by James A. Bacon
The woke witch trials of the 21st century don’t burn their victims at the stake, but they still do immense harm.
We previously told the story of how Morgan Bettinger, a 4th-year student who ran afoul of the University of Virginia’s social-justice warriors, was vilified on social media, investigated by university authorities, and required to perform social-justice-related community service to atone for supposed threats she never uttered.
What we haven’t told before but can now thanks to a lawsuit asking for the expungement of disciplinary sanctions on Bettinger’s college record, is what it’s like for a student to endure the assaults of the Woke Mob.
The question every UVA alumnus, student, parent, professor and member of the UVa community must ask is this: how can freedom of speech and expression thrive in an environment where students are treated this way?
The lawsuit cites the following testimony Bettinger gave in a recorded interview with the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights.
Being a fourth year not only with COVID being a challenge, but not being able to go on campus because I’m scared people, if they recognize me…. They have recognized me going to Sam’s Club with my mom or recognizing my car, God forbid. That because [accuser Zyahna] Bryant has put out a target to say this person has labeled me as a racist and a Karen and saying all these awful and wrong things about me that I can’t go on campus. I can’t have a normal experience in my classes. I have to change my name when I got into an online class because I don’t want them to know my last name. I have a TA who is friends with [Bryant] … and I haven’t been able to speak in class on hard topics because I don’t if they’re reporting back to Bryant or going to say anything and then use that against me if they disagree with something….
She referenced I have a Facebook profile of me supporting a police officer because my dad was a police officer. The fact that I have sleepless nights and I’ve had to be prescribed medication to be able to sleep anymore and that I had to up my therapy to speak with my counselor because this had just gotten so much. It finally broke me a little bit ago. It’s just not okay for someone to get away with … doing this. I hope you guys can see that, that how she’s painted me out to be is not true by any means…. I think it’s important that just because she’s claiming one thing that you guys will actually see the person I am and look at the person I am and look at the facts and know that it’s not true.
Bettinger cut back her engagement with other students, minimized her participation in classes, and “carefully censored her comments” when she did speak, according to the lawsuit. One professor was forced to divide his class into separate sections “due to the overt hostility toward Ms. Bettinger by some other students.”
Although the incidents described occurred in 2020, we bring them to the public’s attention today because there is no indication that anything has changed. Leftist militants can hurl fact-free accusations of bigotry, homophobia and other evils without fear of repercussion. The system never calls for them to recant their mistruths. Their libels and misrepresentations dwell on the Internet forever and, in Bettinger’s case, on her UVa record. These permanent stains can jeopardize future employment.
The University encourages students to use the Just Report It tool to report incidents of “bias” or “harassment” against supposedly marginalized minorities. The system works. People are reported for perceived offenses. And the university has a substantial administrative apparatus, including the Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights, to investigate and punish. Some accusations are kicked over to the Student Judiciary Committee for resolution.
In sum, the power of militant leftists to intimidate their fellow students is magnified by a bureaucratic machinery that is geared to enforcing their demands. The militants suffer no consequences for their actions.
The Bettinger case was not an isolated incident. The Jefferson Council is aware of multiple ongoing cases grinding through the administrative process. Intimidation, one might say, is systemic at UVa.
Bettinger’s nightmare started July 17, 2017, when she was returning home from a babysitting job and found her route on High Street in downtown Charlottesville blocked by an unauthorized demonstration. Getting out of her car to see what the problem was, she saw that a city dump truck and two civilian vehicles were blocking the intersection. Striking up a conversation with the dump truck driver, she quipped something to the effect, “It’s a good thing you’re here or they could become speed bumps” — an allusion to the white supremacist rally three years previously in which a neo-Nazi in a car had struck demonstrators, killing one. Protesters nearby overheard the comment and spread the word that Bettinger had said, “the protesters would make good speed bumps.” The protesters began acting in a threatening manner, Bettinger got in her car, called 911, and backed away.
Zyahna Bryant, then a second-year student, was an organizer of the unauthorized protest. She did not personally hear Bettinger’s “speedbumps” quip, says the lawsuit, but she joined the threatening crowd and taunted Bettinger with the pejorative phrase, “It’s a Karen.”
After Bettinger departed, Bryant posted a photograph of her with the caption:
SHARE/SPREAD THIS! TRIGGER WARNING: The woman in this truck (sic) approached protesters in Charlottesville and told us that we would make ‘good speed bumps’ mind you, a protester was killed by a man in a care in Charlottesville during the A12 rally in 2o17.
According to the lawsuit, Bryant went on to misrepresent the facts. She wrote:
The police were literally blocking the road at that point; She had to go down a series of one way streets (several were completely blocked) AND maneuver between a public works truck and a police car that was blocking the road about two blocks away; the cops were blocking it at that point; Morgan intentionally maneuvered between two police barricades.
The social media posts, asserts the lawsuit, clearly implied that Bettinger “had not encountered the protest by happenstance but rather had intentionally evaded police and maneuvered to the scene for the purpose of harassing the protesters.”
In the wake of Bryant’s postings, Bettinger received numerous social-media threats “against her life and physical well being.”
Two days later, the lawsuit says, Bryant took to social media again.
CALL TO ACTION THREAD!!
Over 200 Charlottesville community members gathered on July 17, 2020 to affirm that Black Women Matter in our community. However, this rally and march was disturbed by UVA student Morgan Bettinger.
Morgan drove around the public works truck blocking the street that demonstrators were convened on and felt compelled to say, not just once, but twice that protesters would ‘make good speed bumps.’
EMAIL these UVA deans now to demand that Morgan face consequences for her actions that UVA stop graduating racists.
The office of the Dean of Students was inundated with phone calls and emails demanding action against Bettinger. The same day the University posted the following statement on social media:
The University strongly condemns any threat directed at other members of our community. We are aware of the allegations on social media about a student’s conduct with respect to a protest in the city and are actively investigating the matter.”
Subsequent inquiries by a Threat Assessment Team and the Office of Equal Opportunity and Civil Rights found no grounds to support the charge that Bettinger had threatened anyone. Nonetheless, Dean Allen W. Groves referred the matter to the student-run University Judiciary Committee. The UJC found Bettinger worthy of punishment on the grounds that her remark “disregarded Charlottesville’s violent history. A history you should have been cognizant of as a UVA student and resident of Charlottesville.”
As we have described in previous posts, Bettinger was compelled to write a letter of apology to Bryant and sentenced to social-justice-related community service. Her diploma would be withheld if she failed to comply. Citing the evidence and legal arguments in her favor, Bettinger asked President James Ryan to expunge the proceedings from her record. He responded that he lacked the authority to overrule the student judiciary.
The lawsuit asks the court to order UVa to expunge and destroy all records of the UJC trial, conviction and sanctions; issue a letter of apology for the harms perpetrated upon her; revise the procedures and limitations of appellate review of the UJC to comply with constitutional due process standards; and award compensatory damages and attorneys fees.
Bryant, who has made a high-school and college career of inveighing against racism, has never apologized. She has suffered no consequences for her reckless allegations. To the contrary, she has been lauded with awards and recognitions.
As she recounts on her LinkedIn page,
In the fall of 2019, I was appointed by Governor Northam to the Virginia African American Advisory Board. I was also appointed by President Jim Ryan (UVA) to the President’s Council on UVA-Community Partnerships.
I have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Geographic, Teen Vogue, The New Yorker Magazine, Forbes; and featured on Vice News, PBS, CNN, BBC, and BET.
In 2020 Bryant was awarded a UVa TASC scholarship, currently worth $2,500 a year.
Clarification: The post should have made it clear that the lawsuit has not been filed in court. Bettinger’s attorney, Charles “Buddy” Weber has shared the document with University Counsel Cliff Iler as well as the Office of the Attorney General.