Tag Archives: Lawn controversy

We Are Losing the Soul of Our University

TO: All UVA Alumni and Friends Who Care About Our University

FROM: The Jefferson Council

RE: We Are Losing the Soul of Our University

DATE: May 20, 2021

On the eve of Final Exercises at our University, we, the founding members and Board of the Jefferson Council, feel the need to send out this letter regarding very troubling developments at our beloved University. Every aspect of the legacy of UVA is under threat from our President and his hand-picked administration. They have a social justice agenda that is in many cases contrary to the values at UVA that made our institution so unique and so beloved.

We cannot solve everything in one fell swoop. Like the adage about how to eat an elephant, the answer is one bite at a time. Therefore, we have narrowed our focus and set our goals to address four core issues at UVA that we know to have wide-spread alumni support. These four core issues of The Jefferson Council are as follows:

  1. Open Dialogue: We will fight for the University to adopt and enforce a set of principles providing for open dialogue from all parties within the University. No one should be vilified or physically abused or have their grades docked for expressing a contrary opinion on any issue, political or social.
  2. Mr. Jefferson: We will fight to protect the legacy of Mr. Jefferson as our Founder and as a Founding Father of America.
  3. The Lawn: We will fight to remove all signage from the Lawn doors and preserve the sanctity of the Academic Village.
  4. The Honor System: We will fight to resuscitate and preserve the Honor System at UVA. It has been severely weakened and will only survive with a concerted effort by the Board of Visitors, the Administration, the alumni, and the students.

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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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

Did UVa Stack the Deck in Its Lawn Selection Process?

by James A. Bacon

It is deemed a great honor to be one of the 47 fourth-year students at the University of Virginia awarded a residence on the Lawn, Thomas Jefferson’s architectural masterpiece and World Heritage site. A committee of 60 students selects the residents from a pool of applicants, in theory based on their record of “unselfish service and achievement in their respective fields of activity and academics.”

But when the Cavalier Daily published an article yesterday providing the racial/ethnic background of the individuals who were offered a spot on the Lawn next year, it didn’t emphasize their accomplishments. Rather, drawing from data provided by Dean of Students Allen Groves, the article focused on the increased demographic “diversity” of the Lawn residents.

“Students of Color” received nearly 60% of the offers this year, compared to only 30% last year, reported the student-run newspaper.

The dramatic one-year shift in the racial/ethnic composition of Lawn residents raises the question of whether race and ethnicity has become an explicit but not-stated-publicly criteria for selection. Continue reading

Nov. 22, 2020 Letter from Aubrey M. Daniel III to Rector James B. Murray, Jr.

Dear Rector Murray,

Honor calls us to be honorable to each other not merely by not committing
transgressions, but also by doing reverence to the other in our midst.
— by Professor Michael Suarez, S.J.
Adopted by the Honor Committee

UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering
— by James C. Sherlock

The Jaw Dropping Political Contributions of UVa’s Board of Visitors
— by DJ Rippert

Ryan Wilts in Conversation with [his student]
— by James A. Bacon

GRIM: President Ryan shouldn’t live in a mansion
By Adam Grim

The reasons I decided to return to this debate are all shown above, as well as my review of your last letter. I am deeply concerned about the health of The Honor Code, headlines which demonstrate the reputation of the University has been tarnished, as well as the financial damage caused by lost donations, all of which will continue unless you fulfill your fiduciary duties to the University and the
people of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Continue reading

Is Love More Powerful than Hate on UVa’s Lawn?

A University of Virginia student shared the photo above and appended the following anonymous note:

I am a student at UVA. I put out these signs this morning (10/31) to show my support for the University, and to counter the hate in the messages posted on the doors behind the signs. All they say is the simple message “I love UVA.”

I put the signs up at 8:00 am. In less than 1 hr 1/2 hours, the fourth year living in lawn Room 10, with friends, ripped all the signs down. You can see my signs in Room 10 in one of the attached photos.

So much for free speech.

Please speak out. The First Amendment applies to everyone.

Question: How will the UVa administration spin this incident? President Jim Ryan says the student who posted “F— UVA” on her door is protected by free speech. Does our correspondent also have a protected right to express the sentiment on a sign that says “I ♥ UVA”? Does the occupant of Room 10, which is located near the room with the “F— UVA” sign, have the right to take down signs she disapproves of? If so, do other students have the right to take down her sign? Continue reading

Envision This: a Lawn with No Signage

Look, ma, no signs! Residential rooms on the University of Virginia’s Lawn in 2010 before unsightly signage became ubiquitous. Source: mbell1975 flickr account.

by James A. Bacon

In a letter written to Aubrey Daniel, one of the strongest critics of the UVa administration, Rector James B. Murray Jr. brings out new facts and arguments regarding Jim Ryan’s handling of the “F— UVA” Lawn sign controversy.

Criticism has focused on a student’s use of profanity in a sign on the door of her Lawn residence. Although the university has rules against the indiscriminate display of signage, it has not enforced them in recent years. Therefore, Ryan has decided, singling out the student to remove her offensive sign at this time would violate her right to free speech. Recent photos focusing on a handful of offensive signs, Murray writes, “do not tell the full story.” He elaborates: Continue reading

UVA’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

Ms. Azher’s pinboard pictured here has a note that states: “I stand with farm workers”

by James C. Sherlock
University of Virginia
College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

Hira Azher’s profane sign on the door of her room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn has made headlines, and the ensuing controversy has raised many questions. This article will highlight a new issue. University administrators, I will argue, botched the handling of the incident by turning what should have been a breach-of-contract issue into a constitutional freedom-of-speech case.

After alumni raised objections to the now-infamous sign, which said “F— UVA,” President Jim Ryan sought legal advice from University Counsel Timothy Heaphy. Heaphy concluded that the student’s use of profanity was protected by the First Amendment. Although the resident contract signed by Lawn residents gives the University the right to regulate signage, he argued, the institution’s failure to enforce that particular provision in the past essentially gave Azher a pass.

But my analysis suggests that the contract is clear. The University could have enforced it when Ms. Azher breached it with her door sign, which is prohibited by both the contract and University fire regulations. Continue reading

The “F— UVA” Girl Speaks

Hira Azher, from her Twitter account

by James A. Bacon

Hira Azher, the young University of Virginia woman thrust into the limelight after she posted the infamous “Fuck UVA” sign on the door of her Lawn residence, has written a column in the Cavalier Daily to defend her action, lambaste UVa President Jim Ryan, and attack the university as a white supremacist institution.

Ms. Azher comes across as self-absorbed and self-pitying, wallowing in the rhetoric of grievance and victimhood. If you think that assessment is harsh, read the column for the full text to see if I am portraying her views unfairly. 

By way of background, Azher told WVIR TV that she was prompted to mount the sign on the door after suffering an injury and surgery to her ankle. She faulted the university for its lack of Americans for Disability Act accessibility on the Lawn and its response to her injury. “The solution was not to make the lawn more accessible,” she said, “the solution was to find me alternative housing for up to a month, which in itself is a problem.” Continue reading

“Where Did This Sudden Hate for the University Come From?”

Letter from Hooper Neale, Class of 2017…

I would like to start this letter out by saying that I love the University of Virginia. I attended UVA from August 2013 – May 2017, and those were probably the best four years of my life thus far. Twenty-nineteen was another one of my favorite years, largely because I travelled to Minneapolis in April to see the UVA basketball team win March Madness, and then travelled to Philadelphia the
next month to see the Lacrosse team take home a championship as well.

Everyone who knows me realizes my deep love for UVA and my passion for encouraging others to attend and/or visit the University, in hope that they may experience the same love I have. Unsurprisingly, it has been heartbreaking for me to see what has been allowed at the University during the past month
and a half. Continue reading