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.

The professor indicated to students on the first day that it would be a leftist leaning class – being forthcoming was appreciated. At least the battle lines were drawn up front – my son knew what he could and could not say in class.  Many, if not most, colleges and universities in today’s world are incapable of admitting any leaning, when in fact, there has been a slow and steady lean to one side. UVA is complicit in this – events of this year, like the infamous “expression of speech” on the Lawn door and the University’s handling of it, make this abundantly clear.

I urge you to make every effort to steady the tilt at the University. “Safe” spaces have become havens for the favoring of one ideology over another. Students should not have to walk by “KKKops” signs posted on Lawn room doors and flyers strewn across sidewalks that say “Eat the Rich” unless those with differing opinions are equally permitted and encouraged to express their views and the expression of those views is equally protected.

The Art of Resistance class featured several guest speakers like a “parade organizer” who “is Antifa proud”; another speaker was tweeting before and during his presentation to the class – which tweets included reference to getting high on marijuana as he prepped for his guest presentation to a college class, then proceeded to tweet during the entirety of his presentation mocking the new world of college and zoom. Again, no surprise given the professor’s admitted left lean tilt to the content. Tuition dollars well spent? I think not. My question is, where is the opportunity for students to express and hear differing views?

Why are you standing by and allowing freedom of speech to be subverted into the “freedom to only hear what one group of students wants to hear”? For one of the winter term assignments, my son cleverly used the “my body, my choice” mantra to reflect his position on face masks (he is against them, and while that is a wildly unpopular position amongst his peers, he is absolutely entitled to his opinion). The class enjoyed his presentation but only because they perceived it as a sarcastic play on words – they were completely incapable of recognizing that any point of view other than their own actually exists. Why is that ok with you?

Where is the “safe space” for my son and his like-minded peers? They keep their opinions to themselves lest they be ostracized, graded poorly, called out for being the “ist-du jour” by the woke. When you raise the opinions of one group, you effectively silence all others. In my days on Grounds, free and frank discourse flowed. Different ideas were shared, discussed and debated respectfully without hatred or fear of retribution. Those free and open exchanges of ideas challenged us back then and made us all better – better communicators, better thinkers, better citizens. The University’s job is to continue to challenge students.  The only students being challenged now are those like my son.  How incredibly disappointing…


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