You would think that students would be free to hold whatever viewpoints they want at the University of Virginia, the campus Thomas Jefferson himself founded nearly two centuries ago. But the school denied a conservative group from opening an official chapter on campus, caving after only immense pressure.
Students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. tried to renew a Young Americans for Freedom group this semester but were stopped dead in their tracks by the student council, reported The Daily Caller News Foundation. Young Americans for Freedom had the audacity to require its potential members agree to something called the Sharon Statement, which professes basic conservative principles like economic freedom, resistance to government overreach, and rejection of communism.
But Ty Zirkle, a student council officer, rejected the group, saying it can’t grant group membership based on political viewpoint. Now if that sounds illegal to you, congrats, you know more about government than a UVA student.
“Thomas Jefferson founded UVA; he also authored the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom,” said Spencer Brown, spokesman for Young America’s Foundation, the student group’s parent organization. “The irony is not lost that it is UVA that is violating its students’ rights.”
Other UVA groups like the Queer Student Union deny membership based on viewpoint, according to Brown.
Section 23 of the Code of Virginia explicitly states that “a religious or political student organization may determine that ordering the organization’s internal affairs, selecting the organization’s leaders and members, defining the organization’s doctrines, and resolving the organization’s disputes are in furtherance of the organization’s religious or political mission and that only persons committed to that mission should conduct such activities.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative nonprofit representing the students, brought up this point in a December 15 letter demanding that UVA recognize Young Americans for Freedom by this Wednesday, hinting at a possible future lawsuit. Fox News commentator Brit Hume and former Virginia governor George Allen, both UVA alumni, also criticized the policy and well…on Wednesday…UVA reversed its decision, pledging to recognize the group.
It’s a victory for UVA and Charlottesville, but the region’s institutions still have work to do to repair a reputation tarnished by the police failings contributing to the violence in August, the city council’s decision to remove Confederate statues despite a clear majority of Americans favoring them, attacks on even the school’s Thomas Jefferson statue, and even really petty stuff like this school paper editor accusing a white guy with dreadlocks of cultural appropriation.