University of Virginia student paper criticizes freedom of speech

March 23, 2022 • 1:15 pm

. . . well, not all speech—just the speech that the editors of the student newspaper The Cavalier Daily don’t like.

But first, remember Emma Camp? On March 7 I mentioned her and her NYT op-ed in the Hili dialogue:

*An article to read: an op-ed in the NYT by Emma Camp, a senior at the University of Virginia: “I came to college eager to debate. I found self-censorship instead.

I went to college to learn from my professors and peers. I welcomed an environment that champions intellectual diversity and rigorous disagreement. Instead, my college experience has been defined by strict ideological conformity. Students of all political persuasions hold back — in class discussions, in friendly conversations, on social media — from saying what we really think. Even as a liberal who has attended abortion rights protests and written about standing up to racism, I sometimes feel afraid to fully speak my mind.

In the classroom, backlash for unpopular opinions is so commonplace that many students have stopped voicing them, sometimes fearing lower grades if they don’t censor themselves. According to a 2021 survey administered by College Pulse of over 37,000 students at 159 colleges, 80 percent of students self-censor at least some of the time. Forty-eight percent of undergraduate students described themselves as “somewhat uncomfortable” or “very uncomfortable” with expressing their views on a controversial topic during classroom discussions. At U.V.A., 57 percent of those surveyed feel that way.

She got a lot of pushback on this from social media, with some people even saying she was a white supremacist because they thought she was photographed at the statue where the Charlottesville riots started. (In reality, her article had a picture of her in front of the Rotunda, the main building of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where Ms. Camp is a senior.) But that kind of pushback is free speech, even if it’s erroneous speech.

Anyway, any time someone says their speech is being chilled (especially if they’re conservatives), they get piled on by progressive Leftists who deny the existence of cancel culture. But the fact is that Camp called attention to a serious problem afflicting the majority of American college students: they’re afraid to speak their minds for fear of offending people, particularly woke people.

And now Ms. Camp’s own school has struck back at her in a remarkably stupid op-ed in the student paper. I learned about it from Camp’s own tweet:

And, sure enough, most of the editorial board of the paper, consisting of “the Executive Editor, the Editor-in-Chief, the two Opinion Editors, their Senior Associate and an Opinion Columnist,” wrote the piece below, which is basically a “free speech for me but not for thee” piece. When will they ever learn?

Click on the screenshot to read:

Right off the bat, Ms. Camp gets a brickbat:

Most recently, a University student made national headlines for lamenting the state of free speech at the University. More often than not, this speech was defended by claiming a need for intellectual diversity. In looking at each of these instances, we as an Editorial Board found ourselves questioning what should be protected under the premise of “diversity of thought” and more importantly, what values we choose to accept on Grounds. For us, the answer is simple. Hateful rhetoric is violent — and this is impermissible.

Two things to note here. First, the desire to ban “hateful rhetoric,” which turns out to be right-wing rhetoric (Mike Pence is their prime example). Second, the false equation of “hateful rhetoric” with “violence”, which it’s not. “Violence” has become one of those words whose meaning is deliberately watered down to turn what comes out of one’s mouth into the equivalent of a fist in someone else’s face. Nobody should accept that kind of rhetoric. When you hear it, just tell the speaker that they’re wrong.

So let’s abandon the stupid idea that offensive speech is “violence” and see what The Cavalier Daily considers offensive speech.  Their archetypal example is. . . Mike Pence:

A student organization recently announced its plans to host former vice president Mike Pence this April to speak in Old Cabell Hall. For Pence, gay couples signify a “societal collapse,” Black lives do not matter, transgender individuals and immigrants do not deserve protection and the pandemic should not be taken seriously. Nevertheless, the University has accepted Pence’s visit as an “opportunity to hear from, and engage with, leaders and experts from a wide variety of fields and perspectives.” So-called “perspectives” should not be welcomed when they spread rhetoric that directly threatens the presence and lives of our community members. The LGBTQ+ individuals Pence has attacked, the Black lives he refuses to value and the successful stories of immigration he and the former president hope to prevent — these very people are our peers, our neighbors and our community members. We refuse to condone platforming Pence.

Even if everything they say about Pence is true (and I suspect he wouldn’t sign on to all of that), it doesn’t matter. He is not calling for violence; he’s standing for Republican values. As odious as the man is, his values are held by roughly half of the American public. Does that mean that anyone espousing Republican politics should be considered a hatemonger and banned from the campus? Apparently so. There is no room for debate about Black Lives Matter, what “rights” transgender individuals have, or about how do deal with the coronavirus. It’s the editors’ way or the highway. (Of course I’m much more likely to be on their side than on Pence’s side, but that’s not the point.)

But wait! There’s more!

Pence is further tarred by being equated not just to Donald Trump (and remember, Pence finally admitted that the election was fair), but also to the white supremacists who congregated and rioted at Charlottesville in 2017. My emphasis below:

While Pence’s stop at the University may be part of a lecture series, it is undeniable that his presence means something fundamentally different here than on other college campuses. Pence plans to “take a stand for America’s founding.” Given recent history, this should sound warning bells. Four years ago, hundreds of white supremacists flocked to Charlottesville to express their racist and violent beliefs. While they descended upon the Downtown Mall in a violent and deadly rally, we must remember — their first stop that weekend was here. We cannot forget this fact — the first place white supremacists felt comfortable expressing themselves was through a torch-lit march on our Grounds. Let us be clear — we must seriously consider the environment we wish to tolerate. Let us not forget that for four years, Pence served alongside the man who called those same white supremacists “very fine people.” Pence’s presence on Grounds signifies a tolerance of rhetoric that has already harmed our community — in fact, the very building that Pence will speak in was constructed to hide Black citizens so as not to disrupt the landscape of Grounds. Though Pence’s language may not be as overt as the white supremacy expressed during the events of Aug. 11 and 12, we must all be concerned about the message his rhetoric could imply we accept.

So Pence doesn’t have freedom of speech at U. Va. (a state school, which means it has to obey the First Amendment) because of his association with Trump, who praised white supremacists. This is third-hand demonization.

And so, the privileged and condescending editors of the Cavalier Daily conclude that there are specified “values” of the University of Virginia (are there? really?), and anybody opposing those values loses their right to speak on campus:

Simply put, there is a blatant dichotomy between the values that Pence and the University hold. Once so-called politics turn into transphobia, homophobia and racism, they are no longer mere political beliefs — but rather bigotry that threatens the well-being and safety of students on Grounds. The Cavalier Daily’s Editorial Board does not condone platforming an individual that not only denies the existence of our diverse community, but participates in the violent rhetoric that perpetuates harm against these individuals. To our administration — we implore you to do better. Protect your students. To our fellow students and community members, particularly those who have been adversely affected by Pence — we stand with you.

They might as well have written: “To our administration, we implore you to invite only those speakers with Progressive Democratic viewpoints. Protect your students from hearing anything that might offend them.”

It’s particularly galling when a newspaper, especially one at a government-funded school, comes out against the First Amendment. For make no mistake about it: the kind of speech that the newspaper would ban (if they could) is absolutely permitted under the First Amendment.

What we have here is a pack of bawling morons who don’t understand freedom of speech, all editing a newspaper. Such are college campuses these days, where only certain “values” can be articulated, and anything that questions those values is seen as both hateful and violent.

45 thoughts on “University of Virginia student paper criticizes freedom of speech

  1. “Second, the false equation of “hateful rhetoric” with “violence”, which it’s not.”

    One solid accomplishment of social justice theory before the name was ruined by a bunch of so-called academics who aren’t in the least informed by or interested in it — propounded by old white male Europeans like JS Mill, John Rawls, and more modern scholars like Peter Singer and Joel Feinberg- was that harm and offense are absolutely not the same. People have rights not to be harmed (with some exceptions, like the administration of justice for crimes committed), but no one has a right not to be offended. Thoroughgoing arguments and counter-arguments have already been given and debated for literally centuries. To not even apparently to be aware that such bodies of work exist or to write them off without understanding them is the depth of ignorance.

    It’s a truly great shame that such great prior art in such an important domain — is there anything more important than social justice? – has been so neutered and slandered in a time when it has never been more needed.

  2. As a UVa alumnus, albeit as a PhD graduate of 45 years ago, I’m sorry that the Cavalier Daily has sunk to this.
    On the bright side, however, if you were to scroll down past the column itself, slide past the equally tendentious column on transgender athletes, and look to the column by Sarita Mehta, “The payoff of rhetorical platforms — and the cost of their denial”, you’ll see an eloquent defense of the Pence visit by a young woman who is the student member of the University Board of Visitors – reasoned, and free of emotion and “anybody who disagrees with us is not merely wrong but BAD”. There’s hope yet.

  3. I clicked on the article regarding Pence and the purported “Black lives do not matter…” in student editorial….quotation from the linked to article:

    “Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that he won’t say the words “Black lives matter” because he believes the leadership of the BLM movement is pushing a “radical-left agenda.””

    So, Pence is expressing disagreement with the organization and its aims (not the value of Black people)…which at that time included the explicit purpose of dismantling the nuclear family. But that’s not what you would get from the student editorial. It was also totally hostile to capitalism, which of course, in no way prevented uber corporate capitalists from showering it with billions in promised dollars.

    1. On a similar point, Trump did not call white nationalists “very fine people”, indeed in his surrounding remarks he said: “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally.”

      Not that I want to defend Trump, but I do want to defend the idea that truth and reality matter.

      1. Truth and accuracy matter. I would much rather be confronted with uncomfortable truths than have someone engage in misrepresentation, exaggeration, of deceptive context in order to make their point.

  4. If campuses become places where the (roughly) half of the population which votes Republican is simply not welcome, how long before Republicans decide that such universities should not receive taxpayer funding?

    (This exclusion of the speech of half the nation is, of course, entirely in the cause of promoting inclusion.)

    1. Haven’t they already decided that? This is what sucks so much about the woke excesses, it gives Republicans cover to do bad shit they already want to do.

      1. I know intelligent people who, having to choose between a candidate who provoked a violent insurrection to overthrow the US government, and one who supported an ideology that taught their children that their country is something to be ashamed of, would choose the former.

        Thanks, Wokers! You might just succeed in getting Putin/Trump re-elected.

  5. At two recent meetings with university administrators (not UVa) the administrators spoke proudly of themselves as “the thought leaders”. Their own actions and comments give reason to believe that they would applaud the position of the UVa student paper’s editorial board, as providing exactly what they mean by ‘thought leadership’. The UVa situation would be even more dreadful if it turns out that the ‘bawling morons’ include both the students and the administration.
    What has been the UVa administration’s response?

  6. Pence should speak. Students and faculty should attend without heckling or other disruption. If they don’t like what he says, they should give their own speeches, write critiques in the university newspaper, or employ the many other available outlets to make their counterarguments known. With few exceptions, this is how controversial speakers should be handled. The university community needs to hear what speakers actually say, rather than make crap up about them or demonize them by associating them with other things they don’t like.

    Today’s college students will never learn the techniques of argument or debate by preempting speech. Without open exchange, they will be incompetent at using one of the most powerful tools we have for reaching consensus in a democratic state. If you like your speech suppressed, move to Russia. (In making this last statement I’m channeling my long dead immigrant grandmother from Odessa, who had only a third grade education but nonetheless knew the score.)

    1. Today’s college students will never learn the techniques of argument or debate by preempting speech. Without open exchange, they will be incompetent at using one of the most powerful tools we have for reaching consensus in a democratic state.

      But they don’t need a powerful tool for reaching consensus. They need – and have – a powerful tool for shutting down people who disagree with them. They don’t want a consensus: they want “my way or the highway”.

      If you like your speech suppressed, move to Russia.

      They don’t like having their speech suppressed: they like having the speech of people who disagree with them suppressed.

  7. What the Cavalier fails to consider is that the only reason they know these things about Pence, or Trump, is that there were venues that hosted them and publications which shared their words. Free speech arguably serves the editorial board’s purpose by helping identify their villains. If not for Time or Fortune, they might have to tune into Fox or read The Federalist. Who knows what illuminating and damning things Pence might say at UVA? If only there were some sort of institution at UVA the role of which was to share topical information. . . .

  8. Given a choice between being beaten by a stick or harsh rhetoric, I choose the latter — every time. What’s up with kids these days? (I’ve never said that before but I’m old now so I thought I’d try it out.)

  9. The subheading of The Daily Cavalier‘s article sums up the hyperbole that follows it very well’ “Speech that threatens the lives of those on Grounds is unjustifiable”.

  10. There were 43 comments on the editorial when I looked – unanimously hostile, including quotations from Jefferson, one referring to the ‘illimitable freedom of the human mind’ as a guiding principle of the University of Virginia.

  11. “… we must seriously consider the environment we wish to tolerate. ”

    Do they mean like at a tea party, knitting circle, or movie theater where those who don’t talk or act the way you like don’t get invited back, or kicked out – or desert, tundra, forest?

    What, precisely, do they mean?

    1. Knitting circles are amongst the most vicious places of all:

      Gavin meets Nathan Taylor, an Instagram knitting star who unwittingly triggered a race row after attempting to reach out to people of colour using the hashtag Diversknitty. Nathan watched in horror as a wave of accusations of white supremacy and Nazism flowed into his inbox. This brush with the toxicity of a Purity Spiral was so severe that Nathan was hospitalised by his husband following a suicide threat.

      The Purity Spiral:

      1. I had not heard of that one, but yes, knitting circles can be nuts. My beloved daughter in law is deeply involved in some. So far she has not been shredded. But I worry.

  12. The students at most of these universities have lost their way. It is too bad but for me, far removed from any schools I just don’t pay attention. As stated many times – this is like a religion and being like a religion, there is not much you can do about it. And, being the University of Virginia they can’t even stand the guy that started the school. They may not even know why he worked so hard to start the school or care to know. He had slaves and that is as far as they need to see. The fact that he lived with a woman of color and had several children with her – how do they think about that? Probably can’t talk about it. One of his major reasons for wanting the University was so the young men of Virginia would go to school there and not go to those northern schools where they got all those strange ideas in their heads. Stay in Virginia and hold Virginia values. So much for Virginia values, I guess.

  13. I know there are a lot of professors and ex-professors on this site, so here’s my question to you. I have a friend who teaches at William-and-Mary (I thought it somewhat relevant since it’s another school in Virginia.) I sent him an email the other day, and when he wrote back, his signature block, under his name, read (He, His, Him). It was the first time I noticed it, and asked him about it; he explained what it was in very succinct and polite language, without a hint of addressing it as a woke tenant. Anyway, has anyone else felt pressure (again, I don’t know if my friend felt pressure) in using your pronouns in your official signature block?

    1. I’ve seen people on a gaming forum start to do this by putting pronouns after their names. I don’t have the heart to tell them that it’s a part of the sexual casting system currently being created.

    2. A number of teachers do it around here, and the one I’m closest to is certainly doing it voluntarily and without any pressure on anyone else to conform to what she does. No clue how widespread the practice is though, and also no clue whether teachers (at places other than hers) are being told or socially pressured to do it.

      1. After cataract surgery, I suddenly discovered that I could now read Russian, and I therefore specify
        Мы и наши as my chosen pronouns. When I Emailed this to my academic department, a group
        of students denounced me for “microaggression”. My Email apparently inflicted what in these circles is labelled “harm”, like the mere sight of former VP Pence and other similar terrors.

  14. “Grounds” is repeatedly mentioned in the editorial. The word is capitalized I gather because they are sacred grounds. Are they more sacred than any other campus “grounds”? If I set foot on those sacred groves and halls of ivy do I need to take my shoes off? Lie prostrate on the Quad or at the front door of the newspaper?

    1. What the .. I saw that and figured it was just some idiosyncrasy … I think you are right, a Capital Letter is emphasizing something of Great Import, thought Pooh to himself, thinking it out.

      1. “Ah.”
        Said Pooh.
        “I see.”
        Said Pooh, nodding to himself several times as he said this.
        “The Grounds.”

    2. Good point. The Quad needs a capital Q same reason. A quad can refer to a motorized four-wheel off-road vehicle employed to damage hiking trails during the spring mud season…and to a former rider with quadriplegia often sustained from flipping them over at high speed while drunk.

      1. While drunk, I spilled an ATV going around 30mph, ended in the Trauma Ward in Seattle via a 45 min. ambulance ride. Don’t remember much, the drugs were good. The whole spectrum of fractured/broke/stress-factures etc. has a wide range, but I “fractured” 14 lovely bones that day: stress-fracture T1-T4, 4 left costals, two right, sternum and a complete fracture of the left clavical…my dominant hand was painfully in disuse for a coupe months…that really sucked. Once you can’t wipe properly, or write, the world changes a bit.

        1. Holy smokes Mark, that’s some serious trauma. Not like you need me to tell you that since you lived it.

          Are you now a walking, talking weather station? I’ve always wondered if that’s true. I’ve been waiting for some of my old injuries to start giving me weather data, but so far no luck.

          1. I think the weather station affliction happens to people who have pins/plates and such. I didn’t have surgery, so no metal objects in my body; as of now, I need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. 😉

        2. “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” — HST

  15. Maybe I’m missing the point, but…Ms Camp’s op-ed was primarily about stifling student dissent in classroom discussions, not about choice of invited speakers.

    Now sure, the ideas are related. But IMO and to put it bluntly, the former is far more important than the latter. If student speech is robustly free and dissent respected in the classroom, then I probably wouldn’t care what their rules about speaker invites was like.

    But maybe the editorial board was thought it was easier to go after Pence than their own classrooms. After all, Pence is never going to respond and isn’t a personal friend and acquaintance to a bunch of people in campus. He’s George Carlin’s “asshole far away.” If they attack one of their own’s student’s speech, they’ll have to deal with the very dissent and objections they despise.

    1. Not so much a straw man argument as a straw decoy argument, perhaps. It’s far easier to criticise an external bogeyman that address difficulties within the organisation.

  16. Amusing that anyone who has bothered to read Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, will understand the irony of the Cavalier Daily trying to make the world more perfect in its eyes..

  17. Good point, #17. Cavalier Daily could just as appropriately be named “Royalist Daily”, but we can be sure that its woke student writers have not the faintest idea what either term refers to. After all, the
    English Civil War is in the dead, white history they never learned about on Facebook.

    The Virginia colony was filled with supporters of the royalist side in the English Civil War, and afterward the Cavalier imprint on Virginia remained decisive, as a British Heritage website explains. “In 1660 every member of the Royal Council was related by blood or marriage to another member. When that council ended its days in 1775, every councilor was descended from at least one member of the council of 1660. The Cavaliers whom Berkeley actively recruited to Virginia during and after the English Civil War became an effective, closed, and largely despotic hereditary oligarchy.

    It was quite a feudal society. Opportunities for upward mobility were restricted. More to the point, it is difficult from the standpoint of our 21st-century American ethos to understand the mindset of 17th-century colonists. Certainly, from our contemporary perspective of human dignity, human rights and freedoms and open society, the hierarchical society guarded by the First Families of colonial Virginia seems, to say the least, unattractive.

    This colonial ascendancy pointedly did not believe that all men were created equal. Quite the contrary, as much as they believed in the legitimacy of their own right to wealth and power, they believed that the vast majority of people belonged to a divinely ordered underclass. It is not a giant step from such an axiom of life to a justification of race slavery. “

    1. I assumed that “Cavalier Daily” was a reference to their attitude towards freedom of speech and the frequency with which they trample on it…

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