Casteen touts diversity

In his “State of the University” speech on Friday, April 21, President John Casteen said the Living Wage campaign is “revolutionary” and “deserves to be understood and debated.” Circulated e-mails gave Living Wage activists strict orders not to disrupt Casteen’s speech, so about 40 or so activists clad themselves in “living wage” banners and covered their mouths with “$10.72” gags.
If the protesters rattled him, Casteen didn’t show it. In a speech lasting just over one hour, he cast UVA as a school that, while having a few money problems of its own, has nevertheless made strides toward enhancing student diversity. State funding cuts to higher education have made UVA more reliant on its $3.1 billion endowment, he said.
He also emphasized the increased diversity of accepted applicants, noting the increase of American Indians, Spanish, African Americans and women on campus. Also, the class of 2009 includes 749 low-income students enrolled in the AccessUVA program, which minimizes their debt at graduation. On this point, Casteen, a former English major, waxed poetic when he said that now everyone can “drink from the cup of knowledge.”
Casteen also said that student protests were a source of strength for UVA, and that “we need solutions for problems described by [the Living Wage Campaign.]”
Casteen touched on UVA’s changing relationship to State government (the so-called charter legislation), too, and finally, on the constraints that his own scholarship imposes on him. “I don’t especially like the metaphor or the paradigm shift, not least because in language, the field whose study I suppose I know best, a shifted paradigm is a broken one,” he said. “It communicates not truth but chaos. And yet, the metaphor deserves consideration as we contemplate and create these revolutions that have been so much in our minds and work this year.”—John Borgmeyer, with reporting by Talley English

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