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Wednesday, July 28, 2021


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The Collegian's Top 15 of 2008

2008 is nearing its end, and we're looking back on the year that was at the University of Richmond. From President Edward Ayers' momentous inauguration and the Spider football team's national championship victory, to controversy over a sexually explicit fraternity e-mail and the discovery of a black doll hanging from a rope in a university theater, 2008 at the University of Richmond offered celebratory moments, and sad, tragic and questionable ones.

So, in chronological order, we offer you our choices for top stories of 2008.

1. Officials permit chalking on Forum to discuss topics of public interest (March 6)

In February, members of the Richmond College dean's office sentenced several students to five hours of community service each for covering the forum with chalk writings and drawings, causing a furor in The Collegian's opinion section. Some noted the irony of suppressing free speech in an area called "The Forum," while others chastized the so-named "Chalker's League" and its supporters for causing controversy over a superficial event, when myriad other issues could be considered more important. Eventually, with President Edward Ayers' approval, chalking was approved, as long as the drawings and writings weren't derogatory. By MEGAN WILSON

2. Law student killed in cliff fall (March 27)

In March, third-year law student Robert A. Slimak died after falling from a cliff in Nelson County while hiking with his Virginia Commonwealth University fraternity brothers. He was the first Richmond student killed in a little more than two years. By MEGAN WILSON, STEPHANIE RICE and DAN PETTY

3. Black doll found hanging by rope in school theater (March 27)

Days before spring break, a faculty member discovered a black doll suspended from a rope in the Cousin's Studio Theater, in what appeared to be a simulated lynching. The doll's discovery came just weeks before the scheduled opening of "The Meeting," a play about a fictional meeting between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. The resulting student outcry led to the eventual development of the Bias Response Team, which developed a protocol to handle future incidents. Students donned black t-shirts calling for an end to ignorance and prejudice on campus. By WYLIE PENNELL

4. Ayers becomes university's next president at inauguration (April 10)

Not long after the black doll incident, President Edward Ayers was sworn in as the university's ninth president. In his inauguration speech, he outlined the points of his strategic plan, which included a commitment toward increasing diversity, making Richmond more affordable and accessible, increasing the school's engagement with the city of Richmond, increasing collaboration between schools, and creating a unique student experience. By RYAN BYRNES

5. Bernanke calls for increased regulation of financial markets (April 17)

In mid-April, as the U.S. economy showed serious warnings of sliding into a recession, the man charged with straightening the country's economic well-being spoke about the economy at the Jepson Alumni Center before hundreds. It was, as one official called it, the most high-profile speaker to visit campus since the 1992 Presidential Debate at the Robins Center. Since then, what was a U.S. economic slowdown has turned into a worldwide economic recession. By DAN PETTY

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6. Campus sent into lockdown after intruder enters library (May 6)

Most of campus was deserted on the afternoon of May 6, but those remaining were told to seek shelter indoors during a campus lockdown initiated after reports of a gunman in Boatwright Memorial Library. Dozens of police from campus, Henrico County and the city of Richmond swarmed the area to search for the gunman. The lockdown was lifted four hours later, with no suspect in custody. But the next day, police arrested 19-year-old Seth Newman and eventually charged him with impersonating a police officer. Newman pled guilty, and in mid-October, he was convicted of a felony and received a sentence of five years suspended from the University of Richmond, under the condition that he never return to campus, continue his mental health treatment and report to a probation officer. By DAN PETTY

7. City council approves on-campus stadium construction (Aug. 5)

The Richmond City Council approved plans in August for the construction of a 8,700-seat on-campus stadium, a decision that puts the stadium's completion on track for the 2010 football season. Athletics officials said the stadium would usher in a new era of Richmond athletics. In late December, demolition crews knocked down the existing concrete stands at First Market Stadium. By DAVID LARTER

8. Basketball coaches violate NCAA rules by text messaging recruits (Sept. 9)

Members of the university's athletics department disclosed that two coaches had violated the NCAA's recruiting rules against text-messaging prospective student-athletes. The two coaches were dismissed, and athletics department officials placed restrictions on recruiting for the men's and women's basketball programs. The NCAA has not invoked disciplinary action, but it was expected that the university's self-imposed sanctions would be sufficient. By BARRETT NEALE

9. Male intruder enters student apartments, touches victims (Sept. 18)

Several students reported that a man entered their unlocked apartments during the night. Two victims reported the man, who was never apprehended, stroked their legs. By STEPHANIE RICE and MEGAN WILSON

10. Ex-tennis coach indicted on child pornography charges (Sept. 19)

The U.S. Attorney's office in Richmond filed child-pornography charges against 47-year-old former men's tennis coach Steve Gerstenfeld, who quietly departed campus during the summer. It was the second scandal in as many weeks to hit the university's athletics department. By DAN PETTY

11. Sexually explicit e-mail leads to varied student reaction (Oct. 23)

A sexually explicit fraternity recruitment e-mail that leaked led to outrage about the e-mail's content and a recommendation from the Richmond College dean's office to suspend the student who wrote it. Some students argued the misogynistic speech was a part of everyday conversation, and others said it was a problem the university had largely ignored and must address. In November, students from Harvard Law School organized a forum about sexual discrimination on campus. By KIMBERLY LEONARD and DAN PETTY

12. Students celebrate Obama's historic presidential win (Nov. 6)

Sen. Barack Obama was elected 44th President of the United States, and Virginia's 13 electoral vote went to a Democrat for the first time since 1964. Hundreds of students in the Tyler Haynes Commons cheered for his victory, while others hugged and wept. By DAVID LARTER

13. Llano is first cross-country runner in 29 years to race at NCAA champs (Nov. 20)

Junior Matt Llano became the first male runner in 29 years to qualify for the NCAA National Cross Country Championships. In Terre Haute, Ind., he finishes 176th and said he hoped to compete again next year alongside his six other teammates. By ANDREW PREZIOSO

14. Dining hall going trayless in spring 2009, following national trend (Dec. 4)

The university's sustainability sub-committee approved plans to remove trays from the dining hall as part of a broader plan to help the school meet requirements of the Presidential Climate Commitment, signed by Ayers in 2007. University officials said the move would prevent hundreds of pounds of food from being wasted every week. But many students voiced their disapproval, saying it was an inconvenience and wouldn't significantly help the environment. Student government leaders argued they weren't consulted about the proposal and said the decision was another example of the administration subverting their authority. By DAN PETTY and STEPHANIE RICE

15. Spider football wins first national championship in school history (Dec. 19)

For the first time in 178 years, the University of Richmond could call itself an NCAA National Champion. The Spider football team defeated the University of Montana 24-7 in Chattanooga, Tenn., after starting the season 4-3. Four years ago, the team finished with a losing record, and then-President William Cooper called for the team to be moved to the Patriot League, a conference of private schools with significantly fewer athletic scholarships. By BARRETT NEALE

Contact Kimberly Leonard and Dan Petty at and

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