In brief: Frat reprimand, Northam’s numbers, SNL target and more

Kirsten Hemrich Kirsten Hemrich

Bad choices

  • Photos appeared February 3 of Kappa Sigma fraternity members wearing American Indian headdresses (pictured above), and a since-deleted social media post captured Zeta Tau Alpha sorority sisters in sombreros and carrying maracas. UVA’s Inter-Fraternity Council condemned Kappa Sig’s “cultural appropriation” as being “prejudiced and culturally insensitive.”
  • Governor Ralph Northam, in his first televised interview in over a week, told CBS’s Gayle King that it’s the 400th anniversary of “the first indentured servants from Africa” arriving in Virginia.
  • The Bomb, Virginia Military Institute’s yearbook, included blackface photos while state Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment was managing editor in the 1960s. Norment says he was one of seven working on the yearbook and “cannot endorse or associate myself with every photo, entry, or word on each page.” He adds that he is not in any of the photos, nor did he take them.
  • The University of Richmond joins in the racist imagery with a photo from its 1980 yearbook of a man with a noose around his neck surrounded by people in KKK garb.
  • And VCU’s yearbook included blackface photos as recently as 1989, WTKR reports.
  • Attorney General Mark Herring admitted February 6 that he applied brown makeup and a wig to go to a party dressed as rapper Kurtis Blow in 1980 while he was a 19-year-old UVA student.

Quote of the week

“What if the blackface was just part of your costume of a black person?”“Saturday Night Live” skewers Virginia and white cluelessness


In brief

Drop the cellphone

Both houses of the General Assembly passed bans on the use of handheld communication devices while driving. The measure to thwart distracted driving is expected to be signed into law, and Virginia will join neighboring Maryland and the District of Columbia in prohibiting holding a cellphone while on the road.

License reform killed

A Senate bill to repeal Virginia’s automatic suspension of driver’s licenses for nonpayment of fines, which has been called a “modern-day debtors prison,” died in a House subcommittee February 11, with Delegate Rob Bell one of the 4-3 votes to not let the legislation move forward. A federal judge has said the current law is likely unconstitutional.

Speaking of Bell

Greene County Democrat Elizabeth Alcorn, a retired dentist and former county party chair who resigned after a dispute with Leslie Cockburn’s 5th District campaign last year, says she’ll challenge Bell for this 58th District seat. Bell will seek his 10th term in November.

Northam’s numbers

Virginians are pretty evenly split about whether Governor Ralph Northam should resign after a photo depicting people in blackface and in KKK garb appeared on his 1984 yearbook page, according to a Washington Post/Schar School poll. Overall, 47 percent say he should resign and 47 percent feel he should stay. Among African Americans, 58 percent think Northam should remain in office and 37 percent want him to go.

Blackface numbers

In the same poll, 11 percent of the Virginians surveyed have either worn blackface or know someone who has.


Candidate conundrum

Charlottesville police sent an officer to Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania’s office February 7 for a reported disturbance in which City Council candidate John Hall was being “verbally aggressive.” Hall wasn’t there when the cop arrived, and no charges have been filed.

UConn/UVA pipeline

courtesy UVA

Executive VP and Provost Thomas C. Katsouleas has been named the next president of the University of Connecticut. Former UVA prez John Casteen served as UConn president from 1985 to 1990 before taking the top spot here.

School absences surge during flu season

Thirty-three fewer students and staff were present at Venable Elementary School on February 11, and they have the flu to blame.

Charlottesville schools spokesperson Krissy Vick, who’s been “washing her hands like crazy,” says a letter went home to parents to acknowledge the illness, which also kept 14 people home from Greenbrier and 13 from Walker Upper Elementary on February 8. 

It’s no surprise that county schools have been hit, too.

“It’s been a challenging time,” says spokesperson Phil Giaramita. More than half of the 25 schools in Albemarle have had “significantly higher absence rates due to illness,” and though he couldn’t give any specifics because they don’t log every absence, he says, “it’s a reasonable assumption that flu has been a major contributor.”

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