This summer, University of Virginia student leaders have been working hard to create a safe and welcoming environment as the University prepares to begin the fall semester amid a global pandemic.
A video, released this week, is one piece of a new student-to-student message campaign with the hashtag “#YOUva,” designed to urge everyone to take seriously their personal responsibility to keep Grounds safe while also enjoying the fall semester.
Fourth-year student and co-chair of Housing and Residence Life Ja’Mel Reed, who has worked on the #YOUva campaign with several other undergraduate students, said the aim is to seek ways to “develop a positive culture regarding keeping each other safe during the return to Grounds.”
This summer, two groups of students – those in UVA’s Meriwether Lewis Summer Institute and other student leaders focused their efforts on students safely returning to Grounds. This video, “Safely Returning to Grounds: A Guide for Students, By Students,” is one of the projects that resulted from that work.
While the students have been collaborating with UVA’s administration on the campaign, Reed said it is important that students lead the effort. “I find great comfort in the fact that students have so much say in this circumstance and have the ability to really create this process,” he said.
“If the idea comes from students, the student perspective will always be at the forefront and in the minds of individuals. Students sometimes have an ability to see things that administration may not see.”
As part of an agreement to come to Grounds, students are required to watch the new video, which marks the debut of the #YOUva campaign.
It took students just 2½ weeks to produce the short, from start to finish. “It was a very quick turnaround. But they were able to still do amazing work despite the short timeline,” Reed said. “I think that’s just a testament to the amount of support and the amount of drive students have, who are trying to come back to Grounds and create a safe environment.”
The video features, among others, Dr. Meredith Hayden, associate executive director of UVA’s Department of Student Health and Wellness; Tony Bennett, the head coach of UVA’s defending national champion men’s basketball team; and a band of students, including Reed.
“We all want to go back to the lives we remember, but pretending everything is normal will put people’s lives at risk,” he says in the piece, as he approaches a circle of friends seated 6 feet apart on the Lawn. “We need to strike a balance between being safe and being human.”
Students plan to continue to produce video updates on COVID-19 as well as create, brand and distribute #YOUva merchandise like facemasks and T-shirts, and perhaps deliver coasters to Corner businesses so that everyone keeps the campaign and safety top of mind.