice Participants

The James Farmer Multicultural Center thanks everyone who participated in the Virtual #UMWRun4Justice 5K this past weekend, especially UMW Women’s Lacrosse and Coach Maddie Taghon, Women of Color, and the Black Student Association, as well Alumni Relations for help with spreading the word. The event raised $2900 that will be used in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and other social justice initiatives at UMW. The desire is to create opportunities to help open conversations and develop a more inclusive campus. Please enjoy the video below of JFMC Director Marion Sanford thanking participants.

 

 

A message from President Paino regarding ICE decision on international students

The University of Mary Washington is alarmed by the recent decision from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency barring international students from entering or remaining in the United States in the event that they are able to enroll only online this fall. UMW has and will continue to welcome international students as valuable members of our community. These changes to student visa policies are arbitrary and damaging to the University, our students, and our region.

While the University is and will continue to monitor the situation, ongoing developments, and current legal actions, UMW is also taking specific steps in response:

  • The University, with the assistance of the Attorney General’s Office, is exploring how best to support the Harvard/MIT lawsuit challenging the forthcoming rules that bar online study for international students.
  • The University’s Director of the Center for International Education, Dr. Jose A. Sainz, is closely following developments and has been in communication with and providing support to all UMW students likely to experience impact from these policy changes.
  • International students may continue to avail themselves of academic and social support services such as advising, virtual access to the library, the James Farmer Multicultural Center, and the Talley Center for mental health as long as they are enrolled at UMW.
  • As part of UMW’s plan to reopen this fall, and as documented in our submission to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), UMW has committed to materially supporting international students in meeting federal guidelines for self-quarantine following entry into the United States prior to the start of classes.

To start the 2020-2021 academic year, UMW intends to offer courses delivered in multiple modalities: online, hybrid, and face-to-face. The process of deciding which courses will be taught in which modality is ongoing and evolving as circumstances change. Such choices will always be made in the interest of public health, the well-being of our faculty, staff and students, and our commitment to high quality instruction.

A particularly pernicious aspect of the Department of Homeland Security’s decision is that it irresponsibly pressures institutions to make decisions about teaching modalities that have nothing to do with health or pedagogy. Institutions of higher education must remain flexible in order to best respond to trends in public health data and the wellbeing of students and employees. If circumstances warrant, courses that are currently scheduled to meet face-to-face on campus must have the ability to go online without derailing the educational attainment of international students.

Fall 2020 is clearly an exceptional one for the entire world. Higher education has repeatedly assured students and other stakeholders that this environment is an anomaly and adversity mitigated only when we share responsibility and work together as a community. Yet this ruling seems to indicate that international students are secondary contributors to American education. It is a misguided framework, and most educators will attest to their experience that international students stand equal with U.S. students in their intellectual, social, and financial impact. The richness and diversity of thought brought by a variety of cultures are crucial to a global perspective that benefits all students and this nation. Either we stand together during this pandemic or we are all fundamentally weakened and vulnerable.

UMW Community Works with City on Freedom Rides Historical Marker

Last fall, UMW students and city residents retraced the route of the Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by James Farmer. Members of the UMW community are working with the City to establish a historic marker on the site of the old bus station in Fredericksburg, the Freedom Riders' first stop on their 1961 trip. Photo by Lynda Allen.

Last fall, UMW students and city residents retraced the route of the Freedom Rides, the historic protest to desegregate interstate travel, organized by James Farmer. Members of the UMW community are working with the City to establish a historic marker on the site of the old bus station in Fredericksburg, the Freedom Riders’ first stop on their 1961 trip. Photo by Lynda Allen.

James Farmer Multicultural Center Assistant Director Chris Williams, Assistant Professor of History Erin Devlin and Assistant Professor of Historic Preservation Christine Henry were interviewed in The Free Lance-Star about their efforts to work with the City of Fredericksburg to establish a Virginia state historical marker at the site of the old bus station where the Freedom Riders stopped first in their quest to desegregate interstate transportation in 1961. The station formerly stood on the corner of Princess Anne and Wolfe streets, near where the fire station is now.

Some of the riders were arrested in North Carolina, South Carolina and Mississippi. In Anniston, Ala., a mob of Ku Klux Klan members slashed the bus’s tires as it attempted to leave the terminal, and later threw a firebomb at it.

UMW students and staff and community members visited the field where the bombing occurred last fall, as part of a trip recreating the journey of the Freedom Riders.

“To our surprise, there was no marker out there. No historical marker saying that right here, the original 13 Freedom Riders were fire-bombed,” said Chris Williams, assistant director of UMW’s James Farmer Multicultural Center, which organized the trip. “I was enraged and so were the students.”

Back home in Fredericksburg, Williams was still thinking about ways the story of the Freedom Riders and James Farmer could be told better—and that led to the idea of placing a highway marker at the site of the old bus station.

Williams, Devlin and Henry, in partnership with the City of Fredericksburg, have started the process of applying for the marker from the state Department of Historical Resources. Read more.

Memorializing George Floyd: UMW Board Passes Resolution, President Seeds Scholarship

In its June 10 meeting, the Board of Visitors of the University of Mary Washington unanimously passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and the scores of protesters who are making their voices heard. “We stand with the thousands in our country and around the world, including members of the Mary Washington community, who have engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter, and to call for an end to the social injustice and systemic racism that permeate the fabric of our country,” the resolution stated.

UMW’s Board of Visitors passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and those engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter.

UMW’s Board of Visitors passed a resolution declaring solidarity with the family of George Floyd and those engaged in peaceful protests to affirm that Black Lives Matter.

In addition to the Board action, President Troy D. Paino announced that he and his wife Kelly Paino will seed a new scholarship in the memory of George Floyd. The scholarship will promote the development of leadership skills for students committed to addressing societal issues disproportionately affecting black and underrepresented communities. Their initial gift of $5,000 will serve as a challenge to members of the University community to financially assist Mary Washington students who are emerging leaders dedicated to driving action around social issues. The Painos’ challenge was quickly matched by Board member Allida Black and her wife Judy Beck, who will issue their own $5,000 challenge for the fund. The scholarships goal is $100,000.

The resolution was the first priority on the agenda during the Board’s regular meeting. Members also recommitted themselves to the University’s Statement of Values and adherence to policies and practices that promote equity, fairness, access and an inclusive environment of mutual respect for all members of the Mary Washington community. Further, they stated their dedication to “rooting out any practice within our community that stems from implicit bias, or systemic racism.”

The resolution, submitted by Board member Rhonda VanLowe, comes on the heels of a number of steps the University has taken over the last several years to ensure that UMW is fully welcoming and inclusive. Following the adoption in 2017 of the strategic vision drafted by President Paino, UMW organically developed a community values statement known as ASPIRE. The University established the new role of Vice President for Equity and Access and focused on hiring more diverse employees, as well as created additional campus-wide opportunities for dialogue around, awareness of, and training about racism, implicit bias and microaggressions.

The James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) continues to serve as a resource for programming and center of support for all students. Additionally, the JFMC offers opportunities for experiential learning such as a social justice leadership summit and the fall 2018 and 2019 social justice trips that followed the path of the original Freedom Rides. In 2020, the University launched a year-long celebration marking the 100th anniversary of James Farmer’s birth and helping preserve the legacy of the civil rights icon and former Mary Washington professor.

Eagles Fly High During Virtual Awards Ceremony

Senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the virtual Eagle Awards ceremony on Friday.

Senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the virtual Eagle Awards ceremony on Friday.

University of Mary Washington senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards ceremony, presented virtually Friday evening. This event honors student leaders and outstanding campus organizations. New this year was the James Farmer Defining A Legacy Award.

As one of the emcees for the video awards ceremony, Brianna “Breezy” Reaves put it: “Though we cannot be together, we will come together in spirit. During this very uncertain time, we want to take every opportunity to appreciate everyone who makes UMW the place we like to call home.”

Abel, a first-generation student from Fredericksburg, paid it forward by becoming a mentor with the RISE program (Resources Inspiring Student Excellence). A RISE mentor had helped him adjust to life as a college student, Abel said.

In presenting the Launch Award, Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker described Abel as “an outstanding advocate for change” and an ambassador for “doing the good Grace would have done.” Read more.

Eagles Fly High During Virtual Awards Ceremony

University of Mary Washington senior Nehemia Abel received the Grace Mann Launch Award during the annual Eagle Awards ceremony, presented virtually Friday evening. This event honors student leaders and outstanding campus organizations. New this year was the James Farmer Defining A Legacy Award. As one of the emcees for the video awards ceremony, Brianna “Breezy” […]

UMW NAACP Chapter Set to ‘Make Waves’

UMW President Troy Paino (middle, suit and tie) poses with members of UMW’s new chapter of the NAACP. The chapter was chartered last May.

UMW President Troy Paino (middle, suit and tie) poses with members of UMW’s new chapter of the NAACP. The chapter was chartered last May.

Most meetings make their way onto the calendar, but some materialize out of thin air. Brianna Reaves might stop by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC) to run something by advisor Chris Williams. Next thing you know, Bilqiis Sheikh-Issa shows up, followed by Maya Jenkins and Dana Norwood.

Then it’s on.

“We didn’t come in to talk about business, yet somehow all of us are here,” Reaves, a sophomore who serves as president of UMW’s new NAACP college chapter, said of its executive board.

The board’s a sisterhood of sorts, a collection of young women, plus assistant secretary Cameron Washington and assistant treasurer Lewis Geter, who are ready to roll up their sleeves and do what it takes to get this fledgling group off the ground. They feed off each other’s energy – meeting for hours and marking up whiteboards like nobody’s business. Focused on the NAACP’s civil rights mission, they’re set to make change, no matter how small.

“You can’t start a wave without a ripple,” Sheikh-Issa, a first-year student who serves as vice president, said of the chapter, chartered last May. Read more.

Retired NBA Player Scores with Black History Keynote

Retired NBA player, activist and motivational speaker Etan Thomas delivered the Black History Month keynote last Wednesday at UMW. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Retired NBA player, activist and motivational speaker Etan Thomas delivered the Black History Month keynote last Wednesday at UMW. Photo by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

It was a game-changing moment for Etan Thomas. Pulled over by the police, he sat silently on the road as an officer fixated on him. The policeman’s fingertips hovered over his holster, ready to grab his gun, while his partners tried to pinpoint why the black teen looked so familiar.

It must be from a mugshot, they said. When they demanded he pop his trunk, revealing high school basketball gear inside, they finally recognized the star athlete whose achievements were often splashed across the local newspaper.

The former Washington Wizard shared that story during his Black History Month keynote Wednesday at the University of Mary Washington. Packed into the UC’s Chandler Ballroom, students, UMW athletes and coaches, faculty, staff, university administrators, President Troy Paino and wife Kelly, and community members listened raptly as Thomas discussed systemic racism, police brutality, the school-to-prison pipeline, stop-and-frisk and more. Thomas’ appearance came as the University celebrates Farmer Legacy 2020, honoring Dr. James L. Farmer Jr., the civil rights icon and late Mary Washington professor, who would have been 100 this year.

Thomas’ activism was borne out of that teenage incident, he said, buoyed by his mother’s passion for social justice, and a speech teacher who encouraged him to channel his emotions into an oratory, which he delivered at regional and national competitions, garnering media attention.

“I realized I could use this basketball thing to speak for people who can’t speak for themselves,” said Thomas, whose advocacy work earned him prestigious awards from the National Basketball Players Association and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Foundation. Read more.

Retired NBA Player Scores with Black History Keynote

It was a game-changing moment for Etan Thomas. Pulled over by the police, he sat silently on the road as an officer fixated on him. The policeman’s fingertips hovered over his holster, ready to grab his gun, while his partners tried to pinpoint why the black teen looked so familiar. It must be from a […]