Prominent faculty members at the University of Virginia—including well-known politics professor Larry Sabato—have weighed in opposing left-wing student activists’ calls to ban former Vice President Mike Pence from speaking at the school’s Old Cabell Hall on April 12, Breitbart reported.
They stated in an op-ed that “dangerous rhetoric is not entitled to a platform,” and that “speech that threatens the lives of those on Grounds is unjustifiable.”
Conservatives—including those at the school’s Jefferson Independent— swiftly pushed back on the hyperbolic hypocrisy, countering that the real danger lay in dystopian censorship efforts.
“The marketplace of ideas should be a vital tenet of university campuses,” Kara Zupkus, a spokesperson for event organizer the Young America’s Foundation, told Breitbart.
“For students at UVA to attempt to shut down YAF’s Mike Pence lecture under the guise of ‘inclusivity’ and ‘safety’ is laughable at best,” she continued. “The Left has grown so accustomed to only hearing one perspective, that they feel physically threatened by those who hold different views—a sad reflection of the failures of America’s education system.”
YAF has been subject to cancelation on other college campuses before; in fact, the Daily Caller in 2019 compiled a “Best of the Worst” list cataloging some of the more notorious instances.
But the Pence attack—whether due to his mild-mannered demeanor, his current rift with former President Donald Trump, or the sheer viciousness of the editorial’s tone-deaf rhetoric in a time when political tradewinds are shifting—struck even the school’s traditionally liberal faculty as misguided.
On Tuesday, the paper published an op-ed rebuttal from “concerned faculty,” including Sabato and several members of the U.Va. Politics Department, as well as three members of its elite law school. Also adding their names to the list of 17 faculty members were Oscar-winning drama professor Paul Wagner and noted economics professor Ken Elzinga.
“We are not interested in either defending or attacking Pence and whatever he might say,” wrote the faculty. “We are more concerned that The Cavalier Daily believes that his speech constitutes ‘violence” that ‘threatens the well-being and safety of students on Grounds.’”
The group pointed out the obvious problem with the student newspaper at the school, founded by Thomas Jefferson, suddenly siding with censorship.
“This speech-is-violence argument is not only wrong—no calls for violence will be issued April 12—but also contradicts the letter and the spirit of the First Amendment, which generally creates space for a wide range of views to be expressed so long as the relevant speech does not incite violence,” the wrote.
They said the original editorial did a “disservice” to persons who actually are victims of physical violence by suggesting a false equivalence.
The op-ed was notable in the fact that the professors opted to attach their names to it—even after a prior op-ed from leftist U.Va. President Jim Ryan appeared to express solidarity with the student radicals.
“The signatories (including Larry) drafted the letter carefully and collaboratively, so he’s just going to let it stand as his comment on the matter,” said Kyle Kondick, a spokesman for Sabato and managing editor of his “Crystal Ball” website, told Headline USA.
Headline USA also reached out to the office of Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin to see whether the state might take action against any efforts by the school to prevent conservative speakers. We will update with any response.
Headline USA’s Ben Sellers contributed to this report.