’19
Ellie
Richmond, VA
French and Political Science

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Tradition and Progress

February 9, 2018

I promise that I’m going to talk about Ring Dance, which is fun and awesome, but let me preface it with these two paragraphs first:

The University of Richmond is special in that we have preserved many of the traditions that have been around in since our founding. Unsurprisingly, though, as in all discussions of maintaining customs over a long period of time, there is a tension between tradition and progress. It’s one of the definitive themes of modern history, and I think it’s only natural that it would be reflected in universities’ conversations about various ceremonies and activities. 

This tradition v. progress balance has been at the forefront of discussions at the University of Richmond, particularly with regards to the coordinate college system, which originated around the idea of separating students by gender for residential and academic administration. Over the past twenty years, though, this system has been modified in the way of progress: the upperclassmen residence halls have been gender-integrated for a while, and as of this year the freshman residence halls are also integrated, and it is possible for “gender-integrated housing” which is to say that people of different genders can live in the same room, suite, or apartment. The language of the Richmond College and Westhampton College mission statements have been modified to express openness to any student who identifies with either college in support of transgender and non-binary students. These measures are all, in my opinion, steps in the right direction.

However, my job here is not to blab on and on about historical themes and university politics, rather it is to share some of the very positive experiences I’ve had here at UR. One of the most recent of these was the opportunity to attend Ring Dance last week at the Jefferson Hotel in downtown Richmond. This is one of the Westhampton College traditions that, too, has seen progressive changes while maintaining it’s value as a celebration of scholarship and school pride.

I admit that before I got to the Jefferson on Saturday night I was a bit unsure of how things would go down. I was dressed in arguably the nicest thing I will ever wear, a floor length black dress (this is a tradition, but it’s fairly new--people used to be required to wear white…now we wear black but not by regulation so much as by choice). The grand event is that the third year Westhampton College students walk down this fancy staircase at the hotel (don’t trip, don’t trip, don’t trip). Traditionally, the students of Westhampton College would be escorted down the stairs by their fathers, but now there are no regulations on that either, so I walked with my mother and father, and many people walked with friends, sisters/brothers, or solo, and I don’t think that anyone thought twice about it. These two examples, of the shift away from the white dresses and regulated dad-escorts are some of the best symbols of progress that we can point to. Nobody cares anymore what people wear, and nobody need feel excluded due to a lack of escort. There is also a way to get financial support for tickets and attendance cost determined by financial aid packages, which is another way to make the event more accessible.

I’m sure that people can still find ways to critique Ring Dance, but I had a really fun time. It was neat to see my classmates and even some of my professors all decked out for the event. After not tripping down the stairs, the hotel just turned into a big party with live music and good snacks and people just generally having a good time. In short, I appreciate the changes that have been made to make University of Richmond and Ring Dance more accessible and progressive. I also like that we have retained this tradition of celebrating scholarship and achievements with family and friends. I am so grateful that I decided to go and so proud to be a member of a Westhampton College that is open and welcoming to all!

Greetings future Spiders! My name is Ellie, I'm 20 years old and born and bred in Richmond, Virginia. I'm a serious student and die-hard member of the Richmond Red Hots, the womens club ultimate frisbee team here. In my precious free time I enjoy jogging, reading anything, and afternoon naps. Other hobbies are traveling, hiking, and pretending to be a foodie. Some of my preferences include black coffee, Saturday morning farmers markets, and music in foreign languages that I do not know. My academic interests are broad and constantly changing, however, as of now, my majors are Political Science and French. My two most ambiguous and most descriptive qualities are wanderlust and indecision.

Over the course of the year, some of my goals as a Spider Diarist include exposing little-known or underappreciated things on campus and around Richmond, giving a thorough review/copious list of suggestions for food and coffee in campus and around Richmond, and portraying a genuine first year experience here at UR in terms of campus culture, everyday life, and landmark events. Tag along as I rediscover Richmond from the point of view as a college student in my hometown. I'm so proud of the RVA and always excited to show off the wealth of things it has to offer to out-of-town friends as well as this blog's prospective student readership!


Why UR?

I am utterly, absolutely, and almost vehemently undecided about what exactly (or for that matter, vaguely) I want to do with my life. But hey, that's why I chose a liberal arts college. Even within that vein, though, there are a lot of liberal arts colleges out there, so back to "Why UR?" The University of Richmond is small enough to allow for intimate class sizes, in-depth peer-to-peer interactions, and strong relationships with professors.  At the same time, it is large enough to attract a student body with diverse ideas and backgrounds who all contribute different perspectives and ideas within the classroom environment and campus community. Richmond provides an indisputably spectacular academic experience, but the opportunities that the University offers to all of it's students are what really sold me. From volunteer positions and internships to research jobs and study abroad trips, the level of quality and personal attention that Richmond provides is unmatched. My crazy love with Richmond, the city, aside, UR is unique in (atleast) one more way: out of all of the colleges that I toured, I never went to one place more cheerful, comfortable, or welcoming. Come see for yourself! (WARNING: This blurb is abbreviated, see first post for details.)