The Collegian
Friday, September 22, 2023

At open forum, Ayers and students discuss how to define Richmond

During a question-and-answer session on Monday, President Edward Ayers said the one word that comes up repeatedly when he talks to alumni is "community."

"What I dream of is a class for undergraduates taught by a law professor that introduces them to the law," said Ayers, who noted that one of his goals for the University of Richmond was to unite the T.C. Williams School of Law, the School of Continuing Studies and the undergraduate students. "People across the country are trying to figure out how to unite pre-professional and professional, and Richmond can be the place to figure it out."

Senior Michael Connelly, a resident assistant living in South Court, decided to organize the meeting with Ayers to discuss what students wanted Richmond to be known for. The meeting, which was held in the Whitehurst Living Room, was the first time Ayers had participated in an event like this, Connelly said.

Although only 10 or so students attended the meeting, the students who did go were very involved in the discussion, and it could have continued for longer than the hour it was allotted.

Joy Gerdy-Zogby, a first-year law student, came to talk about bringing the law school and the rest of the institution closer, saying she would like the opportunity to take classes with the undergraduates at Richmond.

"Why are we totally separate from this larger group when we could be so powerful together?" Gerdy-Zogby asked.

Ayers agreed with Gerdy-Zogby and said that one of his goals was to weave the law school into the rest of Richmond. This is not something that is done anywhere else, he said. Ayers also said he felt the same way about the School of Continuing Studies. The first step in uniting the schools would be to set the times for each class period on the same schedule, he said.

"Learning is an ongoing process," Ayers said in response to Gerdy-Zogby's desire to take undergraduate classes as a refresher for her law school classes. "You don't just learn how to write once."

But Ayers also said people were generally not able to find anything wrong with Richmond. He added that because Richmond is in such good shape the university needs to figure out what tit is going to be known for.

"There is no sense that we are not good," Ayers said. "We just want people to know that we are good. We need to define ourselves, or other people will define us."

Senior Allison Speicher called students at Richmond "practical idealists." At Richmond the extracurricular activities aren't extra, and Speicher said she thought that was something Richmond should be known for.

Freshman Michael Freeze said he enjoyed the large number of experiential learning he had undergone while at Richmond.

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At Richmond, Ayers said, possibilities surround students, while at other schools, students could avoid them if they wanted to. The next question-and-answer session with Ayers will be held 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 19 in the South Court Living Room.

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