With Glenn Youngkin’s inauguration, policies are already changing


Elaine Godwin ‘22 is an English and Data Science double major. As a queer person, they have a unique view on the world and is dedicated to inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. Email Elaine at sgodwin@email.wm.edu.

The views expressed are the author’s own. 

The last two years of the pandemic have not been easy, but the College of William and Mary has waned in its accommodations for students who may struggle with so-called COVID-19 University. As a neurodiverse person, I have particularly struggled, and entering my last semester here has only increased the pressure to succeed. In recent weeks, however, I’ve had to focus more on the political and how it will affect both my personal and professional lives; suffice to say, it has been nerve wracking.

Glenn Youngkin officially entered the gubernatorial office on January 15, 2022 for the state of Virginia. As a Republican, he has already shown himself to be rather red in just these past few days, and his policy stances have come out into the light. In particular, his executive order ending mask mandates in Virginia public schools has caused a lot of outcry amid growing Omicron concerns.

In my home city of Chesapeake, there is even a lawsuit against Governor Glenn Youngkin based on this decision. Many parents and school employees are worried what a lack of masks and other preventative measures might contribute to the overall case numbers and health of the population. Many other cities have also vowed to fight this order, and are instead keeping masks a requirement of physically attending class. Youngkin’s administration has been quick to assert that they will be contesting those who are against the order, even up to withholding funding if necessary.

Of course, this is only the top of the many orders Governor Youngkin has been eager to release in these last two weeks that concern education and schools. The administration also fulfilled its goal of restoring “individual freedoms” by removing the vaccine mandate which applied to state employees. This will only go to reinforce the harmful anti-vaccine narratives circulating the country, as well as a larger risk to immunocompromised individuals who rely on both mask and vaccine mandates to help keep them safe.

One of the other concerns is the removal of Critical Race Theory from public education, which leaves only an extremely white-washed history for young students to learn in its wake. While most schools are not explicitly teaching Critical Race Theory now, Youngkin’s Executive Orders directly say, “By virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby issue this Executive Order to ensure excellence in K-12 public education in the Commonwealth by taking the first step on Day One to end the use of inherently divisive concepts, including Critical Race Theory, and to raise academic standards.” If anything, public schools already have a low bar set when it comes to intersectional values, so this only eradicates the previous bare minimum.

Kimberle Crenshaw, activist and professor of Critical Race Theory, wrote that “We are a society that has been structured from top to bottom by race. You don’t get beyond that by deciding not to talk about it anymore. It will always come back; it will always reassert itself over and over again.”

As a liberal arts student, one who is both queer and as mindful as possible to POC and their unique experiences of oppression, this is quite frankly terrifying. I’ve already encountered enough cishet and/or white male professors (not to mention other students) utilizing a very narrow mindset when it comes to the history and literature that I study, espousing white supremacist ideologies in small doses here and there. Many of these professors are tenured and the College is unwilling to change this — but to now have it codified within the state legislature is absurd, even if it only affects K-12 at the current moment.

It is difficult to retain hope during these times as both a student and as a political activist when so much is working against myself and the values I hold. We are only seeing the tip of the iceberg for what’s to come from conservative administrations bent on worsening the state of our society, Governor Glenn Youngkin included. I encourage my fellow students, especially those with inherent privilege, to recognize this and do everything in our power to fight against the system; simultaneously, I encourage the College itself to be empathetic towards our difficult circumstances during this semester of increased COVID-19 rates and constrictive policies.



  1. I hope students protest W&M giving Youngkin an honorary degree in the coming couple of weeks.

    Youngkin, as a spreader of lies and a dismantler of environmental protections does not deserve any honorable recognition from an institution that values veracity and the power of good.


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