UVa: “Candlelight Vigil Gives Voice To Outrage”

Or so the Charlottesville Daily Progress reported this morning.

Between 200 and 400 students and others gathered in front of the University’s landmark Rotunda last night and chanted, in fine rally style:

What do you want?


When do you want it?


Well, now we know what they want and when they want it. Rallies are useful that way. There were, however, some revealing comments.

Anne Coughlin, a law school professor who is white, confessed her reluctance to speak to the mixed-race crowd.

“I was afraid,” Coughlin said, “and I am afraid to come here tonight and speak to you about this crucial matter.”

She added that she was worried “white folks will think that I’m blowing this out of proportion” and that blacks would say she was the wrong person to speak.

“My fears are produced by racism,” Coughlin said. “My fear has made me an ignorant person.”

I apologize for sounding snide, but Prof. Coughlin’s public comments lately make it difficult to disagree. (She was last heard from here, observing that although hate crimes can be against blacks or whites, “When people have been forced to live with slavery, their anger may be more understandable.”

One of the characteristics of political correctness is that it always wants to impose itself, and there was more than a whiff of that urge at the candlelight vigil.

The meeting, which was billed by student organizers as a mandatory gathering, nonetheless drew few students and fewer professors.

“If you look at all the empty seats, there’s a whole lot of students that we’re not reaching,” said organizer Kazz Pinkard, a graduate student.


Several student speakers emphasized a need for a mandatory diversity—awareness course, but some professors and other staff balked.


Other students blasted the absent faculty, but English professor Lisa Woolfork defended her colleagues.

Although she had a note in her office mailbox Tuesday, none of the white professors in the department did, said Woolfork, who is black.

“This idea, [that] if I didn’t show up I didn’t care, I find a little hurtful,” Woolfork said. “People are trying and are committed.”

Several of the speakers were critical of student apathy at UVa, but there did not seem to be a clear sense of what students should be doing. As the Daily Progress reported:

“We have to do something here to get people actively involved,” Gemayel Hazard said. “The black student population doesn’t seem to know what’s going on.”

His partner at the table, Aisha Johnson, said she got involved out of a sense of duty, despite knowing Lundy only in passing.

“When it comes to student diversity, even if I don’t know the person, I should care,” Johnson said.

But many students, both white and black, went about their daily business, chatting on cell phones and studying for upcoming tests.

Two young men passed Alderman Library within earshot of the vigil. One asked the other: “So, do you know what that sound is?”

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  1. […] has witnessed many “candlelight vigils.” In fact, Prof. Coughlin spoke at one (Daily Progress news story, March 13, 2003) at which, the Cavalier Daily reported, “Four hundred individual candles shone […]

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