Tag Archives: Lawn controversy

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

Moving Beyond Free speech — Why I Say F—k U.Va.

Hira Azher posted the “F— UVA” sign on her door on the Lawn. In this op-ed published in the Cavalier Daily, she justifies her actions.

Oct. 12, 2020 Letter from Aubrey Daniel to Rector James B. Murray, Jr.

Aubrey M. Daniel III, an alumnus of the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond law school, made his name as a young Judge Advocate General captain who successfully prosecuted the court-martial of Lt. William L. Calley Jr. for his role in the infamous My Lai Massacre. Daniel went on, after his military career, to become a top litigator with the Williams & Connolly LLP law firm.

Letter from an alumnus…

“We ought not to die before we have explained ourselves.”
  –Thomas Jefferson

I have read your response and the advice given to you by University Counsel, Timothy J. Heaphy, both dated September 29. Rather than characterizing your response as a “Statement in Support of the Administration,” wouldn’t it be more accurate to say it is your defense of President Ryan’s conduct and not that of the entire administration? However, if you were involved in making the decision to do nothing, that decision should be more carefully scrutinized. It certainly could reveal a bias in your evaluation of President Ryan’s conduct.

I was somewhat surprised that President Ryan did not respond on his own behalf to my letter. Now he has in his statement, “Great and Good Revisited,” on October 02 and in his message to me on October 05.

Continue reading

Profanity Proliferates on the Lawn

by James A. Bacon

After a resident of the Lawn at the University of Virginia posted signage saying, “Fuck UVa,” outraged alumni raised a stink in a series of letters to UVa President Jim Ryan. For the time being, said Ryan, Lawn residents’ free speech is protected by the First Amendment, but the administration is working on a longer-term solution. In the meantime, at least one other Lawn resident has joined the first in using the same profanity to express his/her/their/zir/its antipathy to the university (in the sign seen at right).

Rob Schilling, a talk radio host at WINA radio in Charlottesville, photographed that sign, as well as several others displayed on Lawn doors, and displayed them on a videocast. (No direct link, but you can find the videocast on The Schilling Show blog.) Continue reading

UVa Counsel Opines on Free Speech

The “F— UVa” sign on the door of a University of Virginia resident of the Lawn violates no university policy and is protected by the First Amendment, concluded University Counsel Timothy J. Heaphy. However, a new policy banning all signs on lawn room doors could pass constitutional muster if applied prospectively instead of retrospectively.

“A new policy banning signs would also maintain the historic character of the Lawn, consistent with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” Heaphy opined in a letter addressed to university Rector James B. Murray Jr. on Sept. 29. “Students would have ample other opportunities to exercise free speech even if they could not post signs on their doors.”

However, he warned, “a blanket rule against all posters would be overinclusive, as it would remove the ability of any lawn resident to use his or her prominent
residence as a forum to promote events, highlight activities, or show support for particular perspectives or ideas.” Read the full BOV Statement in support of Ryan.

Bacon’s bottom line: Heaphy’s argument against restricting free speech makes sense to anyone who reveres the U.S. Constitution. I just wonder how long the logic would hold up if someone posted “Blue Lives Matter” or “Make America Great Again” on a door sign on the Lawn. Can anyone be found to do such a thing? It would make an instructive experiment. Continue reading

Sept. 28, 2020 Letter from Aubrey M. Daniel III to James E. Ryan

Re: The “FUCK UVA” Lawn Doors

Dear President Ryan,

“Where would you be without Thomas Jefferson?” You wouldn’t be the President of The University of Virginia because it would not exist. The Presidency of The University is a great honor and carries with it great responsibilities including protecting a very important piece of public property.

My name is Aubrey M Daniel III.

This is not the first time I have written a letter to a President. Almost fifty years ago, I wrote a letter to then President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon. Like today, it was a turbulent time in our country. The country was divided over the War in Vietnam.

At that time, I was 29 years old, a graduate of The University and T. C. Williams School of Law, and a JAGC Captain. I was the chief prosecutor in the court-martial of Lt. William L. Calley, Jr. for his role in the My Lai Massacre, the slaughter of old men, women, children, and babies. Those victims were “the enemy” in the eyes of some and “inhuman gooks” in the eyes of others. Though they were not white, the color of their skin made no difference to me under the law. I strongly believe ALL lives matter. The verdict caused the greatest national reaction of any case ever tried. It had been an  enormous responsibility for me to reveal to the world the truth about what happened in My Lai. It was a painful experience both for me and for the country. Continue reading

“Enough Is enough. Where does this end?”

Thomas M. Neale
College ’74

Dear President Ryan, Provost Magill, Dean of Students Groves, VP for Advancement Mark Luellen, and the University Board of Visitors:

The signatories below and I are writing you in light of the Friday, September 11, Board of Visitors decision to act on the recommendations of the Racial Equity Task Force, among which is a decision to “contextualize” the Thomas Jefferson Statue in front of the Rotunda.

Many universities across America are renaming endowments, removing statues, and eradicating the names of prominent alumni/ae and benefactors whose names adorn university buildings and academic departments. The men and women whose names are being removed do not meet the ethical criteria or
societal norms of our 21st century culture according to the Faculty,  Administrative leadership, and governing Boards of these universities. In short, these decisions are made, and judgments decreed, based upon revisionist historical analyses rather than the ethical norms and moral tenets that were
prevalent during these men and women’s lifetimes.

I will cite two of the best known incidents since one is germane to a prominent UVA alumnus and the other is from a nearby respected university undergoing similar internal critical Progressive self-analysis: Continue reading