Category Archives: Freedom of speech and expression

UVA Grad Students Urge Withholding of Year-End Grades

From UCWVA Instagram post

From UCWVA Instagram post

by James A. Bacon

The United Campus Workers of Virginia (UCWVA) at the University of Virginia has launched a campaign urging faculty and graduate students to withhold grades until the Ryan administration capitulates to its demands of amnesty for people arrested during the May 4 crackdown on the pro-Palestinian “liberation zone.”

“UVA exec admin stood by while state police cracked down on a peaceful gathering,” says the UVA chapter. “If you disagree with the repression of campus protest, join your colleagues in this immediate action to demand amnesty!”

The Jefferson Council has not yet been able to determine to degree to which the grade-repression movement has gained traction. However, UCWVA claims on Instagram that Provost Ian Baucom “is sending scared emails.”

“Punishing students by withholding their grades to pressure the Ryan administration is reckless, irresponsible, and grounds for immediate dismissal,” said Tom Neale, president of the Jefferson Council.

Neale urged students, faculty, and parents to notify him at [email protected] if they know of any classes where semester grades are being withheld. Send him the names of professors and graduate students and the classes they teach. He will make sure the Administration and the Board of Visitors are made aware. Continue reading

So Much for Empathetic Listening



by James A. Bacon

Militant students and faculty at the University of Virginia — and elsewhere — often talk about having “hard conversations” about the tragic realities in Gaza. To see what those “conversations” sound like, click on the video above.

It was hard alright — hard for President Jim Ryan. The students had no interest in confronting any discomfiting truths themselves.

The Daily Progress has the back story.

Ryan had an appointment on his calendar for more than a month with UVA Apartheid Divest, a coalition of 43 student groups demanding that UVA divest endowment assets from any company doing business with Israel. He entered Pavilion VI on the Lawn, accompanied by Chief Student Affairs Officer Kenyon Bonner and Dean of Students Cedric Rucker, expecting the meeting he had agreed to. But the students had other ideas.

“President Ryan, your students are waiting for you outside,” they said. They stepped out of the room and onto the Lawn where 30 classmates had gathered. Many had red paint on their hands, symbolizing blood. Continue reading

The Revolution Consumes Its Own

by James A. Bacon

Militant students and faculty held an online gripe session today skewering President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom, and their rhetoric — including calls for Ryan’s resignation — is more heated than ever. While I support the actions Ryan and Baucom took to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza, where protesters were flouting university regulations and spoiling for a confrontation, I have to say that the failure of University leadership to consistently enforce its rules makes it partially to blame for the mess.

For example, Team Ryan has long tolerated political messaging on Lawn room doors in violation of occupants’ lease terms. We’ve been through this drill before. The infamous “F— UVA” sign in 2020 was a trigger for furious alumni to organize and create the Jefferson Council. Ryan allowed the sign to remain on the Grounds that taking it down would violate the student’s free speech. But he promised to enforce new lease rules, which limited signage to a small bulletin board on the doors, in the future. Enforcement faltered, and the signs blossomed. Now, just in time for graduation ceremonies, a new “F— UVA sign” (shown above) has been taped to a Lawn door.

Ryan defends his action shutting down the pro-Palestinian tent compound last Saturday on the grounds, maintaining that there are limits to free speech based on “time, place and manner.” I agree. He did the right thing. But why should campus militants have taken him seriously? Lawn room residents had been flouting the rules for months — as the Jefferson Council has repeatedly documented. Continue reading

UVA Soft on Nazis but Brutal to Students?

White supremacists carry tiki torches in 2017 march through Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village. Photo credit: Salon.com.

by James A. Bacon

A continuing meme in the ongoing rhetorical battle between leftists and anarchists on the one hand and the Ryan administration on the other is that University of Virginia authorities brutally cracked down on peaceful protesters May 4 while allowing white supremacists to march through UVA unmolested in 2017.

For example, the Virginia Student Power Network posted the following on its Instagram account three days ago:

#Charlottesville students who stood up to torch-bearing Nazis in 2017 affirm their solidarity with the UVA encampment for Gaza, which is currently being threatened by dozens of cops in riot gear – the same police agencies that were fully aware of + allowed 300+ white supremacists with torches and guns on UVA’s campus.

UVA President Jim Ryan took the meme seriously enough that he addressed it during the virtual “town hall” meeting yesterday in defense of his decision to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza protest. Continue reading

Critics Don’t Buy Ryan’s Tent-Takedown Rationale

by James A. Bacon

From professors to Lawn residents, members of the University of Virginia community continue to criticize President Jim Ryan and senior UVA leadership for their decision Saturday to shut down the UVA Encampment for Gaza “liberated zone.” While Ryan’s defense of his decision during a virtual “town hall” meeting Tuesday won praise in some quarters, such as online UVA-parent fora, many students and faculty members continued to condemn the action.

“We have nothing but contempt for the state, city and county police…” stated a poster on the door of a Lawn resident. “To call these officers of the law pigs is perhaps too mild.” Another sign captured in photos published on blog of the local talk-radio Schilling Show expressed “bitter opposition” to “the war and totalitarianism in the nation.”

In its coverage of the town hall, The Daily Progress called into question details in the narrative of events detailed by Ryan and University Police Department Chief Tim Longo and described the “town hall” as more akin to a press conference than a genuine give-and-take. Continue reading

Team Ryan Defends Shutdown of Tent Encampment

President Jim Ryan during virtual Town Hall

by James A. Bacon

The University of Virginia called in the Virginia State Police to disperse “UVA Encampment for Gaza” protesters because they feared the demonstration was spiraling out of control, said President Jim Ryan, University Police Chief Tim Longo and other University leaders in a virtual town hall early this afternoon.

Some protesters had tried to smuggle in wooden structures that could be used as barricades to fortify the encampment, as seen at other pro-Palestinian demonstrations at other universities. Although that effort was thwarted, law enforcement authorities learned that four individuals associated with previous Charlottesville events “that resulted in violence” had entered the so-called liberation zone. Meanwhile, organizers were using social media to appeal to more outsiders to join them, and the numbers were growing.

Ryan said he acted before more outsiders joined, the encampment became more entrenched and the potential for violence increased. “If we didn’t act, would we be faced with 50 tents and 20 outsiders?” he said. “Where would we be then?”

Ryan, Longo and Provost Ian Baucom stated repeatedly that protesters spurned repeated efforts to engage in dialogue. The limited communications that did occur were relayed through faculty members. University officials were at pains to contrast the anarchist protest with other pro-Palestinian demonstrations, organized by student groups, in compliance with university guidelines. Continue reading

With the Tents Down, the Blowback Begins

by James A. Bacon

Following the decision to take down the tents in the UVA Solidarity Encampment for Gaza “liberated zone” at the University of Virginia Saturday, UVA President Jim Ryan is facing strong blowback from leftist elements in the UVA and Charlottesville communities.

Pro-Palestinian protesters had rebuked the administration’s orders to take down the tents and refrain from the use of loudspeakers in violation of University rules. After repeated warnings, the decision was made to send in Virginia State Troopers in riot gear Saturday to break up a tent encampment of anarchists and militants near the University Chapel, resulting in the arrest of 25.

The Jefferson Council contends that the takedown was fully justified. The issue was not the protesters’ right to free speech — they had been shouting and chanting their pro-Palestinian views for almost a week — but their refusal to abide by the rules regarding time, place and manner of protests that everyone else is expected to obey. Continue reading

Militants to Ryan Administration: “Bullshit”

Source: UVA Encampment for Gaza Instagram post

by James A. Bacon

Pro-Palestinian militants erected tents last night at their “liberation zone for Gaza” near the University of Virginia chapel in defiance of orders to take them down. The administration’s immediate response: engage in dialogue.

“We are writing to acknowledge the document you shared with us early this morning outlining the interests of your group,” wrote Kenyon Bonner, vice president and chief student affairs officer, and Brie Gertler, vice provost for academic affairs, to the Gaza zone participants.

“We thought it would be most productive to respond in writing, with the hope of scheduling a time to discuss your goals in greater detail with the appropriate representatives from your group,” they said.

The protesters posted their response, written in bold letters over a copy of the letter, on Instagram: “Bullshit.” Continue reading

At UVA, One Pro-Palestinian Protest Disperses, a Second Persists

by James A. Bacon

One of two pro-Palestinian demonstrations at the University of Virginia wound down around 5 p.m. yesterday without incident. Although the rally was marked by all-too-familiar anti-Israel chants and sloganeering, protesters dispersed at the scheduled time. A parallel demonstration, a tent-free “encampment,” continues this morning.

University officials set clear expectations from the beginning that university rules would be enforced. When a pro-Palestinian group erected tents Tuesday near the University Chapel in imitation of encampments at other campuses, university authorities quickly told them to take down the structures, for which they had not obtained permits. In other interactions, Police Chief Tim Longo personally engaged with protesters to inform them about university policy regarding trespassing and amplified sound.

“The protest activity near the University Chapel has continued peacefully and in compliance with University policy since it began Tuesday afternoon,” said University spokesperson Brian Coy. “Organizers have complied with requests to remove tents and other prohibited materials.” Continue reading

Amid Arrests on Other Campuses, Tensions Mount at UVA

by James A. Bacon

As a wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations and encampments rolled across Virginia college campuses yesterday, university presidents held firm in enforcing rules governing the orderly conduct of protests. The day after Virginia Tech shut down an unpermitted “liberation zone” Sunday, arresting 82, Virginia Commonwealth University closed an encampment last night, arresting 13. At the University of Virginia, pro-Palestinian groups were ordered to take down their tents, erected before the main event today called for by protest organizers, but were allowed to continue their vigil.

Media reports indicated, however, that protests spread yesterday to Mary Washington University, where they had died down from a previous eruption, and to Christopher Newport University.

The Virginia protests were overshadowed in national media Tuesday night by resolution of the standoff at Columbia University, where New York police broke up a liberation zone and evicted students who had barricaded themselves inside a building.

If university presidents in the Old Dominion needed any stiffening of resolve, they got it from Governor Glenn Youngkin who, appearing on CNN Sunday, said, “We’re not going to have encampments and tents put up and yes, we will protect the ability to peacefully express yourself, but we’re not going to have the kind of hate speech and intimidation we’re seeing across the country in Virginia.”

After the knock-down of the encampment at VCU Tuesday, the main action in Virginia shifted to UVA. Continue reading