For the first time in nearly 200 years, the University of Virginia will be honoring its graduates not on Grounds—but online. Starting at 1pm May 16, students, their families, and friends will be able to tune in to the university’s virtual celebration and conferral of degrees on its website, as well as on UVA’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts.
The 30-minute ceremony—planned by a committee of students, faculty, and staff—will open with a surprise performer, followed by the university’s annual year-in-review video. President Jim Ryan, along with the deans of each school, will then confer degrees to UVA’s more than 7,000 graduates. After a student-led performance, Ryan will deliver congratulatory remarks, and introduce a second surprise entertainer. The ceremony will wrap up with a performance of “The Good Old Song” by the University Singers.
Graduates will still get to walk the Lawn, but when remains unclear: An in-person graduation ceremony is planned for either October or next May, depending on future social-distancing guidelines and restrictions.
When Final Exercises do happen, Courtney Cacatian, executive director of the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau, expects it will bring a “much needed boost” to the local economy, specifically with lodging taxes. The city’s hotel occupancy in May is typically around 75 percent, with rooms sold out during graduation weekend. And the average daily rate for a room is $150—the highest for the entire year.
According to the latest data available (from the week of April 19), Charlottesville hotel occupancy was down to 25 percent, not including the places that have closed because of the pandemic.
Charlottesville’s restaurants are also losing out on big bucks (not to mention the city’s loss of meals tax revenue). Over graduation weekend, The Local, for instance, typically hosts more than 1,500 guests—“by far our busiest time of the entire year,” says operations manager Michelle Moshier. “Now, restaurants are not only faced with trying to recover from months of closures, [but] they are also taking a huge financial hit by losing much-needed sales that restaurants count on to carry them through the slower summer months.”
Quote of the Week
“When we beat this, people will still have to battle with insurance companies and choose between groceries and medicine. We have to do better.”
—Dr. Cameron Webb, candidate for Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, in his first television advertisement
Hasta la vista
As the pandemic continues to crunch budgets, Charlottesville City Schools has decided to sacrifice its elementary school Spanish program. The city hadn’t met the school district’s requests for funding even before the pandemic, and now, after further cuts, the district finds itself on the wrong end of a $1.16 million deficit, reports The Daily Progress. School board members have expressed a desire to bring the program back once the pandemic’s effects have passed.
Run with Maud
Dozens of Charlottesville residents donned black T-shirts last weekend, and embarked on a 2.23 mile jog in a show of solidarity for Ahmaud Arbery, the black man who was murdered by two white men while jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, on February 23. Arbery’s alleged killers were charged with murder May 7. The Charlottesville group, organized by former vice-mayor Wes Bellamy, was one of many around the country that ran in Arbery’s honor.
Pass the test?
UVA President Jim Ryan appeared on “Face the Nation” over the weekend to discuss the school’s still-mysterious fall plans. Ryan hopes to have as many students on Grounds as possible, but said, “we would need to test students when they first arrive, and faculty and staff before the students arrive.” That seems like an ambitious goal, given the difficulty that even state governments have had in procuring tests.
Even with fewer people on the roads, those pesky telephone poles still jump in front of cars sometimes. A driver downed the pole outside of Vinegar Hill Theatre on May 8, resulting in a brief power outage downtown and a day-long road closure.