Violet Crown Premiers Documentary on University Funding

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As state funding for public higher education is dwindling across the country, a new documentary tackling the issue is premiering in Charlottesville. “Starving the Beast” hits the big screen Friday night in downtown Charlottesville at Violet Crown Cinemas. 

It spotlights funding dramas that have unfolded at a handful of public universities, including at UVA where the board of visitors ousted university President Teresa Sullivan four years ago. 

The cinema owner is the producer of the documentary. 

UVA media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan plays a big role in the film.  He argues that universities should not be run like corporate businesses and students should not simply be seen as consumers completing a transaction, but rather as public goods preparing to contribute their knowledge to society.

“There is a multistate, multifront ideological attack on public higher education. What happened to UVA in the summer of 2012 was just the local version of it.

I have great hope that through this film “Starving the Beast,” people around the country will be inspired by not only how people at UVA rallied for the values and influence of a great public university but also that they will appreciate that there is a real battle to be fought.”

The documentary reports that state funding for public higher education has dropped from 60 percent in 1980 to just 12 percent in 2015. 

A panel discussion will follow featuring Vaidhyanathan, the film's producer, and George Cohen, the former chair of the UVA Faculty Senate who helped reinstate President Sullivan by issuing a historic vote of no confidence in the UVA Board of Visitors.

The screening kicks off at 7 p.m.   

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