UVA Student Recounts Campus Experience With Recent Shooting

By Ella Sudduth

On Sunday Nov. 13, a charter bus of 20 University of Virginia (UVA) theater students returned to Charlottesville that night after a field trip to see a play in Washington D.C, when a student opened fire on the bus in the parking garage. 22-year-old Christopher Darnell Jones, an ex-football player at the university, is suspected of killing three students and wounding two others with a handgun.

The victims were juniors playing for UVA’s football team. Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis Jr. and D’Sean Perry were found deceased when police arrived on the scene. The Point News reached out to a UVA student for an interview, and their perspective of the events can be found at the end of this article.

Authorities immediately initiated a campus-wide shelter-in-place drill and exhaustive manhunt that lasted 12 hours throughout the night. As of now, Jones is charged with three counts of second-degree murder and three counts of using a handgun to commit a felony. He was denied bond during the court hearing in Charlottesville days after. Earlier in September, a person unaffiliated with the university reported hearing Jones make a comment about possessing a gun. 

UVA officials said Jones had been convicted of a misdemeanor concealed weapons violation in Henrico County and received a 12-month suspended sentence in 2021. Administrative charges were still pending when the shooting occurred.Lavel Davis Jr. was a wide-receiver from Ridgeville South Carolina who enjoyed reading Shakespeare outside of practice. The Washington Post highlighted Lavel’s story, “After missing all of last season with a torn ACL suffered during spring practice, Davis was trying to show the team the path to victory — and inspire others.”Davis’ college football career was defined by his determination to rise above setbacks from injuries he received on the field. His profile on the UVA Athletics website says “of his 16 catches in the [2022] season, seven receptions have gone for 20 yards or more, tied for the most on the team.” Davis was the second player to match his team’s all-time best distance. Devin Chandler attended University of Wisconsin for a year where he played wide-receiver before transferring to UVA. Alvis Whitted, the University of Wisconsin wide receiver coach, said that Devin had a lasting impact on his former teammates and coaches, having “great energy” with a “smile that would light up any room.” His coaches and teammates will remember Chandler as an exceptional man and player.D’Sean Perry majored in studio art and is a wide receiver from Miami, Florida. D’Sean was described by the president of his highschool as an intelligent, hardworking student, as well as a talented artist. According to the Washington Post, his highschool football coach Earl Sims Jr. said, “D’Sean was a delightful, respectful, hard-working person who was one of the best overall young men our community [had] to offer.” This past season D’Sean “appeared in six games … made a career-high four tackles in UVA’s 16-14 win over ODU on 9/17 … Made two solo tackles against Pitt on 9/12” according to UVA Sports. Perry, Chandler and Davis made their university and hometowns extremely proud through the dedication they put towards being full-time students and athletes. The Point News reached out to a student at UVA to get a firsthand perspective about the impact of the loss on the student body. The third-year student anonymously said, “The night of the shooting and the day after seem to be a blur for most students, myself included. There was a lot of misinformation, a lot of fear, and an overwhelming sense of grief. When the shelter-in-place was lifted, many students were scared to leave their houses for hours, and even days after…”“Students were scared to go to vigils and memorials because they were concerned for their safety. Despite this, there was an incredible sense of community and healing. Every single house hung banners with the players numbers, businesses closed and hung signs with ‘#UVAStrong,’ and strangers were stopping each other in the street to talk and find comfort…”The student continued, “Now, two weeks later, there is still a lingering sense of grief and fear. Classes are quieter than before, there are hundreds of bouquets of dead flowers along the painted murals and Scott Stadium, and it is rare to see many students out after dark. The student body is determined to make sure the players’ legacies are remembered, and UVA has been extremely helpful with this. From the president of UVA opening his home three times a week for students to gather and find comfort in each other, to a memorial run, there have been many events for students to find solace and healing…”“This is my third year at UVA, and I have never seen grounds this somber. The pain is still fresh, but the student body could not have had a better response. The support from our own community, as well as many other schools, organizations, and individuals has helped to heal this pain and create a new sense of hope. Everywhere you look on grounds there are reminders of what’s happened. Despite this, there is nowhere else I would rather be, because the overwhelming support and love on [campus] has helped to make this devastating tragedy easier.”CNN reported that of the 68 shootings that happened on school grounds this year, 15 of them happened on college campuses. Students are too often subjected to the fear of gun violence at school. Yet higher education is where they should feel the most safe to live. While the nation honors and remembers the victims of this horrendous tragedy, as students we must also come together to ensure each other’s safety in the future and on our campus too. 

Donald Trump Announces 2024 Presidential Run

By Hannah Yale

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, former president Donald Trump announced that he plans on running as a Republican presidential candidate for the 2024 elections. The Point News interviewed Todd Eberly, SMCM professor of Political Science and coordinator of the Public Policy Department to get his insight on the implications of Trump’s announcement. Eberly is the co-author of “The Trump Presidency: Outsider in the Oval Office,” and in 2019, he also taught a class called “Road to the White House,” during which he and his students examined and analyzed the 2020 Trump vs. Biden election. 

Eberly described Trump as “a serious contender” in the Republican primaries and the 2024 election. “He was the former President of the United States, and he still has a pretty large base in the Republican party and many elected officials that side with him. He has the resources to make a serious run.” Eberly told The Point News that while he is not endorsing Biden as a candidate, “if Trump does run and get the nomination, I suspect that Joe Biden is still the strongest contender for beating him because of the massive resources that come with the incumbency.”

Despite the stains on his presidency, like his impeachment and the Jan. 6, 2020 Capitol riot, Trump still has a large following within the Republican party. Kari Lake, a Trump loyalist who unsuccessfully ran for Arizona governor in the 2022 midterms– and is now using baseless claims of “election fraud” to attempt to overturn the results– said on Twitter that Trump has her “complete and total endorsement.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said on Twitter that if Trump continues to deliver his general tone and messaging, “he will be hard to beat.”

According to NPR, some Republican lawmakers were hesitant to pledge their support for Trump’s candidacy. Several recent polls suggest that conservative voters support Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis over Trump in 2024. Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) told NPR, “I think you are going to see a lot of other people announcing their candidacy as well, we’ve got a deep bench. That’s a really good thing.”

“Because Trump and his allies did so badly in the midterm elections, that has emboldened people to want to find someone else to run. Recent polls show DeSantis beating Trump in Florida and Texas, which are big delegate prizes for the Republican nomination,” Eberly explained.

He commented on the possibility of Trump withdrawing his candidacy in the future if DeSantis surpasses him in popularity. “If the numbers start to look really bad for him, I would expect he would come up with some justification for why he can’t run and then paint himself as the kingmaker for the Republican nomination. I don’t think Trump’s ego would allow him to enter a race that he didn’t know for sure he could win.” Eberly also mentioned that: “Donald Trump has never had loyalty to the Republican Party. I suspect if he felt slighted in any way, he might try to sabotage the Republican nominee.”

Eberly continued, “If we look at those key states that Donald Trump won in 2016 and Biden won back in 2020– Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan– Democrats should not have done particularly well in the 2022 midterm elections, but Democratic governors ended up winning in all three states.”

In addition, Pennsylvania voters elected Democrat John Fetterman and ousted the Republican candidate Mehmet Oz. In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson barely held on to his seat. “To win in 2024, Trump would have to win back these states, but it looks like the Republican brand in those states has been sullied,” said Eberly.

According to a Nov. 2022  Quinnipiac University National Poll, only about one-third of Americans think it is a good thing that Trump is running for president in 2024, and about one-third of Republicans think that Trump’s candidacy is a bad thing.

Eberly explained why support for Trump in the Republican party might be declining: “Republicans running on the idea that the 2020 election was stolen all lost, and they lost by a wider margin than other Republicans lost, which suggest that election denial is turning voters away from candidates.”

Despite the embarrassing decrease in popularity for candidates who ran on platforms of election fraud, Trump has not given any indication that he would go back on his claims. Eberly believes that “there is no way Trump will ever let go of that [election fraud] narrative because then he would have to admit that he lost the election.”

He goes on, “If another Republican gets the nomination and wins, Trump’s time in the Republican party will effectively end. He will not be able to compete with a sitting Republican president for influence,” Eberly said. “[If another Republican beats him,] folks will move on from Donald Trump very quickly because he will become the very thing he is afraid of being: a loser.”

Instability in Haiti Following Political Assassination

By: Bridget Norton

Eric Jean Beptitste, the leader of a minor Haitian political party, the Rally of Progressive National Democrats, was murdered on Oct. 28 outside his home in Port-au-Prince. 

There was an assassination attempt in 2018, which he survived. The Point New reached out to Antonio Ugues, Jr, Associate Professor of Political Science at SMCM and Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, commented that this assassination points to the “weakness of the Haitian state and criminal justice system” through the poorly conducted investigation. 

According to CNN, this assassination is only the latest event in the heightened activity of violent gangs in Port-au-Prince, which has left neighborhoods decimated and famillies displaced. As reported by the United Nations International Organization for Migration, displacement of Haitians due to gang-related violence has tripled in the past five months. 

Haiti has a history of gang-related political assassinations. The previous President, Jouvenel Moise, was murdered a year earlier after he challenged some of the country’s drug and gangs. In the aftermath of the assassination, the country was unstable and the government had little control. And so, power was left in the hands of gangs and foreign investors. Hatian gangs frequently place blockades on fuel and other materials that move into the country through the Port-au-Prince Harbor. The rising gas prices as well as the heightened gang violence have led many to call for the removal of current Prime Minister, Ariel Henry.

Mark Harris, a Haitian artist and democratic activist, was a guest speaker in one of Professor Ugues Jr.’s classes. Harris told TPN that this assassination was rooted in a fundamental lack of “a commonly-held narrarive of life” to ground democratic institutions in Haiti. He points to the French ideals presented in the right of man in the US Constitution as an example. Harris expressed that Haiti lacks these ideals and history, with “independence that is not accompanied by the assertion of voting rights, constitutional governance, or citizenship duties we associate with a functioning state.” In the past, Haitian leaders have derived their power from wealthy elites as well as foreign companies and states.

Instead of a history of democratic ideals, Haiti has a long past of destabilization. Ugues Jr. stated that Haiti was victim to “several debt and financial crises, as well as numerous political challenges stemming from a prolonged dictatorship of Francois ‘papa doc’ Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude ‘baby doc’ Duvalier. Additionally, in 2004, a peacekeeping force founded by the UN was sent to Haiti as it, detailed by Harris,“remains the poorest country in the Americas.” However, these UN forces did not have the positive effects they promised, and have been accused of human rights abuses. The presence of these forces also contributed to wide-spread cholera and corruption in the country, leading to their withdrawal in 2017. The country destabilized further in 2010 when an earthquake hit, damaging their infrastructure and economy. However, some scholars argue that said earthquake did have an overall positive effect, as it exposed the ineffective nature of Haiti’s political system and leaders.

In response to the political tension, the Haitian Ambassador to the US, Bochit Edmond, relayed that Haiti’s goal is to hold democratic elections. However, this is not currently possible because gangs have superior weapons to the government, and the stability and assertion of law that is necessary to maintain democratic elections. And so, Edmond said that Haiti needs international aid to promote order. That being said, Harris expressed that Haiti has previously overcome struggle through their fight for independence, so they could do it again. He predicts that this future struggle will likely result in another political overturn, after which the future of Haiti will be given to those committed to citizen participation and power rooted in the people.

US Midterm Update – A Professor’s Perspective

By Nathan Villiger

Americans went to the polls on Nov. 9, in what would become “probably the third best midterm for any president, ever,” according to Dr. Todd Eberly, professor of political science at St. Mary’s. The 2022 midterms were widely seen by experts as a referendum on Biden’s first two years of rule, and based on previous trends were expected to go poorly for the Democratic Party. 

President Biden’s approval rating as of Nov.7 was 39%, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll; approval ratings of around 40% have historically correlated with a loss of at least four Senate seats and thirty-six House seats. Similarly, commentators pointed to high inflation and rising cost of living as black marks on President Biden’s domestic record, with the war in Ukraine and costly sanctions playing a similar role internationally.

However, despite predictions of a “red wave” and massive Republican success, the final results upset all expectations. In several key races across the nation, Democrats prevailed. Not only did Republicans fail to take the Senate – where the Democrats maintained their narrow majority – they gained control of the House of Representatives only by a slim, two-seat, margin.

As of Saturday, Dec. 3rd, one House race in Wyoming has yet to be called by the Associated Press. Although both vote counts currently lean Republican, a recount is underway in Colorado’s 3rd district, a seat currently held by controversial Republican congresswoman Lauren Boebert.

In the Senate, Democrats flipped one seat; Pennsylvanian Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman defeated television doctor Mehmet Oz by a respectable four-point lead. Meanwhile, the closely-contested Georgia Senate race for Raphael Warnock’s seat has advanced to a runoff between Senator Warnock and his Republican opponent, former college football star Herschel Walker. Senator Warnock led the first-round vote tally by nearly one percentage point. Democrats also managed to stave off conservative challengers in Arizona and Nevada to maintain their slim Senate majority. 

Ultimately, this has been the best midterm performance for any President’s party since the Second World War. Not only have Democrats  managed to maintain control of the Senate, the Republican’s limited success in the House means that major political machinations on their part are equally unlikely. According to Dr. Eberly, “These midterms tell us a number of things. First, is that candidate quality still matters. Despite how partisan our politics has become, Americans still prefer to vote for higher-quality candidates, even if they are Democrats.”

Indeed, political pundits from across the spectrum point to a dearth of high-quality, experienced candidates within the Republican party. The results of the Pennsylvania Senate race are a clear example, with Fetterman, an experienced politician, defeating Oz, a comparative newcomer.

According to Dr. Eberly, experience is not the only reason why Republicans failed: “Second, election denialism and a Trump endorsement are not sure paths to success. Even in state races, no Secretary of State or State Attorney General who supported election denialism was elected or re-elected.”

To voters, belief in the continuation of American democracy was of paramount importance. It is these two factors combined that have resulted in a truly historic midterm election, the reverberations of which will undoubtedly be felt throughout the American political system.

According to Dr. Eberly, experience is not the only reason why Republicans failed: “Second, election denialism and a Trump endorsement are not sure paths to success. Even in state races, no Secretary of State or State Attorney General who supported election denialism was elected or re-elected.” To voters, acceptance of 2020 election was also of paramount importance. It is these two factors combined that have resulted in a truly historic midterm election, the reverberations of which will undoubtedly be felt throughout the American political system.