weekly reading: tragedy at U.Va.

The current issue of Sports Illustrated offers an extremely thoughtful piece on the alleged murder of U.Va. lacrosse player Yeardley Love by her ex-boyfriend, a member of the men’s team. I like its examination of the lacrosse culture and the stereotypes that characterize it, fairly and unfairly. But I especially loved the lead:

There are no seniors at the University of Virginia. The school’s founder, Thomas Jefferson, believed that a “senior” level of knowledge is unattainable, that learning is a lifelong process. So students in their final two semesters are referred to as “fourth years.” It’s a quaint UVA tradition, one of many, but it also hints at deeper truths: Even the oldest undergraduates are novice adults, full of promise yet not fully formed. And some events in life are beyond comprehension.

It’s true my alma mater has a lot of eccentricities — and I’m aware that they seem even more pretentious when explained as Jeffersonian. But they had a tremendous impact on my education, both academic and otherwise. U.Va. students are bound by an honor code that helps preserve what it calls a “community of trust.” On a day-to-day basis, that means many professors allow students to take exams home, or take their word when they offer an excuse for missing a class. In the big picture, it means students generally feel safe in the company of one another. This is not the first time one student has committed a crime against another, but its violence, its permanence, is an unforgivable betrayal of the entire community. Wahoos, you’re in my thoughts.

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