UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

Ms. Azher’s pinboard pictured here has a note that states: “I stand with farm workers”

by James C. Sherlock, University of Virginia, College of Arts and Sciences, 1966

Hira Azher’s profane sign on the door of her room on the University of Virginia’s Lawn has made headlines, and the ensuing controversy has raised many questions. This article will highlight a new issue. University administrators, I will argue, botched the handling of the incident by turning what should have been a breach-of-contract issue into a constitutional freedom-of-speech case.

After alumni raised objections to the now-infamous sign, which said “F— UVA,” President Jim Ryan sought legal advice from University Counsel Timothy Heaphy. Heaphy concluded that the student’s use of profanity was protected by the First Amendment. Although the resident contract signed by Lawn residents gives the University the right to regulate signage, he argued, the institution’s failure to enforce that particular provision in the past essentially gave Azher a pass.

But my analysis suggests that the contract is clear. The University could have enforced it when Ms. Azher breached it with her door sign, which is prohibited by both the contract and University fire regulations.

Mr. Heaphy serves both the University President and the Board of Visitors. He gave each of them and the rest of us bad information. The public representations of the President, the Board and the Counsel himself on facts of the case do not withstand a fact check of the housing contract that Heaphy’s own lawyers wrote and that Azher signed and continues to violate. 

As the story unfolded, we were presented with the description by Bert Ellis, a distinguished alumnus, of being accosted by two Student Ambassadors (a UVa club that supports the Office of Engagement, the fundraising arm of the administration — you could not make that up) while on the lawn. The students threatened the use of forcible restraint to prevent the alumnus from using a razor to excise the sign.

The whole scene Ellis described was recklessly dangerous. The “ambassadors” were lucky the visitor was Mr. Ellis and not someone with a different agenda. Virginians will need to find out who in the employ of the University put the students up to this, or even knew about it, and fire them.

As the story continues to unfold, President Ryan faces a far bigger free-speech challenge than a sign on a door. In the largest free-speech survey of undergraduates ever undertaken, Question 26 in the survey asked: Have you ever personally felt you could not express your opinion on a subject because of how students, a professor or the administration would respond? 

Fifty-seven percent of University of Virginia undergraduates answered that they had been intimidated from expressing their opinions; 79% of students self-identifying as conservatives responded that they had been intimidated. It gets worse. This cannot stand. If Dr. Ryan cannot fix it, someone with a stronger hand will need to replace him.

The University is paying for all of this, and not just in reputation. Alumni estimates of donations foregone reach $150 million. Hundreds of alumni like Ellis will never give the University another dollar because of what it has done or failed to do here.

People need to be held accountable, at a minimum for the profoundly dangerous Ellis encounter, for mishandling the legal assessment, and for the Orwellian state of freedom of speech at the University revealed in the recent survey.

So let’s take them one at a time.

University President James Ryan

James Ryan

President Ryan is a very accomplished man. He was really good in school.  Summa Cum Laude Yale, first in his class at UVa Law, Law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Rehnquist, Distinguished Professor at the Law School, Dean of the UVa Law School, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and now Dean of the University of Virginia. 

Normally, he is also really good as a spokesperson for his racial justice agenda.

He is determined, but deliberate. If his 1999 piece, The Influence of Race in School Finance Reform, can be taken as a guide, he takes a moderate, scholarly approach and lets facts guide his findings and recommendations.

He is a social justice warrior focused on race, not class.  His strategy is steady incremental change achieved while dampening opposition. 

He has gained a place in the commanding heights of the culture. His CV shows he has had a lot of leverage for his agenda for a long time.

We disagree on many things, but I credit him with possessing a powerful intellect combined with a man-of-the people, Boston Marathoner, come-run-with-me personal appeal that is authentic. He has a reputation as a good man to have as a friend and a worthy adversary, friend or not, if you disagree with him.

His halting, nervous performance in the recorded interview with Hira Azher, the occupant of the newly famous Lawn room, is not in keeping with his reputation.  I am not a psychologist, so I have no idea why he folded as he did.

The Dangerous Part of the Lawn Room Door Issue

President Ryan responded personally to the opening salvo on the door issue, an early September call from a distinguished alumnus, Bert Ellis, the CEO of Ellis Capital. Ellis holds both a BA in Economics and an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University.

Bert Ellis

Mr. Ellis saw the sign, and others like it, on one of his regular visits to Charlottesville. He called Dr. Ryan and complained.  Ryan had told him in a phone call that he was “working on it.” About a week later Mr. Ellis returned to the Lawn.

Then came the dangerous part.

Mr. Ellis later wrote in a letter to Ryan a story about a subsequent visit that read in part like a crime novel, complete with “University Ambassadors,” who told Mr. Ellis that the University had determined that the sign was the occupant’s first amendment right and any action to remove the sign would be met with force. In the crime novel, someone would have died.

The story is presumptively true in so far as Mr. Ellis related it. He would simply not have made it up. But it is so troubling in every other respect that Dr. Ryan needs to ask the Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation, if he has not already.

What was said and by whom, while important, is not the primary issue, which is whether the students were there in a confrontational role with University knowledge of their actions.

The “Ambassadors” presumably were student members of the group called “Student Ambassadors.” That club’s mission is defined as follows:

“The University of Virginia’s Office of Engagement established the Student Ambassadors program in 2010 to connect UVA alumni, parents, and friends to the University through interactions with current students. The group’s student leaders are responsible for developing and implementing the program in collaboration with the Office of Engagement and UVA Club volunteers.”

If the University wanted to confront persons approaching the room, the job was one for the University Police, not students in a club.

Had Mr. Ellis not been a distinguished alumnus but rather a man a little more edgy than Mr. Ellis and armed, the issue could have taken another turn. Cops encounter these types of dangerous situations every day in this nation.

If an investigation reveals that these “ambassadors” were indeed students and that someone in the employ of the University had anything to do with, or knowledge of, students acting in that manner prior to this incident, any and all of them must be fired.

No excuse is acceptable for reckless endangerment of students.

The More Famous Lawn Room Door Issue

In response to Mr. Ellis’s letter, Dr. Ryan provided a very legalized reply on October 2, in which he put the Lawn-room issue in a “broader context.” He certainly did, at great length and with his usual skill.

When he arrived at the sign controversy, he wrote a paragraph the last sentence of which was:

“Were we to remove the signs, we would be violating the Constitution. In this clash of values, the Constitution and its protection of speech must prevail.”

In the case of Mr. Ryan, a UVa Law graduate, former clerk for a Supreme Court Justice, 15 years as a professor at and then Dean of the UVa Law School, a leap to a constitutional issue was perhaps inevitable. When you go to a baker, expect bread.

In his statement, entitled “Good and Great Revisited,” Ryan argued that it is the university’s obligation to stand firm in defense of free speech.  That is indisputably a good thing to do.

But it is an argument he offered in defense of a constitutional case he constructed, internally adjudicated, and ruled in favor of the Lawn resident, effectively pleading her case and deciding its outcome.

He failed to inform the University community of the occupant’s clear violation of her housing contract, or that the violation in question had nothing to do with what was on the Lawn door, but rather the fact than anything at all was on the door.

Dr. Ryan continued:

“Going forward, we can and will consider whether additional regulations are needed for the Lawn, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts visitors locally and from around the globe. Time, place, and manner restrictions would be legally permissible if they are narrowly tailored to protecting that environment, apply neutrally to all opinions and points of view, and preexist any particular controversy.”

He failed to mention that the University’s current Lawn occupancy contract meets those tests.

Dr. Ryan’s message drew a response from Aubrey M. Daniel III, an alumnus of the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond law school.

Aubrey M. Daniel III

Mr. Daniel made his name as a young Judge Advocate General captain who successfully prosecuted the court-martial of Lt. William L. Calley Jr. for his role in the infamous My Lai Massacre. Daniel went on, after his military career, to become a top litigator with the Williams & Connolly LLP law firm. He is retired living in Italy, but he was not amused.

Mr. Daniel attacked the defense of the Lawn door sign that Dr. Ryan had offered and later posted a letter to University Rector James. B. Murray Jr., who had mounted his own defense of Ryan. Mr. Daniel wrote an extensive opinion worthy of reading. I will quote just one sentence:

“The facts have shown that this matter could have been resolved with good judgment and common sense or by enforcing the Va. Code section 18.2-138. Therefore, the First Amendment argument is irrelevant, as you have admitted.”

It could also have been resolved at the University housing office as a breach-of- contract issue. That office must deal with those cases every week.

Dr. Ryan is an honorable man, so I believe, until he says differently, that he did not have accurate information on the terms of the Lawn housing contract when he published his October 2 assessment.

University Counsel Timothy Heaphy

University Counsel Timothy J. Heaphy

Now, let’s look at the work of University Counsel Timothy Heaphy, who

“represents the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia in all legal and regulatory matters and provides advice and counsel to the Board of Visitors, the President, executive officers and other administrators, faculty, and staff in their official capacities. The University Counsel (is) appointed by the Attorney General of Virginia.”

Like Dr. Ryan, Mr. Heaphy made a soaring assessment based on assertions of facts not only not in evidence, but which a reading of the actual text of the Lawn resident contract directly contradict.

You will note that throughout the controversy Mr. Heaphy by implication has accused of bad work the lawyers who drafted the Lawn occupancy contract for UVa Housing and Residence Life (HRL).  The University Counsel’s office would have either conducted or overseen the contract drafting effort. He is criticizing his own work.

HRL manages over two million square feet of residential building space, so if true, that would be a problem. The facts show the contract lawyers did a good job.

Conversely, in the sign on the Lawn room door case, the University Counsel dropped the ball multiple times.

Mr. Heaphy in the opening paragraph of his September 29 letter to the Board of Visitors stated his conclusion.

“I write today to clarify the law that governs this issue, which makes clear that the lawn resident’s speech is protected by the First Amendment and cannot be forcibly removed.”

Later in that letter, Mr. Heaphy wrote that the signs:

  1. are protected under the First Amendment; and
  2. do not violate University policy or any provision of the housing contract signed by Lawn residents.   

From my research he was wrong factually on both issues.

He wrote, based on his assessment that this is a First Amendment case, that:

“The University is entitled to remove speech in impermissible places—such as graffiti, vandalism of other residents’ doors, or signs posted in prohibited spaces—on content-neutral, time, place, and manner grounds. Regulation of speech for aesthetic purposes will be assessed for whether restrictions are “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech.” Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989).”

The facts show that the lawyer that constructed the HRL contract did exactly what Mr. Heaphy requires to pass constitutional tests of whether freedom of speech was violated in such a contract.

The core problem with this case is that the University Counsel materially misrepresented the text of the Lawn housing contract to the Board, and presumably to President Ryan. Mr. Heaphy  works for Dr. Ryan in the University chain of authority, in addition to being a Virginia Senior Assistant Attorney General appointed by Attorney General Herring.   

Mr. Heaphy did not quote the Lawn Housing contract provisions directly in his letter. When he summarized them, he got the most material details wrong.

The housing contract for lawn students includes a list of special provisions called Addendum to the Terms & Conditions for Lawn and Range Residents. Two of them applicable here are:

No personal belongings, trash, furniture or other items are permitted outside of Lawn and Range rooms. The four exceptions are as follows: firewood distributed by the University-approved vendor, one 18″ hibachi grill with a small bag of charcoal kept beside it, a 1.5ft x 2ft pin board for displaying paper materials and the ash bucket accompanying your fireplace.”

“Residents are prohibited from suspending combustible materials of any type within their living areas (which include the doorway, shutters and the brick area outside the room) except one standard poster-sized area (900 in2) of unframed, non-fabric material per wall inside your room.”

Mr. Heaphy summarized those two provisions as:

“The “housing addendum” signed by lawn residents includes a provision limiting the size of signs that may be posted in “living areas” of the lawn, including doors.

As you read above, the limitation was for signs on walls inside the room. For good measure, Mr. Heaphy could have referenced the Fire Prevention regulation (under “Doors and Egress”) that

“combustible material on doors or hallways walls is prohibited.”

Come to think of it, that is a Fire Marshal regulation. I wonder if UVA Fire Marshal Drumheller was consulted on any of this.

Mr. Heaphy further wrote:

“The University is entitled to remove speech in impermissible places—such as graffiti, vandalism of other residents’ doors, or signs posted in prohibited spaces—on content-neutral, time, place, and manner grounds. Regulation of speech for aesthetic purposes will be assessed for whether restrictions are “justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech.” Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781 (1989). If the aesthetic reason is grounded in the content of the speech, this application of the regulation is content-based and presumptively unconstitutional. See Reed v. Town of Gilbert, 576 U.S. 155 (2015)”

The University’s Lawn resident regulations are content neutral in their plain language and effect. 

The University provides a pinboard for the purpose of unregulated speech outside the room. It was clear to the resident as well. Ms. Azher posted political speech on her pinboard. She could have posted Huey Newton’s Ten-Point Program or anything else there.

Ms. Azher violated a rule which she acknowledged when she signed a contract. That contract not only did not limit speech, it made provisions for it. It limits students from trashing up the outside of their rooms. It is about appearance, not opinions.

One more issue with Mr Heaphy’s letter. He offered as a defense of Ms. Azher’s sign:

“Lawn residents frequently affix signs of various sizes to their door without consequence.”

The sanction available to the University under the contract is:

“The University retains the unilateral right to terminate this License at any time. Failure of either party to insist upon strict performance of any of the Terms or Conditions herein shall not be deemed a waiver of any rights or remedies of either party, and shall not be deemed a waiver of any subsequent breach or default in any of the Terms or Conditions herein. “

Thus, the lawyers that wrote that language  took care in the words of the contract to preclude the “I am not the only one that does it” argument that as University Counsel Mr. Heaphey preemptively made for Ms. Azher.

That is not an assessment of Mr. Heaphy’s legal opinion, but his failure to make the appropriate facts available when he offered the “frequently affix” comment.

I believe the University Counsel misread or failed to read the contract text in each of these instances. He got everything he said about the contract wrong. I have no idea why. But, as we often hear in politics, he is not entitled to his own facts.

Dr. Ryan, the Rector and the University community including the alumni had a right to rely on the Mr. Heaphy, and he let us down.

The Real Free Speech Issue at UVa

Dr. Ryan appears to be honest about his respect for free speech, so I hope he is conducting an investigation into the results at UVa of a national higher education free speech survey and will share the results when he is done.  When going to the link, click “see the rankings” then click “University of Virginia.”

The survey was commissioned by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), in partnership with RealClearEducation. They commissioned College Pulse to conduct a survey of undergraduates at 55 colleges and universities about students’ experiences with free speech on their campuses.

Fielded from April 1 to May 28, 2020 via the College Pulse mobile app and web portal, the survey included nearly 20,000 student respondents who were currently enrolled in four-year degree programs. This was the largest survey ever conducted of college students about free speech on their campuses.

College Pulse got survey responses from 429 undergraduates at the University of Virginia. With that sample size, the margin of error is calculated by College Pulse to be =/- 4%. Partial results:

  • Question 26 in the survey asked: Have you ever personally felt you could not express your opinion on a subject because of how students, a professor or the administration would respond? 57% of University of Virginia undergraduates overall answered that they had been intimidated from expressing their opinions. 79% of those students self-identifying as conservatives responded that they had been intimidated.
  • Only 28% of students said it is never acceptable to shout down a speaker on campus.
  • Only 60% responded that they perceived that they could have difficult conversations on campus.
  • Only 61% thought the administration will defend a speaker’s free speech rights in a free speech controversy.
  • In the tolerance category, less that 49% of students felt the university should allow controversial speakers on campus. That total included 64% of conservative students who were tolerant of controversial speakers and only 44% of liberal students.
  • 30% believed the administration does not support free speech.
  • Students are most uncomfortable expressing an unpopular opinion on a social media account tied to one’s name.
  • Race is the topic most frequently identified by students as difficult to have an open and honest conversation about on campus.
  • 21% of students say it is acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.

Free speech is indeed an issue at UVa, but it is not about a sign on a Lawn-room door.   

We await Dr. Ryan’s message about what steps the University will take to address the major issues identified in this largest-ever survey of undergraduates about free speech at their universities.

He might hire College Pulse to expand the survey participation by UVa students, but it is a near certainty that kind of a spotlight would negatively impact the quality of the results.

What Next?

I love the University, but it needs to be fixed. Dr. Ryan needs to prove he is the man to fix it. It is time for Dr. Ryan to get someone to serve as (dare I say) bad cop in the University Administration.

Or we need to hire someone else as President.


Update 6:59 PM 15 October: At 5:56 PM, I communicated to the University spokesman the following:

“Confirm for me that you are saying that the University’s failure to enforce its contracts or its fire regulations makes this a freedom of speech issue and I will publish that immediately.”

At 6:16 PM, I received the following reply:

Historically, the University has not enforced limits on signs on Lawn doors. Doing so selectively in this case in reaction to concerns about content would constitute a violation of the First Amendment.

So the University’s official position is that it has failed to enforce either its contracts (University Counsel’s Office) or its fire regulations (Fire Marshal), and that is what made this a First Amendment issue. 

Mr. Heaphy discussed the problem in his letter to the Board of Visitors and thus the public.

However, the University has not enforced that size restriction and has historically allowed students to post all manner of signs on lawn room doors. An attempt to enforce the size limitation in the housing addendum with respect to current residents would constitute an impermissible content-based restriction, as it would be motivated by our desire to restrict this offensive speech.

Fair enough, but he also wrote:

Looking ahead, we could choose to enact a new policy banning all signs on lawn room doors. Enforcement of this new policy would be a permissible time, place, and manner restriction on speech and clearly content neutral if applied prospectively. It would be justified as a protection of health and safety, both with respect to fire protection and the desire to prevent conflict stemming from controversial posters like those at issue here. A new policy banning signs would also maintain the historic character of the Lawn, consistent with its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students would have ample other opportunities to exercise free speech even if they could not post signs on their doors.  Of course, a blanket rule against all posters would be overinclusive, as it would remove the ability of any lawn resident to use his or her prominent residence as a forum to promote events, highlight activities, or show support for particular perspectives or ideas.

That means “we didn’t enforce existing rules, so we’ll write new ones for a fresh start.” Won’t be hard. They could emulate the current ones that neither Mr. Heaphy nor the Fire Marshal enforced.

I’ll let the attorneys sort that one out.

We’ll let Dr. Ryan get a new Fire Marshal. A Fire Marshal has only two jobs, enforcing fire regulations and investigating fires. There are plenty of great candidates out there.

I’ll let the Attorney General consider Mr. Heaphy.

Update from 5:50 PM 15 October:  

I just received a response from the University to the pre-publication review and comment period that I gave them:

The UVA housing addendum you reference does not limit “living area” to the inside of a Lawn room. It explicitly applies to “doors,” not limited to the inside of the door or other interior portions of the Lawn room. Accordingly, the housing addendum gives students the right to post signs on their doors, though limited in size. The plain language of the addendum would give us the right to order the signs removed because they are larger than the size limitation contained in the addendum, IF we had enforced the size restriction on a content-neutral basis historically. The reality is that we have not. Students routinely post large signs like this on Lawn room doors without consequence. Accordingly, application of the size limitation to these offensive signs would be content-based and unconstitutional.

I dealt with the contract issue below to the extent of my abilities. I will leave the rest to attorneys. This message did not address fire regulations.

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49 responses to “UVa’s Lawn Scandal — Bad Leadership and Worse Lawyering

  1. The fact that Heaphy actually works for Herring, not the board, is a key point often ignored.

  2. This has to be the same Timothy Heaphy who wrote the so-called “Heaphy Report” on the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. I thought he did a superb job of gathering and presenting the facts in an impartial and authoritative manner. It surprises me that his legal analysis failed to address the points Jim S. raises in this post.

    Given Steve’s note above, I have to wonder if Herring had some behind-the-scenes involvement. I’m not making an accusation or insinuation, just asking a question.

    • I don’t see a question. I see a statement.

      Try this, “Given Steve’s note, is it possible that Herring is involved behind the scenes?”


  3. One question, and I know that one of you brilliant BR contributors and followers can answer it.

    “Can the State do with a contract what it is prohibited from doing with a law?”

    • Not a lawyer. Will let one of them answer that. To your second point, it is impossible to imagine Heaphy acting on these issues without regular consultation with the Senior Asst. AG for the Education Section, and others in the leadership in the office. The tug of war between the university leadership and the AG over these lawyer positions is not new at all. Also not new is the tug of war over giving the client advice they want to hear or advice they need to hear.

    • Yes. This is both a fire regulation and a condition of occupancy regulation.

      The woman is living in the University’s property. She needs to play by university rules. If the University had a regulation in the contract that restricted speech, it would fail judicial scrutiny. But content-neutral safety regulations like the ones in place will pass the same scrutiny.

      The University Counsel’s office in the interchange of emails I had with them clarified their position. It is now this:
      1. The University’s current regulations, if routinely enforced, would have made this a breach of contract issue.
      2. But I, as University Counsel, have failed for a long time to enforce these contract provisions. Similarly the Fire Marshal, whether by direction of his superiors or on his own, has failed for a long time to enforce the fire code that prohibits flammable materials on doors.
      3. Therefore, if we enforce them in the case of this woman, she would have a valid freedom of speech complaint.

      That is way clearer and a lot more embarrassing than the word salad the Counsel put out in his letter.

      In that same letter he indicated he would start next year with a fresh set of regulations, presumably this time to be enforced.

      We’ll see.

      Next question is where is the accountability?
      – Is anyone being fired or demoted for failure to enforce the occupancy contracts that the Counsel’s office itself wrote? Ultimately, that was the job of the Counsel’s office itself. Is this the only contract or contract provision going unenforced on the Grounds? It is the job of the Attorney General to investigate the failure.
      – The University clearly needs a new fire marshal. Some may not know that is a law enforcement job, not a fire fighting job. The fire marshal has only two tasks: enforce the fire codes and investigate fires. The current guy has put lives in danger by failing to enforce fire codes. Anybody think this is the only fire code going unenforced? By the standards of the profession, the incumbent is a failure. An investigation is required to determine if he was ordered to ignore the regulation. A job for the State Police. The University has voided its fire insurance by acknowledging its failure to enforce the fire codes. The fire policy writer will be at his door next week with a new rate quote. The Fire Marshal works for VP for Research, Environmental Health and Safety.
      – In another section of the piece, I pointed out the reckless endangerment of students by someone at the University apparently sending them on a mission to stop anyone approaching the door and threaten to forcibly stop them from removing the sign. What could go wrong? Anyone who works for the University who had a hand in that should lose his or her job. Unbelievably, the Student Ambassadors work for the Office of Engagement, the alumni fundraising arm of the University. Nice job.
      – As for the climate of fear at the University, Ryan needs that same bad cop to put names to the members of his faculty that are suppressing speech in their classrooms and publicly fire some of them. Bet it stops. That is a much more powerful freedom of speech statement than “We screwed up and didn’t enforce our rules so she gets to keep her sign – and so does everyone else.”
      – We all saw what happened when Ryan not only took the meeting with Ms. Azher but allowed it to be recorded.

      President Ryan desperately needs an executive officer to play bad cop to prevent and deal with situations like this. His department heads need to do their jobs.

      Ryan’s man-of-the-people thing only works if there is someone keeping the machinery of the University running.

  4. Making a bogus safety claim won’t cut it Capt’n.

    In the last 300 years, how many door fires have they had?

    When my brother was a resident of Bancroft Hall, one of the “fun” character building non-hazing things the upper classmen used to do was to squirt a can of lighter fluid under the doors of the plebes and touch it off. Bancroft is still there.

    BTW, google “public housing” “free speech”. Others have tried and most get tossed before getting anywhere near the SCOTUS. The State courts toss ’em. Even the “content neutral” prohibitions.

    “A government ban on all residential signs constitutes a violation of the First Amendment,” Justice Charles Johnson wrote in the majority ruling”


    • “In the last 300 years, how many door fires have they had?”

      Given that the University of Virginia is 201 years old I guess the first 99 years were pretty safe – what with there not being any doors.

      Every bar in Reston, Va has an occupancy limit. The local fire marshal enforces this limit. To the best of my knowledge there has never been a fire in an occupied bar in Reston. How are these limits not unconstitutional restrictions on the right to assemble?

      Capt Sherlock gets to the bigger picture although somewhat obliquely. The new trend among liberals in positions of power is to selectively decide what constitutional rights will be granted based on the liberals’ own personal beliefs. This was certainly the case in New York City where di Blasio clearly stated that BLM protests would be exempt from his COVID-19 restrictions while orthodox Jewish funerals would be broken up by the police. One wonders if Ryan, Heaphy, et al would have the same dedication to free speech if a lawn room resident posted an overtly racist message on his or her door. In that case I’d suspect that any number of rules would be invoked to have the sign removed.

    • It was the University Counsel that said new rules would be in place next year, not me. Contact the University Counsel or his boss AG Herring with your views on that.

      Thanks for the cute story about your brother.

      As for my “bogus safety claim” and the University fire codes, I didn’t write them either, the University did. Here are the University’s fire codes for doors and egress:
      – Doors must be able to open all the way. Do not place furniture, clothing, or any object behind doors that will prevent them from opening all the way.
      – Trash, recycle bins, and boxes are not to be placed in the hallways, stairwells, or lounge areas. Trash must be disposed of immediately.
      – Over-the-door shoe racks, towel racks, mirrors, or other hanging devices on doors are not permitted.
      – Door mats or area rugs are not permitted in hallways. Any combustible material on doors or hallways walls is prohibited.
      – Shoes, clothing, gym bags, boxes, furniture, may not block egress.
      – Stairwell landings or the areas under stairwells may not be used for storage.
      – Bicycles may not be stored in suites, apartments, hallways, stairwells or study lounges. Bicycles may be stored in student bedrooms as long as the means of egress is maintained.
      – No motorized vehicles may be stored indoors.
      – Doors may not be propped open with wedges or other items when the room is unattended.

      So, do you want to share with us from your experience which others from this list you find unacceptable?

      Or better yet, contact R. Thomas Leonard, Director, Environmental Health and Safety, [email protected] | 434.982.4928. I’m sure he will be glad to listen.

      • Here’s a couple of others.
        The most dangerous hazing was the 2nd classman who directed a plebe to do pullups from his 3rd floor window sill.

        Bro’s personal hell came in the following. The company 2nd classman was stressing his plebes when he made a comment likening himself to Jesus Christ. His plebes, possibly taking umbrage at a blasphemous statement, snatched him up and threw him in thr boat basin to “see him walk on water”.

        For some reason, he assumed my brother was the ringleader. “Naive! From now on your named is Lazarus!” For the next year, whenever Bro heard “Lazarus, you’re dead!”, he was to drop to the ground while his 2nd classman put on a show of bringing him “back to life”. Bro thought it funny at first, but it ws done everywhere, parade ground, shower, mess hall, day, night, everywhere. He was glad when the bastard graduated.

  5. Based on the results of the survey it looks to me like the students are as intolerant, or possibly more intolerant, of ideas with which they disagree than is the UVA Administration.

    – “…28% of students said it is never acceptable to shout down a speaker on campus.” That means 72% think it is somehow acceptable. Almost three-quarters of these people think it’s okay to shout down a person with whom they disagree – not argue logically the opinions they don’t like, but simply shut a person down so they don’t even have to listen to what the person is saying. Pitiful.

    – “Less that 49% of students felt the university should allow controversial speakers on campus. That total included 64% of conservative students who were tolerant of controversial speakers and only 44% of liberal students.” Woefully low numbers for University students, but particularly pitiful for the ‘liberal” students who claim to be protectors of free speech.

    – “21% of students say it is acceptable to use violent protest to stop a speech on campus.” More than one in five support engaging in violence to prevent someone with whom they disagree from speaking. Again, a pitiful performance by the alleged “the best and brightest” this country has to offer.

    • Well, one way to promote the inhibitions to free speech is to inhibit free speech under the auspices of fire regulations, and contractual clauses.

      Old white guys hate being called old white guys.

    • Many of today’s youth seem quite comfortable with totalitarianism. I think UVA and other Higher Education institutions should set up exchange programs with students in Hong Kong.

      “What Hong Kong Can Teach the West”


      • BTW – My suggestion about sending U.S. students to Hong Kong was not serious. If we actually did that, many of our youth might not ever return.

        Country Summary:

        The PRC government arbitrarily enforces local laws, including by carrying out arbitrary and wrongful detentions and through the use of exit bans on U.S. citizens and citizens of other countries without due process of law. The PRC government uses arbitrary detention and exit bans:

        to compel individuals to participate in PRC government investigations,
        to pressure family members to return to the PRC from abroad,
        to influence PRC authorities to resolve civil disputes in favor of PRC citizens, and
        to gain bargaining leverage over foreign governments.
        In most cases, U.S. citizens only become aware of an exit ban when they attempt to depart the PRC, and there is no reliable mechanism or legal process to find out how long the ban might continue or to contest it in a court of law.

        U.S. citizens traveling or residing in the PRC or Hong Kong, may be detained without access to U.S. consular services or information about their alleged crime. U.S. citizens may be subjected to prolonged interrogations and extended detention without due process of law.

        Security personnel may detain and/or deport U.S. citizens for sending private electronic messages critical of the PRC government.


  6. You cannot hang combustible materials on combustible material. No fat wood. That’s out.

    Does the school also intend on defining the flashpoint? 451 degrees seems reasonable.

  7. UVa.’s World Heritage Site is burning to the ground as Virginia’s highest priced lawyers, UVa.’s university leaders, UVa.’s law facility, and UVa.’s deputized student police storm troopers, and Virginia’s attorney general, all working in tandem, focus all their time and attention arguing about the intricacies of signage and maintenance regulations at Mr. Jefferson’s 200 year old academic village.

    Amazing. Has all common sense, and all capacity for effective action grounded in obvious principle vanished among the most educated men and minds in today’s Commonwealth of Virginia?

    Or is this grand discussion of obscure legal minutiae over signage, and building maintenance and alleged dereliction of duty nonsense, and the scapegoating of UVa. general counsel, really in fact the greatest shiny object dodge and diversion pulled off by UVa.’s leaders since the reinstatement of Teresa Sullivan in 2012?

    Meanwhile it increasingly appears that the only individuals of courage, clear thinking, and principled stands in this entire sordid affair at UVA Today is Hira Azher, and Aubrey Daniel in Tuscany, Italy.

  8. Folks, look at your own homeowners policy. You will see the neglect exclusion. You won’t get paid for a loss if the loss is due to owner neglect. That is where the failure to enforce fire codes falls under the University’s fire insurance.

    Besides which, we would all prefer it doesn’t burn in the first place.

    • Mitch Daniels famously said he could assemble the faculty and students at Purdue in a parking lot, and it would still be Purdue. Burning down a great university is achieved when one extinguishes the fire of independent thought and expression, and its teaching and learning based on our past, at a great university, and when one replaces it with indoctrination, group think, and ideology. That is obviously what has been happening at UVa since 2012, at least.

      This is the point of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) survey that you rightfully brought to our attention. This too is the central problem underlying the chronic series of squalid scandals at UVa. since 2012, of which the desecration of the Lawn is only latest of many examples. The house cleaning at UVa. needs to go far far deeper than signage and building maintenance.

  9. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    Might be a good time to convert the Lawn dorms into a UVA World Heritage Museum site. Walking tour going from dorm room to dorm room with displays of whatever Ryan and the BOV want to put up. Maybe even interpret the achievements of Jefferson.

    • The aged limousine liberals on this board would never agree to that. Don’t make a museum. Fill the lawn rooms with Charlottesville’s homeless population. I remember volunteering at what was essentially a halfway house when I went to UVa. It was more educational than most of the few liberal arts classes I was forced to take. Instead of living in the lawn rooms, each “lawnie” gets assigned a homeless person to help. They can only move into the lawn room once they have secured safe housing off-campus for the homeless person.

  10. The problem with end-around is the open middle.
    Two words and a picture

  11. This morning I taped my weekly radio show with WTJU, the UVA station. I asked if the sign on the Lawn was an issue with people actually “on Grounds.”‘I was told no, no one seems too interested. Must be a Bacons Rebellion exclusive!

    • Well, you need a collection of just OWGs. Where else?

    • Sure, Peter. Nobody’s interested is why Ryan allowed himself to be humiliated on tape by a 4th year.

    • While it may come as a surprise to the aged limousine liberals on this blog who yearn for a return to the halcyon days of the 1960s, the University of Virginia is not owned by the students who attend the university. Nor is it owned by the woke administration. Nor the major political donors of the BoV. It is owned by the people of The Commonwealth of Virginia.

    • Got to tell you, Peter, I could not care less what a current student thinks about anything.

      Nothing more pathetic than a nascent social justice warrior with no experience in life living in what the University offers as a substitute for her mother’s basement.

      And then lecturing the University President, an experienced social justice warrior, on anything.

      If this is what woke means, it is both pathetic and patently absurd.

      • “Got to tell you, Peter, I could not care less what a current student thinks about anything.”

        Then why are you so gol darned fired up on telling them what and how to learn? You sure can’t tell that from the electrons you’ve laid down on this site.

        • Not my job or the university’s to tell them what to think and learn.

          It is rather the job of the University and all who wish it well to provide a stable and supportive environment in which to learn and both offer and encourage the free discussion of conflicting ideas.

          The University of Virginia over the past eight years has failed those tests.

          • So, critical x theory is okay?

          • Great question.
            If you go back to my breakout of courses at UVa, you will see that I had no problem with the Law School, since while it offers a 31 course concentration in Race and the Law that features race-based critical legal theory, it also offers courses based on traditional Western jurisprudence that recognizes personal agency and nether class nor race.

            In the Education School, on the other hand, students are taught and expected to teach critical race theory in raising little social justice warriors from Kindergarten on. If a young teacher doesn’t see her job as raising such warriors, she won’t learn how to do that at ex-Curry, and is in trouble academically if she hold true to her own views.

          • Reed Fawell 3rd

            Careful, Jim S, UVa. Law school has gone full left radical, best I can tell, at least in significant part. It’s faculty and students played a significant role in 2017 C’ville riots, for example. Check out UVa. Magazine, and official report for details on that subject.

  12. I still do not understand what the big scandal is. A young student used the “f”’word. Ever read a transcript of Donald Trump?

  13. Capt. that’s where we disagree. As I have said, I never understood what was wrong with President Sullivan. The Jackie story was dishonest journalism by Rolling Stone and it was exposed by the WashPost. Other scandals were bad student romances that can happen anywhere. My daughter had a great experience at the school and was treated very well. I wasn’t much involved until she went there. I mean if you don’t want to go to a drunk frat party, don’t go.

    • I don’t know when your daughter graduated, but I’m glad she was treated well. So were my two kids who graduated in 91 and 94 respectively. But neither experienced the toxic culture revealed in the free speech survey.

      I did not pay that much attention to Sullivan except for the obvious “who’s the President” timeframe and I was aware she wasn’t a good fundraiser.

      Ryan wants to be liked. Not a bad thing, but it has resulted in him being pushed around. The interview with Azher was humiliating. He needs a “bad cop” #2 to handle the things he doesn’t want to deal with, including setting and maintaining limits of acceptable performance for University employees and behavior of the student body, thereby keeping Ryan and the University out of trouble and providing a stable platform in which to teach and learn.

      Without accountability across the multiple elements of this scandal, nothing will change.

      • I agree totally.

      • Ryan also needs to make sure all students are treated equally. I hardly think a F__ Obama sign on someone’s door would get protected from harm, or the student treated in a similar matter.

        We can’t have anarchy at a publicly funded institution, and everyone should play by the same rules. If he can’t do that, he needs to go.

  14. Ryan clerked for Justice Rehnquist? What a disappointment he turned out to be.

  15. I wonder how jellyspine Ryan would deal with a student taping a Confederate flag to his or her lawn room door? Would he send the student ambassadors to make sure that the flag wasn’t damaged.

  16. I share the outrage of President Ryan’s failure to defend the honor of the University and the privilege of living on the lawn. I too believe the legal opinion rendered by University Counsel was flawed. The F_k UVA sign “when viewed in its entirety” defamed and libeled the University as well as violating the terms of the license granted to the student licensee. I question what this student disclosed in her application requesting approval to live on the Lawn. Was she forthcoming in her views about her contempt for Mr. Jefferson and the University from which she apparently wishes to graduate or was she silent in order to induce the University to approve her application? The precedent set by the President’s and Board of Visitors’ acquiescence has materially adversely affected the reputation of the University. I am truly disappointed and saddened by this event.

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