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UVA student paper says speech it doesn’t like is ‘not entitled to a platform’

Those working at the University of Virginia student paper have a serious problem: They’re enrolled at a public institution and don’t understand the concept of free speech and the First Amendment.

Just a few days ago, UVA student Elisabeth Bass declared in The Cavalier Daily that allowing “notoriously homophobic” Vice President Mike Pence to speak on campus would endanger LGBTQ+ students.

That’s right — Pence’s words would actually harm gay/transgender/nonbinary/etc. individuals.

Now, the Daily’s editorial board has upped the ante by declaring “speech that threatens the lives of those on Grounds is unjustifiable” … and hence “not entitled to a platform.”

The editors claim they looked at two other incidents aside from the pending Pence visit (one involving Thomas Jefferson whom the board refers to as “a known enslaver who exploited Black labor to construct the University,” and a student who allegedly was harassed for hanging a sign on her door which read “Fuck UVA. UVA Operating Costs – KKKops, Genocide, Slavery, Disability, Black and Brown Life”) and “found [them]selves questioning what should be protected under the premise of ‘diversity of thought’ […] and more importantly, what values we choose to accept on Grounds.”

Their conclusion: “[T]he answer is simple. Hateful rhetoric is violent — and this is impermissible.”

MORE: Cancel Pence speech to protect LGBTQ+ community, UVA student says

The board sees a “warning” in Pence’s upcoming call to “take a stand for America’s founding” by linking it to the Charlottesville riot of 2017, and it repeats the lie that President Trump referred to violent white supremacists as “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. …

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.

Thankfully, decisions about who gets invited to speak at UVA are not up to the Cavalier Daily editorial board. But it is worrisome that the board’s members, who act a lot like Twitter and Facebook “fact checkers,” soon may be working in mainstream journalism.

Read the editorial.

MORE: Emory U. student paper editorial: It’s time to ‘rethink’ free speech

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.