Faculty members at the University of Virginia co-signed an op-ed in the school’s student newspaper on Tuesday slamming its editorial board over calls to ban former Vice President Mike Pence from speaking on campus later this month.
In a piece published last month in the Cavalier Daily, the student-led editorial board decried Mr. Pence’s “dangerous rhetoric,” which they said “threatens the well-being and safety of students,” and “is not entitled to a platform.”
Seventeen members of the faculty responded Tuesday with an op-ed in the same paper haranguing the students for assuming that “the editors should enjoy the freedom to say what they want but others with whom they disagree should not.”
“The First Amendment protects not just those whose views the editors deem harmless,” the faculty wrote.
“Those of us who support free speech do so, in part,” the professors explained, “because, in a democratic society, none of us can see the whole truth, and all of us benefit from being exposed to perspectives that may comprehend some aspect of the truth better than we do.”
The authors also dug in on the students’ “speech-is-violence argument” which they said was not only wrong “but also contradicts the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment.”
The “concerned faculty” behind Tuesday’s op-ed said while they are “not interested in either defending or attacking Pence and whatever he might say,” they are putting their foot down on attempts by students to ban speech.
“It is also a disservice to those who are the victims of actual physical violence — whether those injured and killed during the many civil rights struggles in American history, those who fought and died for our constitutional rights as members of our armed services, or the brave people of Ukraine who are fighting and dying for their freedoms, including free speech,” they wrote.
Mr. Pence’s address on campus was announced last month by Young America’s Foundation, an organization of young conservatives.
Young America’s Foundation Chairman Nick Cabrera said the aim behind inviting Mr. Pence to address students was to “allow for a reinvigorated sense of intellectual diversity across Jefferson’s campus.”
“The political climate at the University of Virginia has grown to become nearly inhospitable towards conservatives,” he said.
Soon after the address was announced, the editorial board went on the offensive.
“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,” they wrote.
“So-called ‘perspectives’ should not be welcomed when they spread rhetoric that directly threatens the presence and lives of our community members,” the Cavalier Daily argued.
“To be silent in the face of those like Pence is a choice — in this case, a choice to fail to protect the lives of those on [the campus] who Pence blatantly threatens through his rhetoric and policies,” the students added.
The tussle emerged amid a series of dustups between groups of students trying to shout down or ban conservative speakers at universities across the country.
Last month a group of Yale University law students loudly protested a forum featuring Kristen Waggoner, a member of a conservative group that promotes religious liberty, the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Mr. Pence himself was met by protesters during a February visit to Stanford where he addressed the Stanford College Republicans on “How to Save America from the Woke Left.”
The 17 members who signed the letter and their departments are: Monika Abramenko, engineering; Peter Abramenko, mathematics; Gerard Alexander, politics; Colin Bird, politics; James Ceaser, politics; Lee Coppock, economics; Kenneth Elzinga, economics; Christian Gromoll, mathematics; Jason Johnston, law; Julia Mahoney, law; Paul Mahoney, law; John Owen, politics; Larry Sabato, politics; Allan Stam, public policy; Paul Wagner, drama; June West, business; and Brad Wilcox, sociology.