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Hawes Spencer

Articles by Hawes Spencer

UVA Faculty Expect Smooth Presidential Search

Faculty at the University of Virginia expect a smooth and open search for a new leader--a marked contrast to the division sewn several years ago when the board unceremoniously attempted to dump a sitting president. June 2012 saw a presidential ouster without warning or compelling explanation.

But after Teresa Sullivan announced Friday that she won’t seek a new term, the path is set for a smooth transition, says Faculty Senate Chair Mimi Riley. “I think what’s important to know is how different things are since 2012,” says Riley.

UVA Invites Input on Enslaved Workers Memorial

The University of Virginia is inviting ideas from the public for its planned memorial to the slaves who helped build the University.

There’s something not all UVA students realize. Vice-president for diversity, Marcus Martin explains, “Enslaved laborers helped to build this institution.”

Standing on the Lawn, Martin, a former engineer, marvels at the earth-moving, the brick-laying, and more that took place 200 years ago. “I’m in awe of how the columns were put up for the Rotunda-- you can imagine the labor that took place,” said Martin.

Activist Explains What Was Wrong With Ringling Circus

As Richmond prepares for its last visit from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, an animal rights activist discussed what was wrong with trained elephants.

As a defendant, Ringling crushed lawsuits and won multi-million-dollar settlements from animal rights groups. But the court of public opinion was different.

“Localities and even countries are banning animal entertainment acts.”

That’s Wendy Harper who protested a Ringling show in Charlottesville three years ago.

Beloved Foxfield Steeplechase Course Could Be Developed

It's an icon of Virginia horse county; but Foxfield, the Charlottesville-area steeplechase racetrack, could become a housing development, unless a new lawsuit prevails.

For nearly 40 years, it's been a rite of spring.

The running of horses, the wearing of sundresses, and the draining of red solo cups.

But the Foxfield Racing Association wants to sell the property, potentially ending horseracing-- and an annual revel for thousdands of University of Virginia students.

"The people are about to lose an asset, and they're not even aware of it."

Historian Laments End of the 'Greatest Show on Earth'

A specialist in circus history is lamenting the decision to fold the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which was announced over the past weekend.

The news hit hard for retired University of Virginia professor LaVahn Hoh.

"I guess I'm still a bit in shock-- I can't believe it."

He saw his first circus in 1946.

"I could describe it to today you in total detail-- it made such an impression on me."

But today's kids can't wait for traveling clowns, trapeze artists, and sword swallowers.

"Just go to YouTube."

Bell Mum on Senate Leader's Marijuana Decrim Request

A powerful state lawmaker has asked the chair of the Virginia Crime Commission to study marijuana decriminalization, but the chair went silent. Over a month ago, Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment asked the Commission Chair, State Delegate Rob Bell, to study the issue. But Bell went silent. [audio: “Rob Bell is not available to take your call.”]

“My guess is Rob Bell doesn’t support studying the decriminalization of marijuana.” That’s political analyst Quentin Kidd. “If this isn’t the role of the Crime Commission, then what is the role?”

Perriello Makes His Surprise Official in His Hometown

Former Congressman and African envoy Tom Perriello confirmed rumors that he wants to be Virginia’s next governor by returning to his hometown and making an announcement in Charlottesville. “I got into this race today--you may have heard.”

Laughter may not have rung through Richmond, since Lt. Governor Ralph Northam was the expected shoo-in for the Democratic nomination, says pundit Larry Sabato. “Senior Democrats, from the Governor on down, are less than pleased with Perriello’s surprise move. The nicest thing they’ve called him is the Bernie Sanders of Virginia.”

Reward Offered in Mysterious 1963 Death

The mysterious death of a youthful Charlottesville football star nearly 54 years ago has just prompted a $20,000 reward for information.

It was a rainy night in March 1963 when Pat Akins went out with a friend in a borrowed sports car. Before dawn, Akins was dead, and the official explanation--that he’d been thrown from one car and dragged nearly a dozen miles by another--never convinced many of his friends.

Researcher Questions Federal Hits to Hospitals

For a third straight year, some of Virginia’s largest hospitals have been penalized for alleged medical mistakes. But some are pushing back.

Thirteen of the state’s biggest--including Inova Fairfax, Bon Secours in Norfolk, and Richmond’s MCV--will lose one percent of all their Medicare payments, along with UVA losing $1.8 million.

Tracey Hoke explains: “It depends on billing data.” Billing data? “Two-to four-year-old data culled from billing records. It’s impossible for them to see a story of a patient.”

Lawyer Sees Uphill Battle for Culpeper for Halting Mosque

Earlier this week, the Justice Department announced that it was suing Culpeper County over denial of sewer permit for a proposed Islamic worship center, and legal analyst says the county faces an uphill battle.

The state health department wants to limit pump-and-haul permits to emergency situations, but in the past decade Culpeper has granted 26 of them -- something Charlottesville legal analyst Lloyd Snook finds curious. “The only one that they’ve denied was to a residence--nothing comparable.”