Knock, knock: men involved in Mall “beating” tell their side of the story

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Kiara Redd-Martin, Richard Spears, Kishara Joy Griffin, and Malcolm Stevenson.

The DTM – In an exclusive interview with the two men arrested and charged with assault in connection with a December 20 altercation on the Downtown Mall, which was initially portrayed as a “knock out” style attack for mere sport and entertainment by the alleged victims in the press and on Facebook, Malcolm Stevenson and Richard Spears offered their account of what happened that night. The interview was facilitated by Kiara Redd-Martin and Kishara Joy Griffin, two young African-American activists (and friends of the men) who say they feel “disappointed and angry” about the way the story was initially portrayed in the press, and encouraged their friends to come forward.

“We believe it was negligent journalism,” says Redd-Martin, a 24-year old graduate of Old Dominion University who is now pursuing a graduate degree in administrative justice, talking about the first story about the incident that ran in Cville Weekly, ” which did not take into account the character of these two men, or attempt to get their side of the story.” READ MORE

Hotel city: When will Charlottesville get ‘roomier’?

news-norris-mall-2-1On a crisp, bright day in March 2008, a suave-looking guy with long hair and a tailored light-grey suit (no tie) told us at a ground-breaking ceremony that a stylish, luxury “boutique” hotel, complete with a roof-top bar and stunning views of of the southeast mountains, would tower over Central Place on the Downtown Mall. What we got, of course, was an ugly tower of grey concrete rising out of the demolished shell of a bank building, an eyesore on our cityscape since 2009 that has the permanence of a metamorphic rock formation.

In June 2012, another suave-looking guy with short hair and a tailored blue suit (no tie) again told us that the abandoned tower would indeed become a luxury hotel, as soon as he finished a similar hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. Around the same time we were also told by a West Virginia developer that a seven-story Marriott extended-stay Residence Inn would be rising up at the corner of West Main Street and Ridge/McIntire in the spaces occupied by Random Row Books and City Clay.

The new Marriott appears to be on track, as City Clay, Random Row Books, and the other businesses on the property have left the premises, but you’ll have to excuse us if we remain a bit skeptical.

However, according to the state tourism board, there is a shortage of hotel rooms in Charlottesville, while demand for them has been rising. In the coming years, they say, based on the many accolades and “best places” designations bestowed upon us, people – lots of them – will be coming. Maybe these hotel developers know something we don’t.

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Just say know: Tim Wilson wants to change the world– one story at a time

UVA psych professor Timothy Wilson’s book Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change begins with a horror story. A police officer in Florida is the first to arrive at a house engulfed in flames. There are screams for help coming from the structure, and through a window the officer sees a trapped man. The officer tries to break down the heavily bolted front door, but when it finally gives way, it’s too late.

“He was curled up like a baby in in his mother’s womb,” says the officer. “That’s what someone burned to death looks like.”

The next day, when the officer reads the local newspaper, he realizes the victim was a friend. The officer couldn’t sleep or eat, and so his superiors scheduled a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, which is basically a therapy session with professional counselors designed to prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. Survivors of the 9/11 attacks and the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings underwent similar interventions.

Sounds like the compassionate, common sense things to do, right? READ MORE

Leadership fitness: Did Dragas engage in plus-sized bullying?

Given the lack of specific, convincing reasons that Rector Helen Dragas has given for forcing the resignation of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, what really motivated the decision has become a mystery. What if a visceral, even unconscious, prejudice against Sullivan’s physical appearance, manner, or gender contributed to the undignified way in which her firing was handled?

“The problem here,” says UVA Faculty Senate chair George Cohen, “is I haven’t seen any evidence that President Sullivan wasn’t capable of addressing the University’s challenges or problems.”

UVA’s Larry Sabato has called the process leading up to the decision “absolutely outrageous.”

“There wasn’t a scintilla of transparency in it,” he told Richmond Station NBC12 in a rare interview. “This has given us the worst two weeks of publicity since I’ve been associated with the University, and that was 42 years ago. I’m sick at heart.”

Sabato likened the ouster to a military “command and control” operation, and said that the only cure for the blunder was to reinstate President Sullivan.

For many, however, the question remains: What on earth were Dragas and company thinking? According to one source, Dragas assured UVA ‪Provost John Simon‬ that the fall-out from the firing would blow over in a “couple of days.” What might have lead to such short-sighted, foolish thinking? READ MORE

Battle of the noodle: Allied heats up recycling rhetoric against Van der Linde

For several years now, Allied Waste, which is owned by mega-waste company Republic Services, has been largely silent while Van der Linde Recycling (VDLR) steals all the local trash and recycling glory. Now the company is fighting back with a vengeance. With an onslaught of web, print, radio, and TV advertising, Allied suggests that much of the recycling collected by local haulers using VDLR is ending up in a landfill.

However, according to Peter Van der Linde, Allied’s new “separate, don’t contaminate” ad campaign is just the last gasp from a company tied to an outmoded way of handling trash– and to its own landfills. READ MORE

Bully buster? VQR spurs UVA launch of ‘respectful workplace’

"We will not tolerate retaliation against an employee who reports an incident," says UVA President Teresa Sullivan.

A year-and-a-half after the suicide of the Virginia Quarterly Review’s managing editor Kevin Morrissey launched a national debate about whether it was the scene of workplace bullying, UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan has launched the Respect@UVA program, a comprehensive workplace initiative designed to promote “kindness, dignity and respect.”

But one workplace bullying expert thinks the reforms announced February 15 don’t go far enough.

Gary Namie, director of the Workplace Bullying Institute, contends that bullying should be put in the context of real violence to avoid letting programs like this get “shackled by all its shortcomings.”

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Life behind bars: it’s more than just pouring drinks

Everyone knows the story of Charlottesville’s most famous bartender, you know, that musician guy who worked at Miller’s before becoming a world renowned rock star… what’s his name?

Well, many other local bartenders have attracted their own, albeit smaller, fan base. Indeed, while lots of factors go into creating a bar’s atmosphere– lighting, decor, and menu choices, among them– in many cases, the single most significant element of a bar’s appeal– and what keeps the regulars coming back– is the man or woman doing the pouring.

“They’re friends out in the public square,” says attorney Benjamin Dick, whose name adorns a stool downstairs at C&O restaurant where for years, bartender Barry Umberger would have drinks ready for regulars before they could order and knew the details of his frequent patrons’ lives. READ MORE

Rotunda rehab: Good-bye and good-riddance to magnolias?

UVA architect David Neuman says the magnolias need to come down.

As UVA gears up to begin a $4.7 million roof replacement project for the Rotunda, part of a planned $50 million restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s famous centerpiece on the Lawn, a major visual transformation of the UNESCO World Heritage site (along with Monticello, one of only four in the country) could take place before the first piece of old sheet metal is removed.

According to a statement by University architect David Neuman, the six 100-year-old magnolias in the two courtyards that flank the Rotunda need to be removed, both because they have become a danger to the structure and because of the need to erect scaffolding for the roof work. What’s more, according to UVA’a leading Lawn historian, the giant magnolias, which have grown to the roof line and crowd the Rotunda’s curved walls, would mostly likely displease the structure’s original architect, who preferred that his major buildings “stand up and stand out” against the horizon.

However, according to over 3,000 people who signed an online petition opposing the removal of the trees, they should stay up and stay put. READ MORE

Glitchy system: Inside the student software debacle

Why did Albemarle County school officials commit nearly $2 million to a software system that has proven faulty, despite multiple complaints from teachers that using it was a “waste of time,” and an admission from one County school official that it was “glitchy, to say the least”?

At a time when school systems are facing budget cuts, losing teachers, and seeing classroom size increase, spending on technology has soared. Indeed, terms like “digital learners” and “data driven education” have captured the imaginations– and purse strings– of school administrators.

Just recently, the Charlottesville School Board announced that it will spend $2.4 million on new tablet-type laptops for students. According to a recent article in the New York Times, education, technology, and big business are now entangled to the tune of $1.89 billion a year, the amount that schools spent on software for classroom use in 2010. Spending on hardware, researchers say, was likely five times that amount.

However, according to experts interviewed by the Times, there is very little specific evidence that using technology in the schools enhances learning.

“There is insufficient evidence to spend that kind of money. Period, period, period,” said Larry Cuban, an education professor emeritus at Stanford University, in the Times. “There is no body of evidence that shows a trend line.”

However, a Hook investigation reveals one possible trend line in the County school system: implementing the software system may have benefited top school administrators, and the company they contracted with, more than it has teachers and students.

But getting answers hasn’t been easy. read more

The bully pulpit: Documentary explores VQR tragedy

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Last summer, the tragic suicide of Virginia Quarterly Review managing editor Kevin Morrissey, who made a 911 call reporting his own shooting down by the Coal Tower on former UVA president John Casteen’s last official day in office, made national headlines, including a segment on the Today show, which revealed a troubled office environment at the award-winning magazine and launched a discussion of so-called “workplace bullying.”

That caught the attention of New York City-based documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson, a former bullying victim herself, who has devoted herself to telling these kinds of stories. Almost as soon as the VQR story broke, she called the VQR offices.

“Our arrival was delayed a few weeks when the Today show segment came out and no one wanted to talk on camera anymore,” says Peterson. “I was pretty surprised at the way the story was framed in that segment, so of course it only intrigued me more as events continued to unfold in both the press and the comment boards.”

Eventually, Peterson managed to get just about everyone connected with the story on camera, including VQR editor Ted Genoways, whom former VQR employee Waldo Jaquith had accused on the Today segment of treating Morrissey “egregiously” in the last few weeks of his life. Indeed, Genoways appears in Part I of the documentary, along with his wife Mary Anne, who tearfully says, “We did so much for Kevin, but it was never enough.” read more

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