Category Archives: Freedom of speech and expression

Students Launch Conservative Publication


A dozen University of Virginia students have launched an online newspaper, The Jefferson Independent, to provide news and commentary from a conservative perspective on issues of interest to the UVa community.

“In providing an outlet for intellectual diversity, objective truth, and the marketplace of ideas and debate, our goal is to mainstream conservatism amid an increasingly anti-UVA cultural hegemony,” states the publication’s mission. “Our ideas and values will be unapologetically shared and challenged without fear of being ‘canceled’. Never will we allow intimidation to silence us from upholding truth at Mr. Jefferson’s University.” Continue reading

When “Words Are Violence,” Only One Side Gets to Speak

If you’re not woke, you’re a fascist.

by James A. Bacon

Victoria Spiotto was brought up in a conservative, religious family of Italian descent in Loudoun County.  It was at the University of Virginia where she found her political identity as a conservative. One day in her third year, she was walking the grounds when she came across a Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) table displaying a 9/11 memorial. She found the club appealing, and started learning about thinkers to whom she’d never been exposed to before — the philosophers and thought leaders of conservatism. By her fourth year, she was leader of the club, determined to grow the organization.

Conservatives are mostly invisible at UVa, and they have few means of connecting. Spiotto wanted to let people know the group was out there, that YAF was a club where students of a conservative/libertarian stripe could find like-minded people and make friends. So, she began organizing a series of initiatives to get noticed. “It wasn’t a call to fight.” The idea, she says, was to “stand your ground. Don’t compromise on the truth you believe in.”

YAF now may be the most vilified student organization at UVa. The hostility is unrelenting. Spiotto and her buddies don’t worry for their physical safety. But left-wing students take down their signs and rain down vitriol on social media. Student Council leaders stifle dissent. Continue reading

The Bureaucratic Banality of Academic Oppression

by James A. Bacon

Two-and-a-half years ago, Kieran Ravi Bhattacharya, a medical school student at the University of Virginia, attended a session on “microaggressions” in which psychology professor Beverly Colwell Adams gave a presentation about her research. In what he considered to be a collegial manner, Bhattacharya challenged her analysis.

The challenge was not well received. Indeed, other participants in the session deemed his questions disrespectful. There followed a sequence of events in which Bhattacharya was investigated by the Academic Standards and Achievement Committee for unprofessional behavior, was told to submit to psychological evaluation, was suspended, was branded as a threat to the university community, was banned from the university grounds, and ultimately was expelled. Continue reading

UVa’s Lawn Signage Controversy Flares Anew

by James A. Bacon

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), an organization dedicated to  defending freedom of expression and conscience on America’s college campuses, has sided with fourth-year student Hira Azher regarding her right to post political speech on the door of her room on the Lawn at the University of Virginia.

A new sign showed the grim reaper standing behind a hooded KKK figure and the Rotunda, along with a quote from Kwame Ture: “In order for non-violence to work your opponent must have a conscience,” and the words, “UVA HAS NONE,” and “BURN IT ALL DOWN.”

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Will Historians One Day Contextualize the Contextualizers?

by Walter Smith

The Virginia Magazine newsletter recently featured this article on two newly formed commissions: one to articulate the university’s commitment to free expression and inquiry, the other to pursue recommendations of the Racial Equity Task Force regarding the renaming of buildings and memorials.

Regarding the first commission, the fact that an internationally respected institution founded by Thomas Jefferson, perhaps history’s greatest advocate for free speech, finds it necessary to study the issue is damning on its own terms. No further comment needed.

My primary complaint dwells on the naming and renaming commission. To start with, I cannot believe a name of an inanimate building, thing or place is truly “harmful” to any thinking person. You could name the buildings after Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Nebuchadnezzar, Genghis Khan, or any other offensive person you can think of, and I would not be “harmed.” I might think you were stupid, but I wouldn’t be harmed. Continue reading

Sign Standards for UVa’s Lawn Upheld

No longer allowed

by James A. Bacon

No longer will it be permissible for residents of the University of Virginia’s rooms on the Law to post large signs on their doors proclaiming, “F— UVA,” as a Lawn resident did last semester. Under new policies issued by the University administration, Lawn residents will have to confine their profane proclamations to within the borders of two message boards, reports the Cavalier Daily.

In a collective statement to the student newspaper, several Law residents criticized the new rules as prejudicial against students of color. The restriction, said the statement, will result in “increased surveillance,” which in turn will “inherently harm and endanger the most marginalized and vulnerable students in this space.”

“This policy displays the extent to which the University is selective about who can exercise free speech and the content of that expression. Evidently, BIPOC students and allies cannot be critical of the University while simultaneously living on the Lawn.” Continue reading

“Hard” and “Soft” Threats to Academic Freedom

by James A. Bacon

Dismissals and de-platforming of conservatives in academia have gotten a fair amount of media attention, but they are only the most outrageous and visible of the threats to intellectual diversity on college campuses. In a new study for the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, Eric Kaufman, a professor of politics at the University of London, finds that lesser forms of discrimination against conservatives and other intellectual minorities, such as gender-critical feminists, occur outside of public view.

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Freedom for All or Just for Some?

My son is a third year at UVA. Sadly, he is not having the experience he would have liked. He introduced me to your Jefferson Cabinet website. I thought I would share an email I recently sent to President Ryan. Keep fighting the good fight. — Georganne K. Mallas, CLAS 1995

Dear President Ryan,

I write to share that while I was appreciative of the University offering students a remote winter term class option at no additional tuition charge, I must say, I was appalled by the content of my son’s winter term class: The Art of Resistance. Continue reading

UVa Committee to Study Free Expression Issues

Leslie Kendrick

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia has created two new committees: one to articulate the university’s commitment to free expression and inquiry, and another to examine naming and memorials on the grounds (as the UVa campus is referred to).

“We are working to give voice to our commitment as an educational institution to the free and open exchange of ideas, and to grapple with the complexities of our University’s history and the names that we honor,” Ryan said in making the ann0uncement. “These committees will help us forge a path forward as we continue to address these issues as a community and as a nation.”

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Positive Developments in Freedom of Expression at UVa

University of Virginia Rector James B. Murray Jr.

by James C. Sherlock

I am an alumnus of the University of Virginia and have been one of the most prominent public critics for its drift into left-wing ideology at the expense of academic freedom and the best interests of its students.  

University of Chicago Principles

I have recommended both publicly and privately that my university adopt the University of Chicago Principles, or their equivalent.  Continue reading