Three Ideas for Protecting Civil Dialogue at UVa

by James A. Bacon

On Oct. 11, 2023, journalist Abigail Shrier engaged in a Q&A session at the University of Virginia discussing the transgender movement in the United States. Offended by her views, transgender militants and their allies sabotaged attendance of the event, abrogated an agreement with university authorities restricting where to hold their protest, crowded the entrance to the venue at Minor Hall, berated attendees entering the event, and harassed attendees leaving the event.

Responding to a letter from Jefferson Council President Tom Neale, the administration characterized some of the behavior as “disappointing,” but noted that there were “no arrests or injuries, and no property damage.” The administration found no grounds for follow-up action.

The Jefferson Council vigorously takes issue with the administration’s spin. We believe that protesters should be held to a higher standard than not causing injury or property damage. We have published a report detailing the events surrounding the Shrier event and offer three tangible recommendations for upholding the right of members of the UVa community to hear speakers free from disruption and intimidation.

These include:

  • Prohibit the practice of registration spam by members of the university community as a tactic for suppressing attendance at targeted events;
  • Set clear boundaries at designated protest areas to ensure separation from event attendees;
  • Issue No Trespass Orders for community members who engage in disruptive behavior on university grounds.

James A. Bacon is executive director of The Jefferson Council.