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10 Aug 2017
Audio Overview
John Alexander

Note Audio not available.

Annie Gladchuk, partner: Ross Youell



A: Hi. Please state your name


R: Ross Youell. I am a first year at the University.


A: Alright. So, Ross, this is your first year at the University, how do you like it so far?


R: I enjoy it. It’s taken a while to kind of find my place and, you know, establish this as my home but I thoroughly enjoy it I love my classes and I love the people.


A: That’s great. More than I can say for my first year.  [laughter] So, what drew you to UVa in the first place?


R: Well, it was kind of weird, I was going to go to a small, liberal arts, private school in Ohio and play soccer there, but they were like, “you’re expected to pay 40,000 dollars for us” so I was like, “no I’m not going to.” And I went to a soccer camp last year and one of the counselors, I was talking to him about playing college soccer and he was like,  “one of the biggest mistakes I made of my life was going to the University of Richmond and playing soccer and not going to UVa and playing club soccer,” and for me that really stood out because the soccer guy that he was, he specifically told me that, you know, a degree from UVa is lightyears ahead of almost any other degree you can get in the country. So, that stood out to me. And so, UVa, this sounds horrible but I almost perceived it as a backup because I was like, “oh, ok, I’m going to get in,” but then once I saw the statistics I was like, “wow, I’m very lucky to be here in the first place.” And one of my friends who got like a 32 on her ACT and was such a good student, she didn’t get in.  So I felt very privileged to be in this opportunity. So, yeah, once that financial situation kind of went down the drain I was like, “well, I’ll just go to UVa.”


A: Everything worked out; fate worked out for you


R: Exactly


A: So you are drawn to kind of the prestige and everything of UVA


R: I am. I mean, I went to a small private school so a big state university is kind of a switch but at the same time I went to public school for half of my life, so size doesn’t matter to me and I think that any public school, public or private school, you find your niche, and the community becomes a lot smaller than it really is. So that size isn’t an issue for me at all.


A: So how have you found that sense of family, if you’ve found it so far?  Have you joined any clubs or anything, or how have you found that here in Charlottesville?


R: I have a lot of friends actually who are upperclassmen so that helps in kind of unifying that and I guess, to a degree, college is about status and the fact that you know some upperclassmen is always a good thing. And I really like my floor, we’re all best friends, so that helps a lot we’re all really close, we’re really tight. We hang out all the time so that helps a lot, so yeah.


A: That’s really nice. So, wow there’s a lot to cover just being a first year and coming in with all this controversy surrounding your school, but let’s just start with how did you find out about it? Where were you?


R: Well, I was, I mean honestly, I was just trying to enjoy my last summer of no worries, and so I remember getting the email, the initial email, and I was like, “you know, it’s just corporate America,” and I honestly thought nothing of it. I was like, “well, she’s going to get fired,” because my brother was at William and Mary when the president got fired and it wasn’t a big issue at all. It was like whatever, so I was like, “ok, let’s move on to the next thing.”  So, it didn’t really pass, and I kept seeing all these news articles about it and honestly I didn’t even bother looking at them because I was just like, “oh, well.”  And I think a part of that was the fact that I wasn’t in the heart of the community. And I didn’t really identify myself with UVa.  I still identified myself with my high school almost more so than the university.  And then, I guess, something that got me kind of interested was the email by Stephen Nash which said that the Board of Visitors had broken, basically, the Honor Code of the university, and I remember calling my dad about it and telling him about it and I just thought that was kind of a great perspective to have, that Nash had, and the Honor community had.  And that kind of transformed my thinking into, “ok, you know, this kind of makes sense now.”  I remember, after church one day, myself and two other older gentlemen were just talking about the issue and talking about how important and poignant it is, and how much media attention it’s gotten, and it’s like “wow, this is really mainstream now.” So I mean, I honestly didn’t bother reading the articles; I read a couple of things, I feel like, in the Wall Street Journal maybe, but not much.


A: So, it really hit home for you when you got that email from Steve Nash talking about Honor.  Is that what made you realize why it was such a big deal? Or did you realize from the other media coverage that was the bigger newspapers and everything?


R: Yeah, I mean, I thought the correlation was really cool because I always had my Honor board at my high school, and the fact that you can lay someone who is at the top of a hierarchal status of the university responsible is so important.  But, as for your initial question… You were talking about legitimacy…


A: Yeah, why it was such a big deal because you said initially when you read the email, you kind of…


R: Right, right. And it drew an interest to me because it was just a different perspective that I hadn’t seen.  Because before it was so ambiguous, and I think the fact that a student organization was now meeting and doing something about it, that really told me that “wow, UVa is concerned about who they are.”  Not just the Board of Visitors, but the students.  The students really care. I think that was the first time I really saw how, like the importance of the UVa community, and how the students interacted and how much the university really meant to them in the first place.


A: Alright. So now, what I’m taking away from this is that you, kind of that some of this was a positive experience, or at least it was for you coming in as a first year.


R: Absolutely.


A: So did this get you more excited to come here? To be a part of this?


R: Yeah. To a degree it did because I kind of, to some extent, feel like, especially for first years, the crisis was indifferent.  When I’m talking to my hallmates or something, we don’t discuss it, we never have discussed it. So, it’s like it’s not pertinent to us; we’re trying to find our way into the university, and so, like I said we didn’t really identify with the university before that. But, what was your initial question?


A: Whether or not that made you more excited to come here…


R: Oh, right, right, right.  So, yeah it definitely made me more excited to come here because I saw the energy of the second, third, and fourth years.  Because if so many people are so upset about this, it obviously means that they love their university so much, so obviously I have a lot to look forward to.  So, that made me happy and proud and energetic to be a part of such a great community that values themselves so greatly and values who they are.  So yeah, it definitely made me realize what the university was all about.


A: That’s great.  So, you never felt, you know, embarrassed or anything about…


R: I didn’t, because for me it was normal, because presidents jump ship all the time based on many, many, many things. And, I think, in this instance, it was just another example of it.  So, I don’t think UVa should have been embarrassed about it at all.


A: Do you agree with people being angry about it?


R: Do I agree with people being angry about the…


A: The resignation.


R: The resignation.  Absolutely, absolutely.  Because time and time again I always think about what if I was a second year this year? What if I was a third year this year?  I was like, “well, I would definitely read a lot more about it, and I would definitely be a lot more involved.”  Because, to draw a comparison, my high school went through a time when we didn’t know if we were going to exist anymore because of the money, and all of a sudden, right when they said that, there were alumn donations through the roof. Like 100,000 dollars through the roof, like by the week, and we were like, “wow.”


A: Wow, so you kind of went through a similar crisis.


R: Exactly. And, so I saw that it was kind of like a microcosm of what the university was going through. 


A: That’s really interesting, wow.  Ok, so you didn’t have too much of an opinion because you still identified with your high school but you did say what stuck out to you was the fact that they could put someone in such high power, um, and hold them to these standards of honor that we have here.  What is your opinion on that? Who do you think should have been to blame? Who did you think should have been to blame when you first read these articles?


R: Well, I think everyone wants to blame the Board of Visitors, obviously.  And, rightfully so.  I mean, their lack of communication is known with Dragas and her secret meetings and stuff like that.  That’s not how a university should be run because it shouldn’t be the Board of Visitors and the president in separate spheres; they should be working together and interacting with one another and trying to make this university a better place, because their goal is not to see who is more powerful in the situation, their goal is to work together to make the university a more cohesive environment for learning and for discovery and stuff like that.  So, as for who’s to blame, I mean, I think in any situation, at first, you’re going to get that bad guy mentality.  You’re going to blame somebody.  But, in my opinion, no matter what it is, there’s always going to be that as we learn more, I think we’re going to blame both sides, because I remember Greg talking about it in one class, he said, “there have been, I guess, documents revealed that Sullivan didn’t release her plans for Coursera to the Board of Visitors.” And, you can say, “well, you know, she doesn’t have to release everything to the Board of Visitors,” but Coursera, which is a very big thing with respect to online education, I would immediately give that to the Board of Visitors and say, “hey, this is my plan, this is what I want to do.” And the fact that the Board of Visitors fired her for one of those main reasons as that, that shows me that, you know, Sullivan needs to stand up and communicate her ideas because a great idea is wonderful but if you don’t communicate, it’s nothing. So, yes the Board of Visitors lacked communication, yes, they were not honest and they tried to create a front, but at the same time, I think Sullivan will, I think, as we learn more and more, she will be to blame as well. Not necessarily on behalf of the Honor Code, because I still think the Board of Visitors and that corporate sphere and Sullivan, to me she seems more like a member of our community.  She values education so much, you know, she went through the educational system.  And, I always think those corporate guys are going to be perceived as the bad ones because, you know, we can’t relate to them. But we can relate to Sullivan, so Sullivan will always be that beacon of light almost.


A: So how do you feel that you relate to Sullivan now that you are, you know, you have your hallmates, you have your, kind of, UVa family; how do you relate to her, and in general the administration of this school? How do you view it?


R: Well, it’s really funny because at first glance, I remember talking to my mom about it and we obviously didn’t know anything about it and at that time my mom she said, “you know, Sullivan didn’t even look like UVa in the first place; she just didn’t vibe with me as being UVa.” And I had to stand back and think about that because I guess from an outward appearance, it makes it seem as though, ok, the typical UVa president, you know, bow tie-wearing, boat shoes-wearing, you know, kind of southern gentleman or southern lady atmosphere and Sullivan didn’t perceive that notion of being that type of person.  So, I think Sullivan was more, now that I think about it and I see her on the jumbotron every game, I see her as more of a commoner than the UVa students themselves, which is a wonderful thing now that I think about it because people.. the more common and the more personable and the more normal you are, the more people can relate to you and the more people sympathize with you.  So, I definitely like Sullivan now, and I see her as kind of like a very easy-going person because I remember going to Carr’s Hill before classes and meeting her and she seemed like such a genuine person, and the fact that she has agreed to meet with us in her ever-busy schedule, that shows me the value of education to her. And I think more than the Board of Visitors, she values a liberal arts education. 


A: And you do see that as genuine?


R: Yes. I certainly do, because I think she is more.. the wellbeing of students at UVa is definitely one of her top priorities, and I don’t think it’s one of the top priorities for the Board of Visitors. For me, the Board of Visitors is still money-hungry, and I don’t think Sullivan is.  And at the same time, we need to combine those two interactions and perspectives and kind of synthesize that to make it work because if one side’s money, the other side’s wellbeing, well, obviously it’s going to be a lack of communication because they don’t agree. So, I think you need to draw that into the equation as well.


A: Definitely.  So, you say that she, that Sullivan genuinely values the liberal arts education.


R: Absolutely.


A: And what is the liberal arts education to you?


R: Well, for me, I see it first hand all the time because my cousin goes to UVa as well.  She took a year abroad in a Tibetan monastery and she’s coming back essentially as a first year, even though she would be technically a second year.  And I remember sitting down and talking with her a couple weeks ago before fall break during coffee, and I mentioned every one of my classes in just a normal conversation.  And for me that’s incredible because when you can combine learning and the real world, that’s when you know it strikes a chord, and that’s when you know that what you’re learning is actually important. So for me, a liberal arts education, we talk a lot about, or people against a liberal arts education talk a lot about, “oh, you know, you’ll be a philosopher but you won’t be making any money,” and stuff like that.  But at the same time, if you are in a liberal arts education, you can relate anything you’re talking about to what you’ve studied.  So, I think more so than those professional-type schools and universities, you know, you can relate the real world to what you’re studying more than any other type of education.  So for me, a liberal arts education is combining those interdisciplinary subjects, and kind of synthesizing it and making it into a real world.. real world examples, I guess.


A: Right. Ok, so it seems like you kind of want to take a broad range of classes, and that’s what you value here, so how do you feel, we’re going to touch on a few other subjects, but how do you feel about the funding that we’ve talked about that’s been cut for those certain majors?


R: Well, it’s weird because I don’t know how you can value or depreciate the value of a subject because you talk about cutting German or cutting Latin or cutting subjects like that, but at the same time, those have monetary worth.  If you’re in the business world, and you know Spanish or you know German, you’re probably going to make a lot more money than someone who just knows English. So, I don’t know how you can say, “ok, this subject is more important than that subject and then therefore, we will put less money into it, or we’ll just cut the program at all.” So, I think the fact that we strive on being a liberal arts university and college, but we cut these programs? What are our incentives anymore for educating a student? I think that’s a big question we have to ask ourselves as a university.  If our main goal is money, I still don’t think we should cut Spanish or those languages, but I can see where they’re coming from.  I mean, Latin, for example, is a dead language, and stuff like that philosophy.  Well, what are you going to do with a philosophy major? Well, a lot of commerce schools like you being in philosophy and stuff like that, so I mean, whether it’s money or whatever, I still think that the beauty of a liberal arts education is that you can do what you want, and you can do maybe not what society wants you to do, but what you want to do with your life. And, for me, I wanted to go into environmental thoughts and practices.  I liked it; I still like the subject, it comes easy to me, it comes naturally to me, but I can’t see myself doing it every day. So, I’m looking at sports media, sports journalism, stuff like that, because I know I love sports.  And I’m tired of conforming to society and saying, “I want to do science because everyone will like me.” I want to do something that I know I like, and I know that I can impact people in my life.  So, I think if, with a liberal arts education too, if you’re good enough at anything, the money will come. That won’t be an issue.  So, I think we have to stress the idea of finding what you want to do, finding what strikes you as being important in your life, because if you can find that, like we said in the previous interview, you won’t work a day in your life.


A: Right.  That’s great.  So, you were talking about.. or we just discussed the funding being cut.. in the last interview we did talk about how a lot of that is due to the donors and due to the Board and appropriations and everything. Who would.. have you always known that, or has that been something that’s come about since you’ve been at this school? How did you find out that that’s why the money issue is there?


R: Yeah, well, I learned all this stuff through this class. 


A: Ok, so you think if you didn’t have this class, you would have no idea…


R: Oh, absolutely.  It would be rational ignorance, I would just be like, “I don’t care.” But, now I do care, because it is my university.  And, I think if you want to challenge something and you want to challenge the ideals of something, you have to know where it comes from in the very beginning.  You can’t tackle something if you don’t know where it was or where it came from or how it evolved.  So, for my instance, I guess, in-state tuition is also going up, and for me, that’s a troubling issue as well. And my family because my brothers, they are both out of college, one of my brothers is in grad school, my parents are partially paying for it, so it’s like, ok, how.. why’s this going up?  And that, this class kind of helps that, because if the state government is doing nothing to alleviate that cost and they’re only providing eight percent, I realize that the university might have more autonomy, but what’s eight percent to 20 percent in actuality? Will the state government have more autonomy?  Or no?  So, yeah, I guess the equal idea of who is in charge – I had no idea. I had no idea who the Board of Visitors was, I had no idea about president Sullivan in the first place. When I walked into this class, I thought it was the history of UVa, like from Jefferson to now.  I had no idea that it was about this past summer. So, all of this is new to me, but I feel like I’m absorbing so much, and I’m learning so much, and if, for this class, if we can educate people about where these things come from, and how these things come about, then you can tackle how to change it. 


A: Yeah, I think you’re at a huge advantage, being a first year, and being.. you know you have three more years here, three and a half more years, that’s really amazing.  So do you feel like this class genuinely is really going to change how you take action?  Do you feel like, compared to, you know, your hallmates and the kids that aren’t taking this class that don’t necessarily know all these things, do you feel more inclined to take action than they are?  Is this really important to you now, more so than it was before?


R: Absolutely.  I think it is definitely more important. Like, if I didn't take this class, I wouldn't thinking about it on a regular basis at all. But at the same time I feel like I always, maybe not always, but I've wondered once this class is done, what will my actions speak?  Because if push comes to shove, the least thing that will come out of this class is that I was educated about the situation and I know how the university is governed.  So, that's a good thing in itself.  And I can educate others about that, and i see my impact as educating others, because personally, I don't think that I am as proactive as I should be with respect to this. I think this university, this class gives me an excuse to be proactive in the University, and that's a wonderful thing.  But, I think the difference I can make is that with the people who are more proactive in the community than me, I can educate them about the situation.  And if i can educate them, maybe they'll be motivated to take action.  So, I think that's where my impact lies in the future,  Hopefully, I really hope that I will learn from this experience and be more proactive, because that's what I want to be; I want to be a valued member of this community, and I want to change lives and impact lives in this community, and this class is definitely achieving that.  But, after this class I want to continue to do those types of things.


A: Right, definitely. And I understand where it's hard because so many kids, you know, me, you, and most of the general student body here is really involved in, you know, whatever clubs they're in.  You said you film for the soccer team, and that's, you know, that's not academic but it does take a lot of time, and it's really understandable that you don't know how active you'll be in the community about it but can you translate that into the fact that we've spoken of this as a crisis, the general idea that communities, and especially ours, don't know who's in charge really; we didn't know the Board of Visitors, so.. Hold on, let me formulate this question a bit better...  Do you feel that this series of events that happened this summer is going to make a difference in the future? Do you think people are going to, all these kids that are standing up here now doing the rallies and everything, do you think it's going to cause change?  Do you think it's going to become common knowledge that we have a Board of Visitors, or do you think when you graduate, and people might have forgotten about this, do you think it's going to go back to the way it was?  Or are we making progress here?


R: I think it's a catch-22 because I see, for me, the most important part about learning about the events of the summer was how valued the community was and the relationship with the university, and how interactive the community is.  But, obviously the events that took place, if they took place right now, I think that we'd be in an uproar and there would be a revolution. I really do believe that.  But the fact that it was over the summer, and the fact that not a lot of students were present, mostly Im sure the in-state people.  And, also, I think one thing that we have to point out is that the reinstatement is what everyone wanted.  And that, the more I think about it, the more I see, that was a way for the Board of Visitors to shut people up.  So, I think if all of this stuff happened, and the final vote was cast, and Sullivan was not reinstated, I feel like the summer would have had an even bigger impact.  Which would allow the students to, you know, make an impact right now. Because what i see throughout the university is that students are not impacted by this whatsoever, like they don't care.  right now, they don't think about it on a daily basis because well, Sullivan's back, you know, the University's back to normal, oh, well.  And people don't think about it, and they don't think about the Board of Visitors anymore and things are back to normal. For me, that's the plan of the board of Visitors, like, they're just... Hopefully people in the hierarchy and donors will see this as a change, and hopefully they will come out of this with more education on the situation, more education on the issue, and hopefully they will see that, yes, something has to be done.  But, on behalf of the students in particular, I think that they don't see that anything else needs to be done  But I think Sullivan and hopefully the Board of Visitors see that something needs to be done.  So, I think the change in attitude is not going to be in the students because the students are back to normal, they're in classes, they're caring about themselves, which obviously that's fine.  They have an excuse.  Their studies lay precedent over this issue. But, I think the Board of Visitors and Sullivan, no matter who finds this event important, they need to do something about it, in particular.  And I also feel like, we had a rally a couple weeks ago, and I didn't go to it, not a lot of people went to it.  And that shows the significant decrease of importance about this issue because everything is back to normal and, like we talked about, now that we're not in the crisis mode, nobody cares, and we're kind of in that in between stage, and so obviously the rallies aren't going to be as much and the protests aren't going to be as much.  So, I think the fact that the Board of Visitors gave the people what they wanted was probably a smart thing.


A: You think so? Yeah, It was all pretty political.  So, if something like this, you know, happens again in your four years here, do you think that your participation in this class and the knowledge you gained from it is going to make a difference? Do you think that you're going to, I mean obviously we don't know what the future's going to bring, but do you think that you would be willing to, and be, you know, called to action to take action?  To go to these rallies? To form all these groups and stuff?


R: Absolutely because I think I'm, I think all of us in this class are one of the few select students who have an inside track to what goes on


[lights go off]


R: So, as for my role in the future, I think that all of us in this class have an inside track to make a difference because we know kind of the ins and outs of how the decisions are made.  so, I think it's almost our obligation to do something if another event like this rises.  Because we've been through this, we know how things are handled, and now it's our job to say, "ok, you know, this isn't right." And, so yeah, I think if I was in another situation like this, I would perceive it as my obligation to stand up and be a student leader in the situation.  And I think all of us that are in this class should feel that same way. 


A: Right, right. Definitely.  So, that's, I mean, that's really great and I'm happy that you've taken that away from this, and yeah, I feel like I have too. But, so, just in closing, I'd like to ask since you do have so much time here at UVa, more than anyone else has in the class... Is there any other first years?


R: No.


A: Yeah, so you have more time here than anyone, so.. You know, we've kind of gotten past the crisis by now, somewhat, as the Board has definitely died down. What are your goals for the next four years, and how do you expect, or do you want, the administration of this school to help you achieve them?


R: My goals in the next four years as pertaining to this class? Or..


A: Academic or otherwise, just in general. What do you hope to get out of this school when you're, you know, graduating?


R: I hope to, you know, like we talked about, I hope to do something that I love.  And, I sincerely think that the university will allow me to do that. And through this class, in particular, I hope to become more involved with the community because I see the importance of the correlation and the connection and the relationship between the community and the university.  And it's kind of like, people who haven't even gone to this school, that live in Charlottesville are so passionate about this school and they perceive it as our university, not that university five minutes away. And that's very poignant for me, because if that;s their university and this is my university as well, then I want to do something to kind of bridge that gap, because I feel like at times, you know, we're students at this university, but we don't have any... obviously through clubs and stuff we do interact with the Charlottesville community, but I haven't seen any yet, so personally, this class makes me want to see that relationship between UVa and the community and make an impact in the community so that in turn the community can make an impact on UVa.


A: Through the administration and everything... I'm sure...


R: Right, and I want to see the administration stand up for the students.  I don't want to see money-hungry, corporate structures again.  Obviously, it's going to be inevitable because it requires a societal change to change the structure of this university, and that will come.  But, I also think that if eight percent of the funds of the state are going to this school, or this school is being run by eight percent of the state, then I don't know if the governor should select the Board of Visitors in the first place.  Because no matter how he says it, it's political; it's going to be political.  And, he might be saying, "hey, you know, if you vote for me, or if you give me this much money, you know, I'll give you a spot on the Board of Visitors and stuff like that." And, I...


A: You just hope, ideally, that doesn't happen.


R: Right, and I want to see a professor on the Board of Visitors, because everyone's like, "oh, you know there'll be a lot of, you know, different opinions, and faculty members want to put money into their particular field." But, the same is true for the corporate structure. Obviously, some individuals want one thing, maybe for their company, and other individuals want another thing for the students. So, I think there are differing opinions on the Board of Visitors right now, so I don't know how that....


A: Why not make ours one of the voices, right?


R: Right. Exactly.


A: Good, alright, well, is there any other burning thoughts you have on the subject that you didn't...


R: I don't think so.


A: Alright.  I think we're good here.


R: Yeah, thanks.