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UVA student government rejects resolution to say Pledge of Allegiance at beginning of meetings

But it does begin meetings with a Native American land acknowledgment

The University of Virginia Student Council rejected a proposal from a conservative member of the body to make time for members to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of each meeting.

“I immediately found it troubling that the Pledge of Allegiance was not recited,” Nick Cabera told The College Fix in a Twitter direct message.

Cabera proposed the resolution at the council’s April 6 meeting, the last one of the year, where it received only two votes in favor out of 18 voting members, the remaining 16 of whom voted against the proposal.

The Student Council begins each meeting with an acknowledgment that the university sits on the native land of Monacan Nation and that many of UVA’s first buildings were built by slaves. It also acknowledges the “history of violence, displacement, and racism that led to UVA’s establishment.”

Cabrera is a self-described “conservative Republican,” as well as a member of the university’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter.

Cabrera told The College Fix that “many other universities do in fact start their ‘student self-governance’ meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance.” He wrote in the resolution that the United States Senate and House of Representatives both begin meetings with the pledge.

The resolution states that “the recitation by individual members shall remain optional.”

“No one on the Representative Body wanted to discuss this resolution as no debate was fostered,” said Cabrera. However, the meeting did have a “Community Concerns” session, where multiple students expressed their support or disapproval of the bill.

“Patriotism is a pretty subjective thing,” said outgoing Student Council President Ellen Yates. “It’s hard to put pride in one’s country first when one’s country fails a large portion of the people living in it.”

Yates made that comment after one student, Chris Daleo, denounced the body for voting down the proposal.

Yates declined to comment when The College Fix reached her via email.

Another student, whose name did not appear on the recording of the meeting, echoed Yates’ sentiments.

“Just because for you, or for Nick [Cabrera], saying the Pledge of Allegiance is the way you express [patriotism], that’s really great, and people are free to do it in their own time, but to legislate that and to say that everybody has to do it is not something that’s necessary for Student Council,” the student said.

Yates allowed Daleo to respond to the student, and he pointed out that the resolution would not force any students to join in saying the pledge.

Yates, along with the rest of the student council, has had a fraught relationship with Cabrera and other YAF members on campus, according to Victoria Spiotto, chairwoman of YAF at UVA.

“This decision was unfortunately not surprising at all,” Spiotto told The College Fix via email.

“The UVA student council has demonstrated a clear disdain for representatives who are openly conservative. Everything that Nick [Cabrera] does is met with irrelevant, illogical, and biased pushback,” she said.

Spiotto also spoke out against the council’s decision to vote down Cabrera’s resolution at the meeting.

“The only reason that this meeting is able to occur and you’re able to criticize your own government,” she said during the meeting, “is because we have the traditions that we do, the Constitution that we do for Virginia and the entire country, so there are a lot of ways that we are all benefitting right now from what that Pledge of Allegiance would represent.”

Spiotto told The Fix about a litany of quarrels YAF has had with the UVA Student Council.

In one controversy, YAF members used public footage from the council to criticize legislation being proposed at meetings, leading the body to restrict access to the recordings.

In another, Cabrera introduced a resolution to denounce property theft and harassment targeted towards YAF members. According to Spiotto, “Out of pure bias and animosity, another representative ‘substituted’ this legislation with the exact same thing, just without YAF’s theft and harassment cases being mentioned.” That resolution passed.

Spiotto told The Fix that, while many representatives have expressed their ill will toward Cabrera, it was not the sole cause of his most recent resolution’s failure.

“It seems that the most privileged Left-leaning students at UVA seek to inaccurately associate oppression, violence, and disregard for life with a country that constantly provides for not only its own citizens, but for the whole world,” she said.

Spiotto added: “I don’t see how adding an optional pledge procedure is in any way unprecedented — it is clearly a question of bias and disdain for the country as a whole.”

MORE: UVA student government restricts access to recordings after conservatives used footage to criticize legislation

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About the Author
College Fix contributor Charles Hilu is a student at the University of Michigan studying political science. His work has appeared in The Michigan Review. He serves as secretary of his Young Americans for Freedom chapter.